Despite Claims of Errors in Massacre Report, Panel Won't Reconvene

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Monday informed families of those killed in the Virginia Tech shootings as well as survivors that he will not reconvene a special panel that authored the official report on the massacre, as they had sought last week.

More than 60 family members and survivors signed a letter to Kaine (D) requesting that the panel reconvene because a host of "grave errors, misinformation, and glaring omissions" have come to light since the panel put the official report together barely four months after the April 2007 shooting, which left 33 dead. The request came after the mental health records of shooter Seung Hui Cho, which the university maintained had been lost or destroyed, surfaced in recent weeks in the home of the former director of the university's counseling center.

In an e-mail to families sent about noon Monday, Mark Rubin, the governor's counselor, ruled out reconvening the panel.

"While we would not rule out inviting willing members of the Panel to review proposed revisions to the report, we are sensitive that there are families who expressly do not want to reconvene the Panel," he wrote. "Our hope is that the current process for revisions will satisfy the need for a thorough report without upsetting families like your own any further."

But Rubin added that Kaine will accept any factual corrections families wish to make to the report until Aug. 19. At that point, TriData, the independent public safety consulting firm that helped the panel write the original report in 2007, will review proposed corrections and submit a report to the governor.

Cho's yet-to-be-released medical records, he said, would be part of that report.

Some Virginia Tech family members were dismayed by the governor's decision.

"This was the worst shooting in modern history. This report needs to be as accurate as possible so we can learn from this tragedy and honor the people who were killed or injured," said Suzanne Grimes, whose son, Kevin, was injured in the massacre. "I just don't understand. TriData didn't get it right the first time. How are they going to get it right the second time?"

Mike Pohle, who lost his son, said, "I believe it is simply another approach to try and avoid the discovery of what we, and the public, deserve to know.

"Laws were broken here, factual information was changed, things were hidden, things were not done, those in positions of authority did more than 'may have erred' or failed to 'connect the dots,' and trying to avoid an embarrassing situation just for the sake of moving on will not do," he added.

In addition to the long-missing mental health records of Cho, which were recently found in the home of Robert Miller, the former director of Cook Counseling Center, families point to numerous discrepancies, including in the official timeline and in the extensive archives university officials opened to them in the $11 million settlement families signed.

Two families did not sign the settlement and are suing the university for gross negligence. Cho's mental health records resurfaced when Miller, who is named as a defendant in those suits, searched his house and found them, along with other students' records.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company