Va. Tech could have saved lives

Updated: 2007-08-30 14:52

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Tech officials might have saved lives if they had notified faculty and students sooner about the first two shootings on campus, a panel concluded in its investigation of the April rampage that left 33 dead.

Virginia Tech president Charles Steger addresses the first session of the Virginia Tech Review Panel in Richmond, Va., Thursday, May 10, 2007. [AP]

"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference. ... So the earlier and clearer the warning, the more chance an individual had of surviving," said the report, which was released late Wednesday night.

However, the report concluded that while swifter warnings might have helped students and faculty protect themselves or alert authorities of suspicious activity, a lockdown on April 16 of the 131 buildings on campus was not feasible.

It may not have prevented the determined gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, from carrying out the shootings, the report said. As a student, he had access to campus buildings and the ability to get the same messages as everyone else. He could have gained access to a dormitory or begun shooting people in the open.

"From what we know of his mental state and commitment to action that day, it was likely that he would have acted out his fantasy somewhere on campus or outside it that same day," the report said.

The eight-member panel, appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, spent four months investigating the worst mass shooting in modern US history. Panel chairman Gerald Massengill declined to comment when reached Wednesday night.

Kaine said earlier Wednesday he did not conclude from the report that either Virginia Tech President Charles Steger or campus police Chief Wendell Flinchum should resign.

"The points that I will raise tomorrow, I don't view that they would be solved by taking that step," Kaine said, referring to an 11 a.m. EDT news conference on Thursday.

The report also concluded that while Cho had demonstrated numerous signs of mental instability, the university did not intervene effectively.

The panel sharply criticized the university's counseling center, where Cho was referred for treatment in 2005 after a stretch of bizarre behavior and concerns that he was suicidal. The panel concluded that the center failed to provide needed support and services to Cho, due to a lack of resources, misinterpretation of privacy laws and passivity.

The report also noted that records of Cho's "minimal treatment" at the counseling center are missing.

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