Va. Tech Killer's Motives Pursued

By Jerry Markon and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 26, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 25 -- Seung Hui Cho stood outside as his first victim walked into the Virginia Tech dormitory early on the morning of the April 16 massacre. Witnesses told police that Cho -- wearing the same dark clothing he wore later when he continued his rampage at an academic building -- did not follow Emily Hilscher upstairs. Instead, he waited several minutes before entering the dorm, where he fatally shot Hilscher and the resident adviser who came to her aid.

At a news conference Wednesday, Virginia State Police officials said Cho's actions outside the West Ambler Johnston dorm are clues in the mystery they are trying to unravel as they investigate what motivated Cho that morning. They have found no connection between Cho and either of the first two victims -- supporting one theory that he did not target Hilscher.

State police offered several new and chilling details about the deadliest shooting by an individual in U.S. history, saying that Cho's later attack at Norris Hall lasted nine minutes and that he squeezed off more than 170 rounds. Law enforcement officials said they found 17 ammunition magazines at the scene.

They said they have read reams of e-mail and cellphone records and interviewed hundreds of witnesses but have found no explanation for Cho's actions. In fact, they said, they may never know why Cho started at the dorm, waited more than two hours and then killed 30 more people at Norris Hall.

The first 911 call from Norris came at 9:32 a.m., investigators said. Police arrived three minutes later and found that Cho had chained all three entrances shut.

It took officers five minutes to breach the doors. As they ran upstairs to the second floor, the final shot was fired -- Cho's self-inflicted wound to the head.

Authorities said Wednesday that Cho still had ammunition for the 9mm pistol he used in the shooting. He also used a .22-caliber handgun.

Police said at the news conference that Cho was familiar with Norris Hall because he had a class there this semester. Law enforcement sources, who declined to be identified because their information went beyond the official briefing, said the classes met on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the shootings were on a Monday.

The sources said Cho made a short telephone call the day before the massacre to his family in Fairfax County. Authorities believe it was the last call he made.

Col. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent, said the investigators who are leading the state and federal probe are pursuing "hundreds of leads" and "haven't ventured to speak" to Cho's family yet. He later said that FBI agents have spoken to family members, but he would not elaborate. The sources said the family has been cooperative but was unable to shed light on Cho's motives.

The Chos left their home the day of the shootings for an undisclosed location, though the sources said the family is in Northern Virginia. Family members have not commented, other than in a statement released through an attorney last week in which they said they feel "hopeless, helpless and lost" and "are so deeply sorry for the devastation."

Wednesday's news conference provided more information on the massacre, during which Cho, 23, killed Hilscher and resident adviser Ryan Clark at West Ambler Johnston before gunning down victims at Norris Hall and shooting himself.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company