Fatal delay

A new report into the worst campus shooting spree in American history criticizes Virginia Tech

According to a revised report from a Virginia panel convened by Gov. Tim Kaine, the university locked down some administrative buildings and administrators told their own families about the danger more than an hour and a half before the rest of the campus was alerted. Worse, students who were initially locked down at West Ambler Johnston residence hall, where the spree began, were later released from the building by the police and allowed to attend their 9 a.m. classes. Two of those students then went to class in Norris Hall, where they were killed by the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 students and faculty members on April 16, 2007, before taking his own life. At least two members of the university’s Policy Group, which was assembled to manage the crisis, let their own families know of the first two shootings, in the residence hall, more than 90 minutes before the group warned the rest of the campus. The new report also says that the university president’s office was locked down about 30 minutes before a formal warning was issued to the rest of the campus, that police took more than half an hour longer than was initially believed to begin looking for a suspect, and that university officials failed to contact the family of the shooter’s first victim, Emily Hilscher, for more than three hours, until after she had died. Hilscher survived for some time after being shot and was transported to two different hospitals before her death. “The new report contains good information that is relevant,” said Lori Haas, the mother of Emily Haas, who was wounded in the shootings. “But it also points out the fact that the university was not concerned enough with the students and their safety.” She added, “These were serious mistakes, and we will still don’t feel like everything that should be known has been revealed.”

The New York Times

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