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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Message From a Killer; Warning Signs Missed in Virginia Tech Massacre?
Aired April 18, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. And we appreciate your joining us tonight.
Here at Virginia Tech, it has been another day of dramatic developments, startling new details. It is absolutely chilling.
Cho Seung-Hui mailed these photos of himself to NBC News. He is brandishing pistols in some of the pictures, a knife here, as you see here, pointing them, in some cases, directly at the camera.
And get this. Cho apparently mailed all of this and more on Monday morning between the two sets of shootings at Virginia Tech. Tonight, in this special hour, we will take you more deeply than ever into this young man's bizarre, angry and hate-filled world.
How did the system lose track of a killer?
Let's get started with Allan Chernoff tonight, who has been following the trail of the package Cho sent to NBC News.
This has a mother lode of information. How disturbing is this package?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Oh, exceedingly. In fact, we haven't heard the full extent of it -- NBC saying that it is filled with profanity.
The package actually arrived here at NBC News headquarters this morning. It made its way to the deck of president Steve Capus. Security here actually opened the package, but it didn't take them opening the package to see that it appeared to have been mailed Monday morning at 9:01 a.m. That was after Cho killed his first two victims in a dormitory, but before he went on the rest of his rampage in a classroom building, killing another 30 people.
Now, this package is filled with anger, photos, video and writing, much of it profane -- Cho blaming the world for his problems.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO SEUNG-HUI, VIRGINIA TECH GUNMAN: You had 100 billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.
You just love to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart, and raping my soul all this time.
I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But, no, I will no longer run. It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I did it for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: That is just a small portion of the DVD video that was sent to NBC.
They estimate that it has 10 minutes of video, and, as I said, much of it profane -- Paula.
ZAHN: And is it true NBC is saying that it could have taken up to six days to put this package of material together?
CHERNOFF: There certainly is a tremendous amount of material in there, as we said, not just the photos. And there are 11 photos, according to NBC, of Cho actually pointing guns, in addition to a few, let's say, relatively normal photos without guns.
But the diatribe, the written diatribe there, is estimated to be 1,800 words, 23 pages, including photos that are embedded with the actual written words, much of it, as I said, blaming the world for his problems.
NBC immediately handed it over to the FBI, with is sharing the information with other law enforcement agencies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLONEL STEVEN FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: We have been working with the FBI, the ATF, Virginia Tech Police Department, since discovering that this new evidence existed. This may be a very new critical component of this investigation. We are in the process right now of attempting to analyze and evaluate its worth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: Of course, it doesn't take all that much analysis to see that Cho's rampage was clearly premeditated. And this is clear evidence of that -- Paula.
ZAHN: One of the stranger things about this package, it wasn't specifically addressed to anybody at NBC News. Is it clear as to why he sent it there at all?
CHERNOFF: We don't have a full answer to that, obviously, NBC News, one of the major news organizations in this country, but Cho, just on the label, in fact, sent it to Rockefeller Avenue, and had the wrong zip code, so, clearly, not well organized, but he wanted to send it to a major news organization. NBC happened to be where he sent it.
ZAHN: Allan Chernoff, if you would, please stay there. I'm going to come back to you in a moment. Tonight, we also know there were plenty of warning signs that Cho was a ticking time bomb. The warnings go back more than two years.
Ted Rowlands is now here with me with the very latest -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, every day, we're learning more of these red flags. We're learning about more of these red flags that Cho seemingly left behind as -- over the last few years.
And, the more of these that come out, the more questions there are as to how this young man could have continued along this path all the way to its horrific conclusion.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): A year-and-a-half before Cho killed almost 30 people and himself, he was found to be mentally ill and -- quote -- "an imminent danger to himself," after being evaluated as part of this temporary detention order.
The document, dated December 2005, was prepared when Cho was hospitalized for mental illness as part of a court evaluation, after police suspected he was suicidal.
Paul Barnett was the special justice who signed the order, which required Cho to follow recommended treatments. Even though Cho was deemed an imminent danger to himself, he didn't lose his right to buy a gun in Virginia.
JUDGE PAUL BARNETT, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, VIRGINIA: Only if I order them into a hospital is there any effect on their gun rights.
ROWLANDS: What's unclear is whether Cho ever followed the court's order to seek treatment.
Students also raised concerns. Two women told police Cho was stalking them, both over the phone and in person. No charges were filed, according to police, because the women, both described Cho's actions as simply an annoyance.
Meanwhile, during the same period, Cho's English professor at Virginia Tech was so concerned about his writing and his classroom behavior that she contacted police. So, how did someone who caught so many people's attention keep going until he snapped?
DR. LYN DAY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Society has not figured out the answer to that question.
ROWLANDS: Dr. Lyn Day is a Virginia clinical psychologist. She says, unfortunately, until someone actually threatens or hurts someone, there's not much that can be done.
That said, she says, clearly, the signs were there that Cho was a time bomb.
ROWLANDS: And, clearly, officials here at the university maintain that, had they had any inclination, Paula, that he was at all capable of what he ended up doing, of course, they would have stepped in.
All of these pieces were coming through. Different people were picking up on them, but it didn't seem that anybody had all of the information. And, now, in hindsight, of course, it's crystal clear that he was sending so clear message -- these messages that he had major trouble.
ZAHN: But, even with these pieces now being revealed, it still presents a very confusing picture. Some reports have him voluntarily admitting himself to a psychiatric hospital. No one seems to know how long he was treated and exactly how he was treated.
ROWLANDS: Yes. I talked to the special judge that actually signed that order that we -- we obtained today, and what we have been able to determine is that he had a problem.
He had stalked these two women. That alerted police. They came and they talked to Cho. After police left, Cho then told the roommate that he was suicidal, or a roommate thought Cho might be suicidal, contacted police again. That gets him into the system.
By the time he got to the judge, he had been evaluated. That was part of his stay. But, in the end, when the judge -- when he appeared before the judge, the judge decided to let him go, basically, with a promise -- or an order to go seek help. Whether he sought that help, we don't know, because of all the privacy acts. We just don't know.
But the -- the clear thing here is that he was in the system. And someone had noticed that he had some -- some issues. What role the university played, it's unclear.
ZAHN: You have talked with people in law enforcement. You have talked with folks that are experts in psychiatry. Are any of them surprised to hear that this methodical kind of package was sent to NBC News, with video clips, with an 1,800-word diatribe, particularly directed at the rich and his contempt for all kinds of people?
ROWLANDS: Clearly, I think, everybody, when they heard the news that he had sent this package, and potentially between the two murders -- and, of course, officials here haven't said that he has committed those first two murders, for sure. But, clearly, if they thought someone else did, we would know about it. And they would be searching for another suspect.
But the -- just the fact that, if he committed these first two murders, went and sent this package, worked for up to, what, six weeks developing this, it is just mind-boggling. This is a young man that not only snapped. He wanted the world to know what he was doing. He went out. He padlocked and chained those doors before he opened fire on those innocent kids and professors.
He wanted to kill as many people as he could. And he wanted the world to know about it.
ZAHN: And, Allan Chernoff, you have had a chance to talk with some folks about all this information dropped on NBC News. Is there any indication that he might have had any help at all in putting this package together?
CHERNOFF: Well, obviously, that's something that law enforcement authorities are checking out, looking into, trying to follow the clues. As of yet, we don't have any evidence of that, or at least we publicly don't know of that.
But, as Ted referenced, I mean, this clearly was person who had lots of paranoia and a lot boiling inside of his head. If you look at some of the words from that videotape -- and let me just mention them again -- "You spilled my blood. You forced me into it. I did it. I had to" -- he really feels as if there's a retribution that he has to exact, that something has -- has triggered all of this, and it's been boiling inside of him for a very long time.
So, at least judging from the material that we have just seen here, it doesn't necessarily lead us to initially think that he had co-conspirators. This is something that clearly was his personal anger, his personal paranoia.
ZAHN: Allan Chernoff, Ted Rowlands, we are going to come back to you later on in this program, as you continue to gather more facts.
Before we move on, I wanted to add some additional reporting on what it is NBC received in this diatribe. Once again, it wasn't directed at anyone specifically, but it referred to hedonism. It referred to Christianity. It referred, in many references, to the hatred for the wealthy.
With all we have learned today, especially in the last few hours, the question remains, should someone have realized that Cho was a walking powder keg, and done something about it?
In New York is criminologist and former criminal profiler, that is, Casey Jordan, along with Court TV's Lisa Bloom.
Casey Jordan, your reaction to just the little bit that we have heard and seen so far from this package mailed off to NBC News?
CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: The package is enormously disturbing, particularly in light of the fact that it was mailed between the two shooting incidents.
And I think that it's going to take a long time for us to get all of the details put together. But what struck me most, in just very quickly going over the details, is the progression of the photographs, from happy and smiling and normal, to increasingly agitated, angry, the introduction of guns and knives and hammers in his series of photographs.
It's almost a trajectory of his emotions.
ZAHN: Let's listen in now as -- some of that anger that he directs to the entire world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But, no, I will no longer run. It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I did it for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Casey, it is terrifying to listen to these words. What is it he was trying to say?
JORDAN: I have to tell you, especially after reading his two plays, which have been posted on the Internet, I see an amazing cry for help.
And I have to tell you, I have dealt with sexual assault victims for more than 20 year. And I have no doubt in my mind -- of course, it's unprovable at this point -- that -- that I believe Cho was the victim of sexual assault, perhaps repeatedly, through his teenage years.
It's -- the people -- normal people don't write the sexually explicit tales of molestation that he wrote without having firsthand knowledge, in my experience.
ZAHN: Of course, we don't have anybody here that can independently confirm that, but I think what everybody is in agreement on is, this is a man who has had contempt for people for a very long time.
His suite mates, his roommates, describe a guy that would just basically grunt, would never talk to them. In addition to that, they seemed to show, or indicate, a pattern where he became so desperate, he became suicidal.
Will we ever be able to know definitively what his breaking point was?
But I do think that the signs became increasingly evident to those around him the more he withdrew, the closer -- it was just a little over a year ago that he had the diagnosis of being a potential threat to himself. So, I think that this -- this was not something -- of course, we know it was premeditated, but the road there didn't happen overnight.
I think that it was actually years and years in the making.
ZAHN: We're going to listen to more of Cho's last words from NBC's manifesto.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHO: You sadistic snobs, I may be nothing but a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and tortured my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic (INAUDIBLE) you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die, like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, Casey, in his own sick, warped mind, is he trying to make us believe, in some way, he thinks he's saving the world?
JORDAN: No. He is offering himself as a sacrifice, is what he believes.
And it's a persecution complex. It is a product of his mental illness and his despair and feelings of revenge. Again, this -- this was years in the making. And what he wants to know is that he died as a person in pain.
ZAHN: And one last piece of -- of this audio portion of what he sent in his NBC manifesto, once again, where he makes that very direct comparison between his death and that of Jesus Christ.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can, just because you can?
You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn't enough. Your vodka and Cognac weren't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Does this reflect, once again, this persecution complex, Casey, you talking about?
I think some very, very bad things happened to this man in his life. And, again, we will probably never know the answers, but, if you try to reconstruct how he came to that point, I think he feels pain that the masses of us cannot possibly imagine the darkness that existed in his soul.
ZAHN: Lisa, we heard our reporters at the top of the hour talk about the number of times law enforcement visited this guy. And it doesn't seem to appear, after the point at which he so-called voluntarily went in to a psychiatric hospital, that there was much tracking of him in the system.
If -- if that is the case, what kind of legal exposure might the university have on this? LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: Well, the question is, what did the university know about Cho, and when did they know it? Did they know that he was threat to himself, that he had two stalking allegations made against him, although one was not pursued, that he was writing dangerous materials, as reported by the English teacher?
If the university knew all of that at relatively high levels, and they failed to act to present the student body as a whole, you bet they're going to be civilly liable, and they're going to face some wrongful death suits.
ZAHN: So, whose responsibility is it, though, to -- to track a student like that? It's not solely the responsibility of the university, is it?
BLOOM: Well, the university does have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of all of their students. They're not Big Brother. This is not a paternalistic culture. And we have a heavy presumption towards liberty. This is America.
On the other hand, if they have concrete knowledge that there is a ticking time bomb on campus, and they fail to act, and damage results, they are going to be facing some civil liability. And I think that's what's next around the corner in this case.
ZAHN: Of course, that is the last thing any of the families I spoke with today want to talk about. They have such raw pain just dealing with the sense of loss here.
But what is it that attorneys would have to prove for these families, if they decide to pursue this civilly?
BLOOM: Well, they have to prove knowledge on the part of university. They have to prove that university knew not just that the guy was scary or creepy or isolated in his room or wasn't talking. That's not going to be enough.
They have to know that Cho was a threat. Now, somebody knew that. A magistrate knew there, because we have the legal papers where the magistrate said he is indeed a danger to himself or others.
But, Paula, he was not apparently involuntarily committed. Instead, when it got to the judge, the judge said, we're going to do a less restrictive alternative under the law, send him for voluntary counseling. All of that is perfectly legal, because we have a heavy presumption towards liberty in our culture.
But, if the university, taking a step back, not operating like the criminal justice system, but operating as a college, where young adults are attending, if they had knowledge that there's a danger in their community, and they failed to act, indeed, they are going to have to pay some substantial damages.
And I think, of course, immediately , the families are not interested in this kind of thing. But, as with Columbine, down the line, as more facts become available that make the university look like they knew, and failed to act, they probably are going to be facing some civil lawsuits.
ZAHN: Lisa Bloom, Casey Jordan, thank you for both of your insights tonight.
JORDAN: Thank you.
ZAHN: By now, it is painfully obvious that a lot of people thought Cho Seung-Hui was dangerous. So, if he didn't kick out of -- get kicked out of college, what does it take? I'm going to get some answers next.
And, then a little bit later on: a student with an incredible story to tell. Not only was he inside Norris Hall, where dozens of people were killed. He may have been the last person that Cho shot before killing himself. Wait until you hear what he has to say.
ZAHN: Despite all the warning signs, how did the system lose track of a killer?
Tonight, we know that Cho Seung-Hui sent these pictures of himself to NBC News on the same morning he cut down the lives of 32 people at Virginia Tech University.
So, the big question tonight is, how did the system lose track of Cho as he spiraled down from 2005 until Monday?
Dr. Chris Flynn is the director of Virginia Tech's Counseling Center, which tried to help Cho in late 2005.
Thanks so much for being with us tonight.
CHRIS FLYNN, DIRECTOR, COOK COUNSELING CENTER: And I should clarify that we -- the information revealed publicly by Chief Flinchum was about access of this gentleman to the public system, not to the university.
So, in the early incidents reported by Chief Flinchum today, the student had come to the attention of Virginia Tech Police, reported by students who were concerned about his behavior.
ZAHN: Specifically, stalking in two women's cases...
ZAHN: ... and then the fear, on a roommate's part, that he was suicidal.
The chief then interviewed him in the headquarters at Virginia Tech. They called in the public agency charged with making mental health evaluations and admissions to hospitals in the area. They did that evaluation. They determined that he represented a threat to himself, and transported him to a hospital, where he was hospitalized and treated, and then released.
Prior to his release, he had to show, to the satisfaction of all involved, that he no longer represented a threat to himself or to anyone else.
ZAHN: Well, he seemed to mollify everybody, because there doesn't seem to be any record, at least on law enforcement's part, that he was tracked.
FLYNN: Exactly. Exactly.
ZAHN: How can anybody defend that?
FLYNN: Well, from a law enforcement perspective, he was never charged with a crime.
ZAHN: Right. I understand that the woman never followed through with charges.
FLYNN: They never followed through with charges. Those sort of charges come up routinely, but they wouldn't have come to the attention of the criminal justice system.
When someone is treated in the mental health system and released, they're deemed to be safe to go back in to the community. Clearly, every mental health practitioner that worked with him in the hospital talked to him about his aftercare, what kind of medication he needed, what sort of treatment he needed, how best to get those needs met.
Whether he complied with that, unfortunately, is the question you raise. How does mental health track people who potentially may represent a threat to self or others? In our system -- this is a free country -- there are not a lot of mandatory counseling opportunities available, unless someone's on probation.
But the one thing that is so abundantly clear tonight is that this man was in deep, deep trouble...
ZAHN: ... had contempt for everyone, filled with rage.
And -- and let me have you listen in with us...
ZAHN: ... to part of what he sent in to NBC News, where he describes, basically, why he slaughtered dozens of people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You had 100 billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: He doesn't seem to be directing his rage at anybody specifically.
What is your reaction to those chilling words?
FLYNN: Well, I am deeply saddened. I mean, he obviously committed a heinous act, an act that will reverberate in history for a long time.
But he is a troubled individual. And I am so sad that our mental health system was not better able to reach out to him, and whether it was through our services on campus or other services in the community. I mean, this is a tragedy.
It speaks to the tragedy of mental health services in the United States. Were they available to him? What resources did he have? Could anyone have helped this young man? Obviously, I'm not defending any of his activity afterwards. But, obviously, he was in pain for a great deal of time before he erupted into rage.
And that is a very sad thing, and extraordinarily sad for the family members who are now suffering as a result of his actions.
ZAHN: And it makes you wonder just what kind of safety net is out there for many men and women that may not be in identical situations, but are in terrible pain?
Dr. Flynn, thank you...
FLYNN: Thank you.
ZAHN: ... for joining us tonight.
FLYNN: Appreciate it.
ZAHN: Appreciate your time.
There are so many incredible stories from survivors of the massacre -- in just a minute, the absolutely incredible story of one of the very last people Cho shot before he turned his gun on himself.
And, then, a little bit later on: the Virginia Tech professor who, more than a year ago, told the school to get Cho out of her class, or she would quit. She was afraid of him. And she will tell us why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO SEUNG-HUI, VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTER: You sadistic snobs. I am nothing but a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic void life were you were extinguishing. Thanks to you I die like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: The stinging and horrifying words of a killer. Cho Seung- Hui mailed that video of himself and more to NBC News on Monday morning, the very morning of the Virginia Tech massacre. The package just arrived on Tuesday, opened today.
In this special hour we're asking, how did the system lose track of a killer? Colin Goddard was one of the last people to see the gunman alive. He may very well have been the last person Cho shot before he turned the gun on himself. Let's turn to medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, she has been talking with Goddard's mother and she joins me now with the latest -- Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, Colin Goddard told his mother that he'd been thinking about skipping French class Monday morning. His mother says he wishes he had.
COHEN (voice-over): It is one of the first images America saw of the Virginia Tech tragedy, a young man and woman severely wounded, rescue workers carrying them out of Norris Hall. The man is Colin Goddard, a 21-year-old international studies student, he told his parents he was the last person Cho Seung-Hui shot before he killed himself.
ANNE GODDARD, COLIN GODDARD'S MOTHER: Went first one row of desks and started shooting just randomly.
COHEN: Today Colin's mother waited anxiously for her son to come out of surgery, a rod inserted in to his leg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They still had 30 more minutes to go at 10 until 10 -- about 10:20, he should be out of surgery. Everything's going fine.
COHEN: As she waited, Goddard described what her son said happened inside the French class. His teacher, Jocelyne Couture- Nowak, heard gunfire in the hallway and yelled for students to call 911.
Colin did, but within seconds, Cho entered the room spraying it with fire. He wounded Colin in the leg. Colin says Cho then left the room for about three minutes, and returned as Colin lay on the floor.
GODDARD: He turned his head and actually -- well, he saw the shooter's shoes, came close right up to his body. The shooter was standing right next to him. He was scared to death. He was absolutely scared to death. He kept his wits about him but he was scared to death.
COHEN: Standing next to him, Cho shot Colin two more times, in the shoulder and the buttock. And then...
GODDARD: He heard two shots from the front of the room, and later on he learned the shooter was dead in the front of the room.
COHEN: So he shot at your son and the next thing he did was...
GODDARD: He killed himself.
COHEN: The next thing Colin heard, the police.
GODDARD: Then they said, shooter down, black tag. And it was a code they were giving, and they black tagged then a few the other students in the room who were dead.
COHEN (on camera): And black tag means...
GODDARD: And they were dead.
COHEN (voice-over): Among the dead, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, Colin's French teacher.
GODDARD: OK. Went really, really well, those were the words.
COHEN: During our interview, Goddard got good news, the surgery was a success. He joined his family a few hours later.
GODDARD: I don't want this to be the defining moment in my son's life. I want the defining moment to be something positive, some great celebration of his life.
COHEN: Ironically, Colin grew up in some pretty dangerous places, Somalia, the Middle East, but never had a problem. His parents are relief workers. They recently moved back to the U.S. Mrs. Goddard said they were shocked at how easy it is to legally buy a gun here -- Paula.
ZAHN: And he must be feeling like a very lucky man tonight. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. Back in 2005, a Virginia Tech poetry teacher had Cho Seung-Hui in her class. She ended up telling the school to take him out or she would quit. Nikki Giovanni joins me next with the troubling details of what caused her to make that threat. You'll meet her in a couple of minutes.
ZAHN: Absolutely stunning, frightening pictures. They are from what NBC News is calling Cho Seung-Hui's multimedia manifesto. He mailed these along with videos and a long 1,800-word written diatribe to NBC on Monday morning, between the killings at a Virginia Tech dormitory and the massacre in the Norris Hall classrooms. It leaves no doubt he is not only a killer but he planned this massacre meticulously. But why? And why did the system lose track of him, despite all of these obvious warnings, that is the focus of this special hour from Virginia Tech tonight.
As the hours pass, we're getting a much clearer picture of the gunman, and tonight we know that one of the first warnings about him came from one of Virginia Tech's most respected professors. Award- winning poet Nikki Giovanni, who taught Cho in 2005, and was so disturbed by his intimidating behavior that she insisted he be removed from her class. And professor Giovanni joins us now.
Thank you so much for being with us. We know you found so much of what he wrote about, and how he behaved in person as disturbing, as downright mean. Now, when you hear what he spewed in this videotape, what are your thoughts?
NIKKI GIOVANNI, POET & VIRGINIA TECH PROFESSOR: Well, Paula, I'm not that kind of a doctor, so I'm not going to make a judgment on something that is so totally out of my field. I'm just a poet. And what I did find was a youngster who was not going to be a part of the class.
We had a continuous problem. He had on his sunglasses. He always had his hat pulled down. And I refer to all of my students, you know, Mr. Cho, please take the sunglasses off, Mr. Cho, please take the cap off, you know. And I found myself doing it and doing it. If you finally -- what would Einstein say? If you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that's insanity.
And since I know I'm not insane, I recognized that I couldn't help him. And so I approached him on that level. I don't think that I'm doing you any good. I mean, we're maybe three or four weeks into the semester, and he's taking photographs, which I didn't learn until later, of students. And I think it's intimidating behavior.
Truly, truly, truly, I don't think that any of us had any idea it would come to this. Just no idea. I just knew that whatever was going on -- and you get male students. I'm a woman, you get male students that decide they're going to assert themselves, and they cross lines that you don't want crossed.
And I think that he tried to intimidate me. And I didn't want that. You know, we finally -- it just came to a situation that I said to him, you know, you probably should find another -- you know, let me help you find another student -- another class.
And he said he didn't want one. And I said, let me put it another way. One of us needs to leave this classroom, and so I'm going to choose you, and I did -- my then-department head was named Lucinda Roy. I wrote a letter to Lucinda and I wrote it in strong terms, because everything I do is in strong terms.
And I wanted her to know that I considered it a problem. So I just was very clear that this gentleman has to come out of my class or I'm going to resign, because I cannot -- I cannot ask students to come to class when it's so clear that I'm not in control of it. And she...
GIOVANNI: ... decided, I think -- yes? She decided...
ZAHN: And professor, while you say -- I'm sorry. There's a delay in the signal here, but you said in spite of these very bizarre signals he would send, no one ever thought that it would come to this, but now we are seeing these incredible pictures of rage, of pictures Cho took of himself, perhaps well in advance of his massacre.
Did you ever deep down inside think he might have been capable of violence, either violence directed at himself or others?
GIOVANNI: No. You'd be amazed at what we get in creative writing, not to mention across the campus. You get a lot of expression. Some of it would be troubling, and in Cho's case, some of it -- you know, some was a troubling youngster that, frankly speaking, I didn't think I could help. That didn't mean he was beyond help.
And in fact Lucinda decided to teach him and asked me, could I keep him on the roll, because as you can imagine, the paperwork that is involved. I said, you can keep him on the roll. That's fine. All I didn't want is him in my classroom.
Had I had any inkling, truly, that it would have come to this, I would have taken it higher myself. Academia is a hierarchy. I took it to my next person up, who was my department head. I trusted her judgment and I think that she made the judgment she was capable of.
I think that she thought that she could handle it, she did. I mean, she taught him. She and the director of creative writing, Fred D'Aguiar, taught Seung for the rest of the year. I just wanted him out of my class. I mean, who would have thought this? But you'd be amazed...
ZAHN: I don't think anybody can blame you for that. Quick final question
GIOVANNI: I mean -- I just -- I wasn't saying it to not blame me. I don't feel that at all. I think -- I'm thinking with the university, I think that we did the best we could under the circumstances. If every kid that wrote weird things got sent out, you know, there wouldn't be anybody on campus.
So I don't think that -- people say obvious. I don't see obvious. I see tragic, but I don't see obvious. But you know, I did want to say this, my students...
ZAHN: Well, I think that one thing is clear tonight is that this is a young man who certainly fell through a lot of cracks. Professor Nikki Giovanni, thank you so much for your reflections tonight.
GIOVANNI: Thank you.
ZAHN: And when we come -- our pleasure, come back, my colleagues John Roberts and Deborah Feyerick are also here at Virginia Tech with me, working their sources and we're going to compare notes in just a minute.
Also ahead, the reverend Franklin Graham. What is he telling students to help them work through their shock and grief? I spent a small part of the day with him today as he administered to the youth and you'll hear what he had to say when we came back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But, no. I will no longer run. If not for me, for my children. For my brothers and sisters that you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I did it for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: A killer tries to place the blame on everyone but himself. The breaking news tonight, Cho Seung-Hui sent videos and pictures of himself to NBC News on Monday morning. The postmark shows they were mailed after the killings at a Virginia Tech dorm and less than an hour before Cho massacred 30 people at Norris Hall.
Joining me now with the latest on this fast-breaking story, "AMERICAN MORNING" anchor John Roberts, and Deborah Feyerick.
Welcome both. Deborah, you've had a busy afternoon -- or actually evening, as you have tried to retrace the footsteps of Cho. What did you do? What did you learn?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what's so interesting. The whole layout of the campus, but specifically A.J. Hall, its location, after that shooting, all he would have had to do is slip out, go past a bidding and right into his dorm.
And because of the time of day, he could have done that virtually unseen. Prepared the package, then done that walk over to the post office. The post office is probably 12 to 15 minutes away. It is -- you have to pass by the coliseum or go through campus. But that's the longer route. So if you go through the coliseum and then get to the post office.
But the post office is itself on a very, very busy street. It's likely he was carrying some sort of a backpack or something in which the weapons were stored, because then he went to Norris Hall.
So there's enough time. It explains why there was that two-hour gap between the first shooting and the second shooting, and in those tapes he claims credit for that first shooting. So that is sort of the missing piece of the equation and by tracing that path, that's what you find.
ZAHN: You and I have both spent a lot of time talking with students today, John, particularly after this new broke, and there is, at least among some of the students I talked with, a growing sense of outrage that this campus was not put in to a lockdown after the first two murders? Police have told us they thought was contained, and it was a domestic disturbance.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: There is a couple of reasons for that outrage and anger among some students. And that is, A, had they been notified, they could have had the opportunity to change their routine. I talked with one fellow, Andrew Wang (ph), who was in front of Norris Hall when the shooting happened, he ran for his life.
He told me that he checked his e-mail at 8:30. There was nothing there. Of course, the e-mail didn't go out until 9:26. I said, would it have made a difference in your routine? He said, yes, if I knew that there was a shooting on campus, I probably wouldn't have gone to class until I knew that it was resolved.
There is another aspect to this as well. Would Cho Seung-Hui have changed his behavior had he know that people were out there potentially looking for a suspect in a murder at West A.J.? Would he have seen that alert and said, oh my goodness, the jig could be up for me, I'm going lay low for a little while and perhaps he would not have gone over to Norris Hall?
These are just things that people are talking about. But, you know, you've got to admit, there is a certain sense logic about it.
ZAHN: Well, absolutely. What have students told you tonight?
FEYERICK: Well, that is the same thing. Also had they known, and again, it's all hindsight, so you can't say. But had they known, they would have been more alert. When you are waking up at that hour of the morning, and students are telling us you walk to campus, you're not aware.
You are basically heading to your class, first class of the day. Not completely alert. But had they known that there had been shooting, they may have looked towards A.J. Hall. They may have looked at things differently.
And as a matter of fact, one of the students we first spoke with when we got here, when they heard that was an Asian, and this is what is so interesting, they had a roommate who had been missing, they didn't know where he was. And they brought his envelope, not sure whether he was amongst the victim or whether he was possibly the shooter.
So again, the suspicions, the senses are all high, and you're seeing things in a much different filter.
ROBERTS: But let's not forget, though, that at the time that the e-mail went out, they didn't know that they were looking for an Asian male.
FEYERICK: Yes, correct, absolutely.
(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: All they knew was that there was something that happened at West A.J.
ZAHN: And in fact, they were talking to a person of interest that had absolutely no...
ROBERTS: It turned out to be a dead-end lead.
ZAHN: ... involvement with this. I guess the one thing though that is clear tonight is that there were a bunch of red flags raised. I don't know whether you can say all but ignored. But certainly no one putting together...
ROBERTS: Yes. Sort of stepping-stones along the path, isn't it? But was there a stone or two missing that, you know, if you had have had those pieces, could you have predicted that something like this was going to happen? When you look at the -- at the chilling contents of that manifesto, the 1,800 words, and the 23 QuickTime videos, it is absolutely clear, there was no doubt that you're dealing with an incredibly disturbed individual. Not somebody who has just been maligned, but somebody who was on the edge of completely snapping.
ZAHN: And someone who meticulously planned his mission. John Roberts, see you in the morning. Deborah Feyerick, see you tomorrow night. Thank you both.
ROBERTS: You bet.
ZAHN: Still ahead from the campus of Virginia Tech, trying to make sense of senseless tragedy. We are going to hear from the Reverend Franklin Graham. I spent some time with him this afternoon. When we come back, you're going to hear what he had to say.
ZAHN: And welcome back to the campus of Virginia Tech tonight as we continue to learn more about Monday's tragic massacre of 32 students and faculty. The Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, came here to console stunned students. He happens to be a native of Virginia and says he feels like this happened in his own home.
I spoke with him a little bit earlier today.
REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SON OF REV. BILLY GRAHAM: This was my home. These mountains, I've lived in these mountains all my life, and so it's like family.
ZAHN (voice-over): Evangelist preacher Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, came to the campus of Virginia Tech to offer support to offer spiritual support to the students and teachers during this tough time.
GRAHAM: And I want you to know how encouraged I am that you all have all come together, regardless of what your faith is, to be united and come together for your school and for each other. And so in talking to you at this moment I'm coming to you as a pastor of the Christian faith.
ZAHN: As the campus was emptying out of students, some of those who did stay on, still in deep mourning came together to share a prayer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord, we thank you for the many Christian brothers and sisters that we have in this area.
ZAHN (on camera): It is so overwhelming to watch these students make handwritten notes on these boards.
GRAHAM: I've gone up to some of them and talked why they wrote what they wrote, and with tears streaming down their face, they would tell me the relationship to the person that passed away.
All I can do, Paula, is just try to ask God to give me the right words as I speak to them and would say something that would bring comfort, that would help bring a little healing to their tender hearts.
ZAHN (voice-over): The lives cut short lead much still unanswered.
(on camera): Now if society could have done more to help this young man, it seemed that red flag after red flag was raised about his mental health.
GRAHAM: I don't know if he fell through the cracks, Paula, or whether we have -- as a society, we have gone too far in trying to give somebody a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, a fifth chance. Sooner or later, somebody has to say, whoa. There's a problem here and we need to take this person out of the system.
ZAHN: I think one of the most challenging things as a parent is to try to explain to a child what has happened here. What should we tell our children?
GRAHAM: Death is part of life. Every one of us is going to die. And we are going to cross that river, we are going to cross that valley of death one day. I want these young people to find out what God has for their life and to do it and to live it to their fullest.
ZAHN (voice-over): And to begin the healing...
(on camera): And just a final thought on what all these students can do to start the healing process?
GRAHAM: With prayers. Millions of people, God will hear these prayers and he will begin to touch the hearts. The healing process begins individually in every heart. As we turn to God and seek his help, and if we pray as a nation for this campus and for this university, I believe we'll see the healing process take place one at a time. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAHN: The Reverend Franklin Graham. Thank him for his time. Coming up at the top of the hour, our coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre continues with Larry King. Among his guests, one of Cho's roommates. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Thanks so much for joining us. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.
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