April 18, 2007

Bad Lead Cost Investigators At Virginia Tech (Update)

From the moment the bullets stopped at Virginia Tech on Monday morning, people have wondered why campus authorities didn't recognize the danger after the first two murders earlier in the morning. Now the New York Times reveals that the campus police worked on another lead, one that reasonably showed promise, rather than realize what they had on their hands:

According to search warrants and statements from the police, campus investigators had been busy pursuing what appears to have been a fruitless lead in the first of two shooting episodes Monday.

After two people, Emily Jane Hilscher, a freshman, and Ryan Clark, the resident adviser whose room was nearby in the dormitory, were shot dead, the campus police began searching for Karl D. Thornhill, who was described in Internet memorials as Ms. Hilscher’s boyfriend.

According to a search warrant filed by the police, Ms. Hilscher’s roommate had told the police that Mr. Thornhill, a student at nearby Radford University, had guns at his town house. The roommate told the police that she had recently been at a shooting range with Mr. Thornhill, the affidavit said, leading the police to believe he may have been the gunman.

But as they were questioning Mr. Thornhill, reports of widespread shooting at Norris Hall came in, making it clear that they had not contained the threat on campus. Mr. Thornhill was not arrested, although he continues to be an important witness in the case, the police said.

Events proved the police wrong in this case. To be fair, though, one normally suspects significant others in murders of the type they confronted early on Monday morning. Apparently they got their information from people in the dorm, and they went to investigate the lead. In this case, though, it turned out to be something else entirely. Cho did not appear to be acting differently than usual according to witnesses in the dorm, and so no one suspected that he had committed the earlier murders.

More detail has come out about Cho and the murders themselves. They now feel that Cho planned the event, especially since he apparently chained the doors to the hall, a fact I noted on Monday that indicates preparation and planning. He obviously carried plenty of ammunition for his rampage. How much of this was calculated in two hours is difficult to determine, but he had to have bought the chains and locks (as well as the ammunition) before Monday.

There also seems to be more to his disturbed state of mind. Police found prescription medication in his backpack, which also contained his identification. The Times does not disclose the nature of the medication, but it might indicate that his mental illness had some diagnosis before the event. Also, CNN reports that Cho had been investigated for stalking a woman and had unnerved classmates by taking pictures of them from underneath his desk during classes. Combined with his disturbing plays, Cho seems to have made himself a suspicious character before the shootings.

Undoubtedly, more will be forthcoming over the next few days.

UPDATE: MS-NBC has a touching tribute to the victims, and Wizbang has the complete list.

Meanwhile, NBC also reports that Cho had been taken to a mental hospital after the stalking incident in 2005, and again at the request of his parents:

The gunman involved in the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history had previously been accused of stalking two female student and had been taken to a mental health facility in 2005, but no charges were filed, police said Wednesday.

Cho Seung-Hui worried one woman enough with his calls and e-mail in 2005 that police were called in, said Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.

He said the woman declined to press charges and Cho was referred to the university disciplinary system. The case was then outside the scope of the police department, he said.

In a separate incident, the department received a call from Cho’s parents who were concerned that he might be suicidal and he was taken to mental health facility, Flinchum said.

This will raise questions about the disciplinary action taken at the time of the 2005 incident, if this report proves true.

UPDATE II: Jules Crittenden as more reaction at his extensive roundup.


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» Why The Delay At Virginia Tech? from Sensible Mom
Many are wondering why the university took so long in notifying students of the danger on campus. Here's the answer from the NYT: After two people, Emily Jane Hilscher, a freshman, and Ryan Clark, the resident adviser whose room was [Read More]

» Why The Delay At Virginia Tech? from Sensible Mom
Many are wondering why the university took so long in notifying students of the danger on campus. Here's the answer from the NYT: After two people, Emily Jane Hilscher, a freshman, and Ryan Clark, the resident adviser whose room was [Read More]

» Virginia Tech Spree Killer UPDATE from Wake up America
Michelle Malkin shows why some people really shouldn't even be allowed to post anything, anywhere, EVER. --- Hate speech goes beyond Free Speech and there have laws now. [Read More]

Comments (22)

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 9:55 AM

"Mr. Thornhill had guns at his town house."

His girlfriend would've been a lot safer there.

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 10:18 AM

Hmmm.....you mean Mr Cho LIED when he filled out the NICKS form?

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 10:21 AM

Apparently, no one saw who killed the first two students, as Cho obviously wasn't Thornhill.

At 0700, most college kids are still asleep. So when the bodies were found, the police had to go find the roommate and get her story, which unfortunately, put the police onto the wrong trail.

So it's hard to see what the police could have done to prevent what happened. You can't "lock down" a 4 sq. mile area.

The administration could have E-mailed the students when they found out what happened, but that might have caused an unnecessary panic.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 10:29 AM

Sorry - should have added "in the instance that this was a lone killer who fled" to the last sentence.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 11:17 AM

I think the hue and cry about police and administration "inaction" is pure hysteria. There was NO reason to assume the dorm shooter had rampage on his mind - there were 900 kids in the dorm, of whom two were shot in one room. What do you want, full-time police psychics? Sorry, they are all phonies.

Without an eyewitness, the significant others of the victims are the logical first people to look at, and learning the boyfriend had recently been to a shooting range meant they needed to find him right away, if only to eliminate him as a suspect.

Human nature refuses to accept that one lone nut could pull off a terrible atrocity, and so we go looking for others to blame. This phenomenon has fueled an entire conspiracy industry, beginning with the Kennedy assassination. I've seen not one single shred of evidence that the Virginia Tech police and administration did anything wrong here. Not every crime can be prevented.

Posted by Count to 10 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 11:59 AM

What gets me is that 30 people died because all anyone was doing was runing away. If the first class he went to had rushed him, he could have fired no more than one clip, with a relative handful of casualties. Maybe its not psycologicly reasonalbe to expect them to do that (the whole "first person who tries, dies" thing), but still, there it is.

Though I'm left to wonder if I would have just run or cowered in a corner. I've never been in a situation like that, and I don't know that I could have overcome the fear.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 12:28 PM


Ask yourselves? Did Cho run? Did he go into hiding? Was he surprised there were no sirens? And, no SWAT TEAMS with German Shepards? No command chief?

Because Cho found he could keep walking, free and clear. in a bullet proof vest. CARRYING CHAINS, with which he'd lock the building doors; preventing escape. And, then he went inside and shot EVERY SINGLE A-STUDENT he could find.

What does this tell you, now? Hmm?

Cho was in the graduating class. Without much to look forward to. And, no honors for him, either. So in his hate, he was driven. And, all it took was the INCOMPETENCE of the administrators.

I'd bet you'd find this is a very anti-military crowd.

I'd also bet they sway young minds with the clap-trap of "Lucy Goosey, can't we all just talk it out?" Approach to problem solving that NEVER works!

How did this school take 4-year's worth of tuition from this maniac? Huh?

Kids, today, are not safe.

One step ahead, that you could learn? Convince your children to dial 911. NOT TO DIAL a fellow student, by the way, to chat with this LUNATIC! How did such an idea ever look good?

Yesterday, following the link I saw at Lucianne, I came here to repeat it: How come not one student rang the fire alarm?

After killing the first two people, I'd bet the "delay" had Cho looking for more opportunitiies. But at first? He had to think he was gonna go out shooting with the police. Nah. He'd never have gotten to dropping 30 of them! They're trained better. And, they don't just "talk to lunatics to calm them down, either." It's a whole other mindset.

And, for all we know? Lots of Americans are now ready to discuss ways to keep their own kids safer.

Let me start with this. The poor, innocent, Emily.

Why didn't she have better tools?

The dating world is wild. And, wacky. Why didn't she get advice, that if she met a nut. Who then got her phone number; she'd have an "uncle Vinny" who'd take care of business?"

Mario Puzo, when he opened the GODFATHER, which was a book, before it became a movie. Started the scene with a dad whose daughter was brutally raped. And, the cops did nothing.

This is what changed a good man. One who cooperated with government. And, the police. To go to the GODFATHER. It was the GODFATHER's daughter's wedding day. Remember? Setting the conditions that a "request would be granted."

Too many girls (and women), take the emotionalism side, when they need to use their brains. And, logic. And, then? Well, I'm sure lots of people are thinking "if only."

If only, when a nut job becomes a suitor, you seek out a lawyer AND a policemen, you can change the odds back to your favor.

Helps to know an "Uncle Vinny, too." There's a reason lunatics pay attention to "Uncle Vinny's" ... because most of the time "they're not about to die. Or suffer busted knee caps.

No, it's not the bast way to avoid tragedy. It's always so much better. And, here's hoping that what happened, here, leads to things becoming so much better! Including, a newborne respect for the military. And, REAL heroes. Not "lucy-goosey providers of dreck."

When someone tells you to "go tallk to the lunatic," go tell them to go talk to the wall.

But there's your motive. Cho had no place to go. And, no honors to share. After 4 years. So he got even. Graduating from Virginia Tech will never be the same, again.

Too bad a sharpshooter didn't take out this criminal.

Posted by Bitstream [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 1:47 PM

"Mr. Thornhill had guns at his town house."

Oh yeah...he owns guns so he is automatically guilty...

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 2:09 PM


I don't think there is any evidence that Emily dated this nut, is there? I think she just lived on the same hall as the guy.

I really liked that scene in the Godfather. Used to be, pedophiles weren't arrested, they were quietly taken out and disposed of by the town fathers.

We've advanced so far since then . . .

Posted by steve [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 2:24 PM

Cho is not the 1st Korean to go on a killing spree:

"South Korean spree killer. Has argument with girlfriend. Being a police officer, Woo Bum-Kon robs the police armory and goes on a drunken 8 hour shooting spree through three villages, leaving 57 dead and 35 wounded before he suicides with two grenades in Uiryong. The Korean interior minister resigns. (28 Apr 1982.)"

This is from the blog: http://metropolitician.blogs.com/scribblings_of_the_metrop/2007/04/the_politics_of.html

So, Cho's running amok does not reflect a unique US problem or cause.

Posted by YouGottaBeKidding [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 2:34 PM

I just got a delightful e-mail from the chancellor of LSU (Louisiana State University, my employer). Here's a quote:

I would also like to remind students that the LSU campus is a firearm-free zone and the university has a zero-tolerance policy regarding this. LSU’s firearm policy is backed by the state, through Louisiana Revised Statute 14:95.2, which prohibits the carrying of a firearm or dangerous weapon on school property, at school-sponsored functions or in firearm-free zones. We expect students to adhere to this state law and LSU policy, and will hold accountable those who do not adhere to it.


I e-mailed back (probably not a good idea on my part since I'm a peon, but what the heck) pointing out that VT's "firearm-free zone" status surely was successful on Monday.

I said that I felt LESS safe on campus, not more safe, thanks to the rule and that the rule hasn't prevented armed robberies on campus.


Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 2:34 PM

I think it's interesting that my Governor, Tim Kaine, will not be blamed for this.

Which is right and reasonable.

Figure the odds of that happening, if Virginia had a Republican Governor today.

So where are all of those Democrats who maintained the 9/11 happened on "Bush's watch" and that he should resign?

I'm sure they are all calling for Tim Kaine to resign today. Oh wait, they're not.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 3:26 PM


She had a boyfriend. Luckily, Thornhill, her boyfreind's NAME, owned GUNS.

But notice this. Emily was trained to take her "complaint" about being awoken by Cho, the nut job. BY CALLING HER DORM'S "ADVISOR."

Mr. Clark. Age 22. Shot and killed. By Cho. Shot in the neck. It seems Emily did NOT call her boyfriend, who has guns!

You're dealing with disconnects of major proportions, here. Just like 9/11!

Just like watching passengers on a jet, "letting the terrorists" have their way. UNTIL? The last plane out, and off the ground, was Flight #23. By then? People had their cell phones activated.


That's gonna be a clarion call, here, too.

Because Cho had TWO HOURS leeway. No one called the cops. His first clue? NO SIRENS.

Then? He just walked over to another hall, with CHAINS, where he bolted the doors. No one, now, could get in his way. In. Or out.

What did Cho want?

Let's see? His free-ride was coming to an end, fer shur. How so? He was a senior.

Among his 32 victims? ACE STUDENTS. Mr. Clark was one, too. Straight "A's."

And, put in the front line by the administrators at Virginia Tech. But if you're familiar with colleges, these days, LOTS of dorms have "senior advisors." JUST KIDS!

Kids trained to dislike the military.

Kids brainwashed to believe HOG WASH.

And, that's what's exposed.

Just like 9/11. It exposes our underbelly. Where we are so vulnerable.

Terrorists are not going to be cured with speech. Not in America. Not in Iraq. And, certainly, please don't expect the Israelis to keep sacrificing themselves, AND LAND, for goals that you can only obtain in your dreams.

Of course, those "dreams" are now living nightmares.

You think all the questions have been asked?

How so?

More than 100 years ago, when employers chained the doors shut, so the gals couldn't leave before the end of the day. And, you got the TRIANGLE SHIRT FIRE. Do you know how long the story lasted?

My mom was born in 1905.

I can remember her telling me, how her dad read from the newspaper, April 1912. About the Titanic sinking.

Sure. It was a called an "unsinkable ship." And, to make ven more money, life boats were removed; in favor of "paying customers."

Cho? Wow. He managed to get 4 full years.

Where was he going to go?

Even at graduation, he was a non-entity. Too crazy. And, didn't earn any honors.


And, what could come out of this?

A better awareness of what you've got to tell your kids, now! DO NOT DEPEND ON ADMINISTRATORS! NOT EVER! Use your cell phones. Dial 911. And, as you run? If you're forced into fleeing? Grab the handle of the fire alarm box AND PULL HARD.

When things change, first they begin with perceptions. Trusting academics has been a waste of time.

You think this is just a tragedy for one school? How so?

Will you be able to see a change in the air?

Perhaps? I'd bet if ROTC comes back on campus, there's gonna be a lot of lesbian, and other loony, but credentialed professors, looking to drive cabs.

Making a living at the expense of our kids is absolutely outrageous.

What about paying off the college debt? Among those killed and wounded? Students, that between them could be carrying millions in debt.

That's where the Virginia Tech school starts to tank. When people return their bills with comments like "NO THANK YOU."

As much as the elites on the left have you believing that businesses thrive when they're losing money. The truth is different.

And, the truth will prevail. Not in blood. But in red ink, eventually.

Posted by Neville72 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 4:13 PM

If one looks at the timeline of events, the second set of shootings(30 dead + the shooter) would likely been prevented had the VT president cancelled all classes shortly after the first shootings occurred.

Here's the timeline:

7:15 AM-VT police receive call about shooting involving a man and woman at residence hall and arrive within minutes

7:30 AM-VT police follow lead on a "male person of interest"

Now at this point I'm assuming that the VT president has been notified that two people have been killed on campus and the shooter is still on the loose......somewhere. Ordinarily the first classes start at 8 AM. He had at least half an hour to order classes cancelled and the campus into total lockdown before regular classes started.

Had he done so there would have been no students in the engineering building, Norris Hall, for the shooter to go after more than 2 hours later.

Instead the VT administration issued the first campus-wide email at:

9:26 AM- announced the earlier shootings and advised the students to be cautious and report anything "suspicious". 2 hours and 11 minutes after first shootings reported

9:50 AM-only here does the VT administration say "a gunman is on the loose" and
"stay in buildings and away from windows". 2 hours and 35 minutes after first shootings reported

and at 10:17 AM- fully 3 hrs and 2 minutes after the first shootings were reported the VT administration FINALLY cancels classes and advises students to lock their doors and stay away from windows. The second set of killings(31 dead) was likely underway at this point.

This timeline alone is a devastating indictment of the VT adminstration's handlling of the crisis. Sadly, there was no need for the the bulk of those killed to be dead today, if the administration had acted decisively and in a timely manner.

Those parents who are calling for the president's and the VT police chief's heads have every right to do so.

The Roanoke Times provides the interactive timeline and emails from the university.


Posted by Josh [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 4:24 PM

"Now at this point I'm assuming that the VT president has been notified that two people have been killed on campus and the shooter is still on the loose......somewhere. Ordinarily the first classes start at 8 AM. He had at least half an hour to order classes cancelled and the campus into total lockdown before regular classes started.

Had he done so there would have been no students in the engineering building, Norris Hall, for the shooter to go after more than 2 hours later."

Why should the president of the university have cancelled classes? You seem to be suggesting that when two people are shot in a dorm that the presumption should be "cancel classes." But why? When two people are shot in any city, and the police can't find the shooter, they begin to investigate leads. The police in this case began to investigate leads. They got a decent tip (possible jealous boyfriend) and went to go talk with him. There was no reason whatsoever to think that this guy was going to go on a rampage.

Posted by rapiddescent [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 5:01 PM

I agree. Its very easy to be an expert when you're not involved. In most circumstances it makes more sense to assume that in the aftermath of a murder, the suspect would flee the scene. Why would you or anyone else assume that the person was about to go to a group of classrooms and open fire? It is illogical.

Another point I think that is worth making, particularly with 20/20 hindsight is that had they cancelled class, especially at 8 o'clock no one would have known. There is no intercom at Tech (I know b/c I live here). Many commuters are driving to Tech and walking to class. If you use just a grain of imagination, you can see a deranged individual, obviously proceeding with whatever plan he had, that would have enacted his blaze of glory regardless. So instead of a scene in Norris hall you have the potential for a scene on the drill field, Or in a crowded parking lot as he walks from car to car. Think about what you're saying before you starting blaming people.
AND he had a backpack, it was cold (enough to snow) and thus kept his chains in the bag and the bulletproof vest under a coat. I seriously doubt he strolled across the drill field in a bulletproof vest carrying chains and handguns.

Posted by YouGottaBeKidding [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 5:29 PM


Hindsight is 20/20. I have thought about what would happen at LSU if something like this went down. (And those burglar bars on the windows of my computer lab are looking a lot less like a good idea these days.)

At that time of day, a lot of students are heading to class, either on foot or commuting. All the e-mail in the world isn't going to reach those students. Even those who are in their rooms with their computers don't always check their e-mail regularly.

Okay, so you're in a classroom. You might have a student with a portable computer who checks e-mail and passes along the word that you're in lockdown. The doors in the two classrooms I use lock FROM THE OUTSIDE and I don't have a key for the one that I lecture in. That one has a door at the side and a door in the back, both with windows.

There are no moveable desks or chairs, except for a desk/table at the front of the room. The students sit in seats that are bolted in place.

I suppose I'd turn off all the lights and get the students to clump together in the far back or far front corner of the classroom after trying to barricade the doors, but I'm not sure whether there's enough movable stuff to use to barricade the doors..

With luck, someone in the administrative offices in each building would lock the outside doors, but that only prevents someone from coming in, not someone from going out, and if someone goes out, you can bet someone else can get in. Some of the buildings are veritable rat mazes of corridors and levels so you can get into one of several outside doors and make your way to tens or hundreds of classrooms. Heaven forbid that the gunman get into one of the huge auditorium classrooms.

I can see the same situation happening at LSU is some nutcase decided to do something like that and there wouldn't be a darned thing anyone could do about it.

Fortunately, the chances of a nutcase going off are pretty slim, but still. What happened at VT could happen on any campus.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 6:10 PM

If you're following the headline where Captain Ed posts that the U of M is in lockdown. And, his son goes there; you'd see there are some classes still in session. What's overhead though are helicopters. And, fully armed swat teams. The campus is crawling with personnel who are looking to see if a bomb was planted. Or not.

As to Virginia Tech, it's all hindsight, now.

And, a terrible carnage. FOR NO REASONS AT ALL!

Part of the time line, I'm telling you is that CHO had his ears open! Even the package to NBC, might mean he didn't get the attention he thought the deaths of Emily and Mr. Clark, would bring.

At least you know he put together a video, and some pages of garbage. BECAUSE HE WANTED PEOPLE TO KNOW.

Perhaps, the silence on the part of the VT administrators has something to do with a desire to keep people FROM knowing?


And, so many dead kids, for no reason at all.

From a real lunatic who got a 4-year ride, free. And, was probably "out of sorts" that the world wasn't gonna give him any prizes.

Time for administrators to learn a few things.

Whatever they used to credential the idiots in academia; I think Cho blew threw their books.

By the way, yes: You Gotta Be Kidding. One reason for the carnage? No one is accountable. Crazy students just pay for their courses. They scare the pants of other students. But there's no help on the way.

For the future? You've got an opportunity to override the incompetents. Tell your kids: DIAL THE POLICE. In today's world of cell phones, tha't's doable.

Administrators are very poor substitutes for government officials. And, you better believe there are plenty of horror stories, driven home to parents.

Ah. Now, the response levels will be keener, don't cha think?

And, if VT "keeps" its president and police chief, then there's political pressures working in their favor, that so far, you don't see.

Political pressures, however, die off, when the atmospherics bring the eyes and ears of the public at large. WAITING.

Posted by YouGottaBeKidding [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 7:18 PM


It wouldn't have done any good for those kids to dial 911. The police can't protect you unless they are sitting right on top of you when something starts going down.

I found it rather amusing to see two bicycle cops in the Quadrangle this morning as I walked to class. I'm all for increased police presence, but I'm not sure how much good it would do if some loon sauntered across campus, went into a building, and chained the doors shut. Somebody who can fight already has to be in the building.

All the kids carry backpacks so if the loony-tune wants to carry an arsenal, everything can be hidden inside a perfectly innocent-looking backpack.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 7:29 PM

Nodonkey, I'll give you one thing, your HATRED of democrats is consistent. On ANY topic you can spew your vitriol loose on democrats. Please keeping doing this because people like you drag your party down while pushing the moderates in your party to my side. Thanks for supporting the Democratic Party.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 18, 2007 8:06 PM

Oh yes, conspitated dhimmicrat, your reasonable views as represented on this sight are driving people to the Democrat Party in droves.

Well a trickle. Two or three. Well, none yet, but here's hoping.

I can see how moderates can be drawn to the attractive Democrat message - sell out the country, raise taxes, coddle criminals and murder children. Selling like hot cakes . . .

BTW, can John Edwards spare $3 for Tim Kaine to get a better haircut? Apparently, Kaine bypassed the $4 cuts at the barber college and opted to get the free clown college cut. I've seen 4 year olds who do a better job, playing with scissors.

But then again, I've seen 4 years olds who would make better Governor than the absolutely worthess Tim Kaine.

Posted by ohmyachingback [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 1:00 AM

Concerning a lock-down. Too many folks keep focusing on Norris Hall, i.e. if the lock-down had been initiated 31 people wouldn't have died.

I don't know how anyone can be that sure. If the lock-down had been initiated after the first 2 murders probably a lot of students would have been in their dorm. The dorm where the first murders occured has 900 students!! Pictures of Cho's dorm makes it seem that it was of equal size. Who knows if every student would have made it back to their rooms safely. The death toll might have been higher if Cho decided to finish his rampage there.

Another student (being interviewed on Fox), when asked if she had received the warning email admitted that her first class was at 9am.....she wanted the extra sleep, so when she arose she got dressed, grabbed her laptop and headed out to class.....WITHOUT reading her email!!

Who knows, perhaps some communications company can up with a system that could send an emergency signal out to someone wearing some sort of device (doesn't have to be large); perhaps on a lanyard 'round the neck. The understanding being that signal would not be sent out unless something really serious was at hand. Some sort of universal cell phone might work I suppose, but I wouldn't think it would be easy to use cell phones today due to the different types in use. Students lose their cell phones, ph #s might change......staying on top of this sort of system would be a challenge.