Kaine Gives Panel Latitude to Probe Campus Killings
Friday, April 20, 2007
RICHMOND, April 19 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Thursday created an eight-member independent panel, including former U.S. homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, to review all aspects of the Virginia Tech massacre, from shooter Cho Seung Hui's medical history to the school's widely criticized delay in warning students of danger.
Earlier in the day, the director of Virginia Tech's counseling center disclosed that school officials had not been told about Cho's release from a mental health facility in December 2005 with a court order to seek counseling. School officials said no students had formally complained about Cho's behavior in the 15 months after his release from the facility in nearby Radford.
In Richmond, Kaine (D) announced the appointment of Ridge and five experts from medicine, law enforcement and education to the group, which will be headed by retired Virginia State Police superintendent W. Gerald Massengill. Two other members, a judge and an expert in victim services, will be added soon, he said.
Kaine and Massengill made it clear that the inquiry was designed not to affix blame for Monday's catastrophe but to understand its causes and put in place safeguards to reduce the chances of a recurrence.
"This is a case study," said Massengill, 64, who led the state's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the 2002 sniper attacks in the Washington area. "We're not trying to second-guess anyone."
Kaine was asked whether the panel will tell the public if it concludes that mistakes or misjudgments occurred bef ore, during or after the violence. He said that the aim is "not to point fingers" but that "knowing Col. Massengill, he's not going to spare asking any hard questions."
After Cho killed two students at West Ambler Johnston Hall about 7:15 a.m. Monday, it took campus police more than two hours to inform Virginia Tech students. A number of law enforcement experts have speculated that the school's failure to lock down the campus after the initial killings might have contributed to the carnage later at Norris Hall, where the gunman from Fairfax County killed 30 people and himself.
Kaine said the panel would focus on three areas:
· Cho and his mental health before the shootings. This part of the review will include warning signs that might have gone unheeded, legal or administrative barriers that might have kept critical information from school administrators, and the circumstances surrounding his purchase of the two handguns he used.
· A minute-by-minute deconstruction of the shootings.