Education Department faults Va. Tech for delayed warning before Seung Hui Cho's massacre

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 7:24 PM

The U.S. Department of Education faulted leaders of Virginia Tech on Thursday for failing to issue a "timely warning" to the university community that might have prevented loss of life on the morning of the April 2007 shooting rampage.

University officials waited two hours to issue a campus-wide e-mail after learning that a gunman was on the loose, a final investigative report found, even while some of those officials locked down their own offices or e-mailed loved ones to say they were all right.

The report affirms the findings of a preliminary investigative document, released in the spring.

"While Virginia Tech failed to adequately warn students that day, we recognize that the University has put far-reaching changes in place since that time to help improve campus safety and better protect its students and community," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Had the university issued a warning more swiftly and emphatically that April morning, the report says, Seung Hui Cho might not have had the opportunity to open fire on classrooms full of students later that morning, ultimately killing 32.

Federal investigators said the university violated the provisions of the Clery Act, which requires universities to issue timely warnings of imminent threats.

Virginia Tech leaders became aware of a possible threat at 7:30 on the morning of April 16, 2007, when two students were found fatally shot in a dorm. The university waited until 9:26 a.m. to issue a campus-wide e-mail - and it was vague, saying that "a shooting incident occurred" but not that two students were dead.

Virginia Tech officials contend that the university simply had no way to predict - based on the discovery of two bodies in a dorm - that the campus was about to be the setting of a mass shooting. Only in hindsight, they said, did the threat become clear.

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