Campus copes as details come in

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Campus copes as details come in

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BLACKSBURG, Va. - A steady stream of breaking news added to the tension on Virginia Tech's campus Wednesday following the Monday deaths of 33 students and faculty.

An afternoon press conference revealed that NBC News received a package containing what network officials described as a "multimedia manifesto" from Cho Seung-Hui, the student definitively identified as the gunman in one of two shootings Monday.

"Upon reception of this correspondence, NBC News immediately notified authorities," Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty said.

"This may be a very new, critical component of this investigation."

Authorities still were evaluating the materials Wednesday night, even as NBC began to release images and videos taken by Cho. Students gasped and whispered "Oh my god" as television screens flashed an image of Cho posing menacingly with two handguns raised at eye level.

The videos portray the intense anger of an individual whose exact motives still are unclear. Cho assigned blame for the massacre to his victims, claiming that he "died like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of weak and defenseless people."

He called his victims "snobs" and suggested the source of his rage was the privilege and materialism that he saw in his classmates.

"Your trust funds wasn't enough," he said, sitting in front of a plain cinder-block wall and appearing to read from a script. "Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough."

The release of the video capped an already uneasy day. Even two days after the shootings, and with a dwindling number of students on campus, the community remained on edge.

Early in the day, a swarm of police and media descended on Burruss Hall after a Va. Tech operator received a threat on university President Charles Steger's life. The building was secured by police and a report of a suspicious person came in amid the confusion, said campus police Chief Wendell Flinchum.

"These kinds of reports are not uncommon in the wake of what has occurred in the last 48 hours," he said, alluding to the vigilant mood in Blacksburg.

The last two days have left investigators, reporters and students scrambling to understand an event that left friends, family and community members dead.

There is growing frustration at the news that Cho had an extensive history of psychological instability, including a recommendation of involuntary hospitalization dating back to 2005.

Campus police were contacted with complaints about Cho in November and December of last year, when two female students alleged that he repeatedly contacted them through phone calls, Internet messages and in person.

At the time of the second complaint, police received a separate report that Cho might be suicidal. University counselors found the risk credible enough that he was sent to a mental health facility in nearby Radford, Va., on Dec. 13.

Lucinda Roy, the chairwoman of the English department at Va. Tech, also shared her concerns with campus police during the fall semester of 2005 when she became concerned about the substance of Cho's writing.

Flinchum was careful to note that there was no direct threat in the writings, so the university had no ground for taking drastic action.

"The writings did not express any threatening intentions or allude to any criminal activity, and no criminal violation had taken place," he said. "Since those contacts in November and December of 2005, I am not aware of any additional incidents or reports made to our department."

Even as the revelations about Cho's history at the university became public, most students remained reluctant to fault the university's handling of the supposed warning signs.

"You never know what's beneath the surface," said Matt Stewart, a senior at nearby Radford University who was on campus to pick up his girlfriend. "You can't prevent crazy."

Stewart said his girlfriend would be staying with him for a few days because she had a "bad vibe" about remaining on campus.

"She just wants to get away and let the town settle down a little bit," he said.

That seemed to be a common sentiment. Throughout the day, students trickled out of dormitories carrying backpacks and suitcases, some piling into cars with friends and others being picked up by parents.

"I'd say most people just want to get away for a bit, get a little breather," said Eric Hilgartner, a freshman waiting for his ride outside West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall. "I need to come home for my parents' sake more than mine. I know they'd like to see me."

The university canceled the spring football scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, and professors still are figuring out how to cope with grades and class schedules before students return Monday.

Across campus Tuesday and Wednesday, groups of students speculated about what might happen with essays and tests that had been scheduled for this week and how exams might be affected.

University officials announced Wednesday afternoon that individual deans would have the authority to decide how to proceed with the semester. They left open the possibility that final exams could be canceled at the discretion of the university's separate colleges.

But with police visible on every corner and a continuing frenzy of media activity on campus, many students said they simply wanted to get out of town. Hilgartner said he hopes the university is out of the media glare by the time he returns.

"We'd like to get back to that quiet reputation we had in Blacksburg," he said. "Well, if we can ever get it back."

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Original Source: <a href=http://media.www.dailytarheel.com/media/storage/paper885/news/2007/04/19/StateNational/Campus.Copes.As.Details.Come.In-2851705.shtml>Daily Tar Heel - April 18, 2007</a>

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Erin France and Eric Johnson

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2007-07-27

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Sara Hood

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Kevin Schwartz <kschwartz@unc.edu>

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eng

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Erin France and Eric Johnson, "Campus copes as details come in," in The April 16 Archive, Item #832, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/832 (accessed August 21, 2014).