Around the world it’s known as the “Virginia Tech massacre,” but at the university itself, the shootings are referred to as simply “April 16.”
The shootings, consisting of two separate attacks on April 16, 2007, left 32 people dead, plus the gunman, becoming the deadliest shooting spree in United States history.
Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old English major, began his rampage early Monday morning when he entered West Ambler-Johnston Hall. At 7:15 a.m., he shot Emily Hilscher, a freshman animal and poultry sciences major on the fourth floor, and then shot her resident advisor Ryan Clark, a senior biology, English and psychology major.
More than two hours later at 9:40 a.m., Cho opened fire on four second-floor classrooms in Norris Hall, killing 30 students and faculty with a 9-millimeter Glock and a .22 caliber Walther P22. Cho then took his own life with a gunshot to the head. The deceased included 27 students, both undergraduate and graduate students, and five faculty members.
In the days, months and even years following the shootings, the university — as well as the nation and world — has grappled with issues involving campus security, gun control and mental illness.
The university, the state, and the families of the victims have struggled in the years since the shootings to fully understand what happened and what could have been done better on the morning of April 16.
Amid the grief and turmoil following the massacre, Gov. Tim Kaine met with all of the families of the victims. In 2008, a $11 million settlement was offered to all of the families of the victims.
Only the families of Erin Petersen and Julia Pryde did not accept the settlement. They instead filed identical lawsuits against the university for $10 million each. Specifically, the families accused university officials of making false statements, both to the Governor’s Review Panel and to the public.
Cho attended the Cook Counseling Center several times in 2005, yet in the investigations after the shootings, officials were unable to located his medical records for those visits.
Two years after the original Governor’s Review Panel declared the records lost, they were finally discovered in the home of former Cook Counseling director Robert Miller, who stepped down in 2006.
Miller discovered the missing records at his home while searching for documents relating to the Pryde and Petersen lawsuits, in which he was named as a defendant. He said he accidentally packed Cho’s records while preparing to leave his office.
In light of Cho’s newly found mental health records, families of April 16 victims asked then Gov. Tim Kaine to reconvene the original state panel that investigated the shootings and the university response.
Some families felt that the new information warranted further investigation.
However, Kaine refused to reconvene the panel, but did agree to look over the information and revise the report.
All revisions were completed by Tri-Data, and outside information systems group which helped with the first report. Submissions of corrections were also collected from family members.
Yet after the revised report was handed down, some families still felt that their suggestions were not taken into account. This led to the creation of the families’ addendum to the revised report.
The addendum argues that Tech did not adequately follow it’s own emergency response systems on the morning of April 16.
It continues to point out that Tech Police did not send a warning following the first two shootings in West AJ.
A report by the Department of Education made public in May which found that the university did not comply with timely warning regulations.
The report asserts Tech officials knew enough about the situation to warn the community prior to the first mass e-mail sent at 9:26 a.m. on the day of the shootings.