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Virginia Tech officials warned own kin first about shooting

Virginia Tech officials locked down some administrative buildings and warned their own families more than an hour and a half before the rest of the university campus was alerted about the deadliest shooting spree in American history in 2007, according to a revised state report.

world Updated: Dec 05, 2009 11:11 IST

Virginia Tech officials locked down some administrative buildings and warned their own families more than an hour and a half before the rest of the university campus was alerted about the deadliest shooting spree in American history in 2007, according to a revised state report.

The original report on the April 16, 2007 massacre which left 33 dead, including an Indian professor and a student, concluded that university officials could have saved lives by notifying students and faculty members earlier about the killings on campus.

The revised report indicates that students who were initially locked down at West Ambler Johnston residence hall, where the first two victims were killed, 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.

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 report says.

The university president's office was locked down about 30 minutes before a formal warning was issued to the rest of the campus about the rampage by Seung-Hui Cho, a mentally ill student who shot himself after the killing spree, it says.

The updated report includes additions and corrections requested by family members along with new information, including details from Cho's mental health records. Those records had been missing from the school counselling centre even before the massacre, but the centre's former director found them in his home in July.

The original report criticised the university's failure to act on warning signs from Cho that included violent, twisted writings and sullen, hostile behavior. It also criticised the communications failures and other problems that allowed nearly two hours to elapse between the first gunshots and the campus-wide notification.

The updated report did not revise the original report's conclusions and recommendations.

In a news release on Friday, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine said many of the recommendations in the original report were enacted during the 2008 session of the General Assembly.

These included the clarification of information-sharing procedures and involuntary commitment criteria, mandatory creation of emergency plans for colleges and universities, restrictions on firearm access for those adjudicated mentally ill, and the investment of $41 million in the state's mental-health operations.