Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Killer walked among them

The Baltimore Sun

The victims of Monday's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech ranged from a professor who had survived the Holocaust to the most typical of undergraduates. But the apparent killer, students learned yesterday, was anything but typical - a senior who instructors and classmates believed was disturbed.

As new details emerged about 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui and Monday's shooting attacks in Blacksburg, Va., a stricken campus gathered yesterday to grieve after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

President Bush and his wife, Laura, joined thousands of orange-and-maroon clad mourners in the school's coliseum for an afternoon service filled with tears and a defiant display of Hokie spirit.

"People who have never met you are praying for you. There's a power in these prayers, real power," Bush said. "As the Scriptures tell us, don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good."

Earlier, local and state police officials confirmed what many on this campus of more than 26,000 students had feared - that the killer was one of their own.

Cho's roommates said he was a recluse, a mystery even to those who lived with him. Witnesses to his shooting rampage described a stone-faced, methodical murderer.

Police said the native of South Korea, who was a legal U.S. resident, began his murderous rampage at 7:15 a.m. Monday, fatally shooting 19-year-old freshman Emily Jane Hilscher and resident adviser Ryan Clark, 22, in an 895-bed residence tower.

More than two hours later, Cho emerged in a classroom building across the sprawling campus, where he fatally shot 30 other people before committing suicide, authorities said.

'Horrific scene'

"Victims were found in at least four classrooms, as well as in a stairwell," said Virginia State Police Col. Steve Flaherty, describing a "horrific crime scene."

According to court papers, police found a "bomb threat" note - directed at engineering school buildings - near the victims in the classroom building. In recent weeks, Virginia Tech was the target of two other bomb threats, and investigators have not determined whether Cho is linked to those.

Most of the surviving victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds, according to Dr. David Stoeckle, chief of staff at Montgomery Regional Hospital, where many of the injured were treated.

Four shooting victims arrived at the hospital with life-threatening injuries, Stoeckle said in a televised news briefing, but all were in stable condition.

Among the injured was Justin Klein, a 2004 Catonsville High School graduate, according to his roommate, Greg Jablonski. He said Klein was recovering from three gunshot wounds, two to the leg and one to the elbow.

"He's going to be fine," said Jablonski, who visited Klein in the hospital. "He was doing some therapy today, and I heard he was going to maybe be released tomorrow."

Virginia Tech police said a 9 mm Glock handgun and a .22-caliber Walther handgun were recovered from the classroom building.

Five weeks ago, Cho walked into Roanoke Firearms, 20 miles from campus, and bought a Glock Model 19, as well as 50 rounds of "cheap ammo," according to store owner John Markell.

He charged the $571 purchase to a credit card and provided three forms of identification necessary for a legal purchase in Virginia, Markell said.

Ballistic tests by federal authorities at a Maryland lab confirmed that one of the weapons was used in both shootings, campus police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

But Flaherty, of the state police, said authorities still could not conclusively determine that Cho was the only gunman.

"It's certainly reasonable for us to assume that Cho was the shooter in both places," Flaherty said, adding that police have uncovered no evidence of an accomplice to the crimes.

Fear of copycats

Fears of copycat attacks led to lockdowns and evacuations at universities in Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee and two public schools in Louisiana, the Associated Press reported.

Though names of the shooting victims began to trickle out yesterday, the state's medical examiner said she will not identify the deceased until next of kin have been notified.

"This is a process that cannot take place in haste," said Marcella Fierro. "So this will take place in several days."

Virginia's public safety secretary, John Marshall, defended the university's response to the shootings.

University President Charles W. Steger and campus police "made the right decision based on the best information they had available at the time," Marshall said.

Many students and parents have angrily denounced the school's failure to alert the campus community to the early-morning killings until more than two hours later - about 20 minutes before the second, deadlier rampage began.

As Cho began firing off rounds in Norris Hall, university police were interviewing a "person of interest" in the first shooting, Flinchum said yesterday.

A police application to search the house of that person reveals more details about the man authorities initially focused their attention on after the dorm shooting. He had recently been to a shooting range with Hilscher's roommate, she told police, according to the search warrant application.

Authorities have been criticized for following that lead off campus while the actual shooter was on the loose.

But support for school leaders was on vigorous display at the afternoon convocation, where Steger received a sustained standing ovation.

"You are all going to make it difficult for me to finish this speech," Steger told the crowd.

Throughout the day, students and others accused the news media of pointing fingers.

"I have been physically sick over this whole ordeal just like many other students here," said freshman Ryan Goodman. "I find it further sickening to hear the media trying to make our school look bad in front of the whole nation and world. No other place would have been prepared for this any better than Virginia Tech was."

Tech students and alumni are known for prominently displaying their maroon and orange colors. In college football bowl-game parlance, it's a school that "travels well," which means it has more fans than most who make a habit of following the team on road games.

Given that history, it was perhaps not surprising that the mostly somber memorial service at times turned into something of a pep rally.

One student wore a football jersey with "R.I.P. 4-16-07" handwritten on it in black marker.

Poet and Tech professor Nikki Giovanni, who addressed the crowd, wore a Hokies pin on her lapel.

"We are Hokies," she said. "We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech."

The crowd responded by cheering wildly, as if they were at a game: "Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies!"

Outside, a man stood with an oversized cross. A student carried bunches of flowers in honor of his two fallen professors. Members of religious and counseling groups offered handouts and flowers.

One student whispered to another: "It's like our own 9/11."

At a candlelight vigil last night, hundreds, possibly thousands, flooded onto the Drillfield, holding up plastic cups with candles that flickered and occasionally blew out in the wind.

As the corps of cadets marching band filed onto the field to the beat of a single drummer, several students and faculty members spoke to the growing crowd. Zenobia Hikes, vice president of student affairs, gave a rousing speech.

"We are here to grieve, but I want America and the world to see this outpouring on the Virginia Drillfield this evening," Hikes said. "This is love, this is love and we feel it."

After the evening service, the crowd lingered in silence for a few minutes and then spontaneously broke into "Amazing Grace." After that, they sang the national anthem and then cheered, "Let's go Hokies."

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Julie Bykowicz, Jeff Barker, Melissa Harris, Sumathi Reddy, reporting from Blacksburg, and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

SHOOTING CHRONOLOGY

Police 7:15 a.m.

First 911 call comes to police about shooting at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a dormitory that holds nearly 900 students. Police find two shooting victims: students Ryan Clark and Emily Hilscher. Police question someone about the shooting, but make no arrest.

Administration About 7:30 a.m.

University authorities begin to consult on their response to the shootings. Gunman spotted About 9 a.m.

* Classes begin in Norris Hall.

* Cho Seung-Hiu spotted in Norris Hall.

Students/Faculty, police About 9:10 a.m.

* Cho walks into a German class in Norris Hall and, standing about five feet from the door, starts shooting at a professor and students. Erin Sheehan survives by pretending to be dead. Cho leaves the room and returns a few minutes later, but students bar the door.

* Student Derek O'Dell crouches behind a desk as the killer makes his way through his classroom, shooting at point-blank range. One bullet hits O'Dell just below his right shoulder, tearing a hole in his jacket. O'Dell feels a "tingling sensation" and doesn't realize he was shot until the ordeal ended. * Professor Liviu Librescu is leading a Norris Hall engineering class on solid mechanics. When gunshots are heard in the classroom next door on the second floor, Richard Mallalieu and classmates knock out windows and jump, as Librescu holds the door closed.

* Told about a campus shooting, janitor Gene Cole heads to the second floor of Norris to look for a co-worker. He sees a body covered in blood on the floor. Then Cho starts shooting at him from a door about 20 feet away, and he runs downstairs to safety.

* Zach Petkewicz and classmates in Norris Hall hear shooting and barricade the door to the classroom. The gunman cracks open the door and when students slam it shut, he shoots twice into the door. Then he turns away and walks down the hall.

* Chris Roil, a junior from Towson, and other students hear shots as they take an accounting test on the third floor of Norris.

* Police arrive to find Norris Hall doors chained shut. They break in and head for the second floor.

Administration / Students 9:26 a.m.

The university e-mails students about the dormitory shooting.

Police / Students 9:45 a.m.

* First 911 call from Norris Hall

* Roil and classmates move to an office in Norris and hear more gunshots.

Administration / Students 9:50 a.m.

The university e-mails students that a "gunman is loose on campus."

Police / Students / Faculty About 10 a.m.

* Police find Cho dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.

* SWAT team takes Roil and classmates out of the building.

* Thirty dead students and faculty are found in four classrooms on the second floor and in a stairwell.

Administration / Students / Faculty 10:16 a.m.

The university e-mails an announcement that all classes are canceled.

10:52 a.m. A university e-mail informs students of the shootings at Norris. Sources: Sun reporting, CNN, AP, Roanoke Times and other wire reports

ON LINE EXTRAS

For comprehensive online coverage, go to baltimoresun.com/vatech:

Read archived stories

See video reports from CNN

Hear audio of Julie Bykowicz reporting from Blacksburg for WBAL- AM's Rob Douglas Show

See an interactive map of the crime scene

Read reader comments and post your own

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