Paper by Cho Exhibits Disturbing Parallels to Shootings, Sources Say

By Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Seung Hui Cho wrote a paper for a Virginia Tech English class about a gunman planning a mass school shooting, one year before he killed 32 students and faculty members and himself in the deadliest shooting by an individual in U.S. history, according to sources familiar with the paper.

The paper, which was written for a class in fiction writing and has not surfaced publicly, has "eerie" parallels to Cho's shooting inside Norris Hall on April 16, according to several sources. One source called it "kind of a blueprint" for the shootings, but others cautioned that that was an overstatement.

Several of the agencies probing the shootings had not been made aware of the paper's existence, and the investigative panel appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine did not receive a copy until recently. The university was supposed to turn over all of Cho's writings to the panel, but this paper was left out.

Additionally, Virginia State Police officials, who also have a copy of the paper, said they could not give it to the panel under state law because it is part of the investigative file. Among the panel's areas of inquiry is the sharing of information among state agencies.

The protagonist in Cho's story plans a mass school murder but in the end does not follow through, the sources said. Some of what Cho wrote was echoed in the words he spoke on the videotape he made on the morning of the shootings, the sources said.

Although Virginia Tech professors knew about the paper and discussed it in the days after the shootings, university officials did not turn it over to the state panel investigating the shootings until last weekend, according to a university source. The paper, described by the sources as somewhat disjointed, was given to state police after the shootings, but the federal agencies assisting in the investigation -- including those doing a criminal profile of Cho -- did not know of it.

"I am not familiar with that paper," said Kevin L. Foust, the FBI supervisory senior resident agent in Roanoke, whose agents are working with the state police to investigate the shootings. "That does not ring a bell."

Several agencies are investigating the massacre, and some parents of the victims have said there hasn't been enough coordination among the probes. The university has issued its findings, and the panel appointed by Kaine (D) is scheduled to release its review tomorrow. State police are conducting a separate criminal investigation.

"I think it's kind of disjointed," parent Suzanne Grimes said of the multiple investigations. Her son, graduate student Kevin Sterne, was shot twice by Cho and survived. "Everyone is entitled to investigate whatever. But I'm a parent. I just want the facts. How did this gunman fall through the . . . cracks?"

Corinne Geller, a state police spokeswoman, said her agency has cooperated with the Kaine panel, but that cooperation is limited by law. "We have provided them with nothing from the criminal investigative file because we can't under Virginia state law," Geller said.

"This is still an active, ongoing investigation. We have testified before the panel, and we have provided them with the information that we can brief them on, and we have assisted the panel with locating and obtaining other information that they can get."

She added that state police investigators were not "holding the paper back" from the FBI or other law enforcement agencies.

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