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Report shows gap in timeline of Virginia Tech shootings

Virginia Tech students grieve on the first anniversary of the shootings in 2008.
Virginia Tech students grieve on the first anniversary of the shootings in 2008.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Employee said on day of shooting: "'Gunman on the loose; This is not releasable yet"
  • NEW: Police discovered first victims at 7:24 a.m.; Campus alert wasn't sent until 9:26 a.m.
  • Some staffers warned families nearly 90 minutes before campus was notified
  • Gov. Timothy Kaine: Addendum corrects, clarifies details of August 2007 panel report
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New York (CNN) -- On the morning of the 2007 shooting massacre that rocked the country, Virginia Tech officials had begun to lock down administrative buildings and some staffers even warned their families nearly 90 minutes before the rest of campus was notified that a gunman was on the loose, according to a new report released by Virginia's governor Friday.

Officials charged with sending the campus alert on the first shootings in West Ambler Johnston dormitory did not do so until 9:26 a.m. on April 16, 2007, according to the report by Arlington-based System Planning Corporation's TriData division, an independent public safety consulting firm. That was more than two hours after police discovered the first two victims in the dormitory at 7:24 a.m.

And at least two members of the "Policy Group" -- the group charged with sending the alert -- told their family members of the shooting prior to notifying the campus, according to the report.

But the university refuted that claim, saying in a statement that staffers not part of the group told family members of the shooting. The university did not identify those staffers, nor did the report identify the group members who notified family members. The group is comprised of nine vice presidents and support staff, and chaired by the university president.

One Policy Group employee even sent an e-mail to a colleague in Richmond about the shooting at 8:45 a.m., the report said.

" 'Gunman on the loose,' the e-mail read, and then 'This is not releasable yet,' " the report states about the message from an unnamed staffer.

The report also says: "The same Policy Group member reminds his Richmond colleague, 'just try to make sure it doesn't get out.'"

As some administrative officials learned of the dormitory assault, some buildings were locked down, but many on campus still did not know what was unraveling.

The dormitory was locked down six minutes after the first two victims were found, but later students were allowed to leave, some of whom went to classes in Norris Hall, where gunman Cho Seung-Hui, 23, unleashed his deadly onslaught.

Two students who left the Johnston residence hall after its lockdown was lifted were killed in Norris Hall, the report said.

According to the report, some administrative buildings were locked down following the finding of the two dormitory victims. The president's building was locked down by 8:52 a.m., 34 minutes before the rest of campus knew what was happening and more than 40 minutes before the first shots were heard ringing out from Norris Hall, it said.

Suzanne Grimes, whose son was wounded when his German class in Norris Hall came under fire, told CNN she believes the school could have kept her son and many others from danger.

"If they had sent an alert out when they were supposed to, even if it had been 40 minutes after [the initial dormitory shooting], my son wouldn't have gone to class," she said. "And that's upsetting."

Her son, Kevin Sterne, was shot twice in the right leg, she said. Paramedics had to resuscitate him, she said.

The rampage left 32 people dead, nearly all of them students or professors. Cho eventually turned the gun on himself.

Gov. Timothy Kaine issued the new report with the revised timeline of events as an addendum to the August 2007 panel review of the event. The addendum also corrects and clarifies details of the earlier report, the governor said in a statement.

The new document includes additional details proposed by victims, families and the school, the statement said.

Grimes said she and others had been pushing for the new report to "reveal the truth" about what happened.

"What happened at Virginia Tech is by its very nature inexplicable, and we may never fully understand the tragic events that transpired that terrible day. However, the Commonwealth has remained committed to providing as accurate a factual narrative as possible," Kaine said in a statement. "By incorporating the suggestions of victims, their families, and the university, the Addendum is intended to more accurately describe the events that transpired and the responses they produced."