Remembering Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Mourning Ceremony

Six years ago today, the Virginia Tech massacre took the lives of 32 individuals at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. The attack was perpetrated by Seug-Hui Cho, a Virginia Tech senior. The shooter committed suicide after gunning down professors and students on the university’s campus, using a .22-caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic handgun and a semi-automatic Glock 19 handgun.

The shootings began around 7:15 a.m. on the west side of campus at West Ambler Johnston Hall, where two students were killed. As police responded to the first shootings, Cho changed into clean clothes and attempted to mail a package to NBC News with video records and personal writings.

His second assault happened about two hours after the initial killings at Norris Hall on the east side of campus. 30 more lives were taken during this assault, including Cho’s. Students and faculty members at Norris Hall attempted to barricade the doors to the classrooms with varied success, and many individuals died as they were shot through barricaded doors. Many students were injured as they attempted to flee from second-story windows; others were wounded from gunshots.

The perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, had a documented history of depression, selective mutism, and severe anxiety. Some reports claimed that Cho was bullied by others, but these reports were not confirmed. There were numerous reports of behavior-related incidents documented by professors. Although he was encouraged to seek counseling, loopholes in Virginia gun laws allowed Cho to purchase the assault weapons used in the attacks on campus.

These shootings led the state of Virginia to close legal loopholes that allowed Cho to purchase weapons. Several analyses of Virginia Tech’s response to the tragedy led to a more comprehensive, cohesive response to students who display signs of mental illness. The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) released a report that developed a blueprint for improved campus safety. Several hospitals also released reports on improving response to mass shootings, especially in terms of psychological care of patients.

The Homeland Security Digital Library has a number of resources on School Violence in our Featured Topics section (requires HSDL account).

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