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THE SITUATION ROOM
Virginia Tech Massacre Coverage
Aired April 18, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And we have some dramatic new pictures of the Virginia Tech massacre that are just in to CNN.
Also happening this hour, new and unsettling accounts about the Virginia Tech gunman's psychological problems years before he opened fire here on this campus.
We're also standing by for another briefing at the university.
Plus, a time for prayer amid the pain. The Reverend Franklin Graham is here on campus to help in the quest for healing. I'll be speaking with him this hour.
And a Virginia Tech hero and Holocaust survivor praised today by President Bush and now laid to rest. We're covering the victims' unforgettable stories and unforgettable lives.
I'm Wolf Blitzer on the campus of Virginia Tech and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're learning more now about the man blamed for America's deadliest shooting spree. The more it becomes clear how deeply troubled he was and how methodically he planned his rampage, the more we get to understand this man, to a certain degree.
We're also getting new details this hour. CNN has learned that Cho Seung-Hui was picked up with a Walter P22 semi-automatic pistol from a pawn broker near campus on February 9th, more than two months before the Virginia Tech massacre.
Police disclosed today that Cho had been taken to a mental health facility back in 2005. An acquaintance feared he was suicidal after being accused of stalking two female students here on this sprawling campus.
A frightening incident at Virginia Tech earlier today. Police officers carrying rifles, wearing flak jackets, responded to what turned out to be an unfounded threat near the classroom building where most of the carnage was carried out Monday morning. Officials aren't saying much about what happened. One state police officer says there was some kind of threat against Virginia Tech's president. But a university spokeswoman is denying it was a bomb threat.
Let's get some of that new amateur video we're just getting in to CNN, video that was made by two Swedish exchange students who were on the campus Monday morning as they began to roll their cameras. Here you see -- and Brian Todd, our reporter, who has been here covering the story with me, you see police officers, a SWAT TEAM running into that building, Brian, as -- as this horrific story began to unfold.
This is part at the -- this was shot at the engineering building, where most of those students were killed, and faculty members, administrators, 30 in all.
They -- they responded once those shots were fired. And, Brian, as you know, this was about two hours and 15 minutes after the initial killing of two students at a dormitory not all that far away from this building.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It's at this building that this video was shot at -- was -- it's about 11 minutes by walking from the incident where the -- where the first incident took place. That's the Norris Hall Building. And as you recall from Monday, that's also the same building that was captured on that cell phone video by the other student with the dramatic sounds of the gunshots.
This is, again, you know, more dramatic images from Norris Hall on that day -- a little jagged, but the photographers do seem to get their bearings here a little bit.
BLITZER: All right, I want to just get our viewers ready for what they're about to see. At some point you're going to see inside a classroom. You're going to see students with phones.
Now, there is one student. He clearly does not know what exactly is going on, has no clue at that particular point. But unfortunately within minutes, everyone will know the horrific nature of what has occurred on this campus and the fallout, the drama, the tension still continuing on this day, 48 hours plus after the -- the brutal killings took place, the worst shooting spree in U.S. history.
Once again, this was video that was shot by two Swedish students who happened to be on this campus Monday morning watching this situation unfold.
You see police officers there, Brian, begin to wave students to get away from this scene. Students are just watching from windows right now.
TODD: And this is the building, Wolf, where some students who were inside the Norris Hall Building actually jumped out of windows to get out. None of this captured on this tape, at least so far. But this is really where just some of the most dramatic images we've seen from this story have taken place.
This Norris Hall, of course, the scene of the deaths of 30 people.
BLITZER: And I want to remind our viewers, this is amateur video taken by two students. We're going to be speaking with them later this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They're going to describe their eyewitness account of what happened.
But, clearly, clearly it shows in greater detail than we've seen so far some of the events that was going on as the shots were being fired, as we were learning of what was going on. And we see the arrival of these -- these teams coming in and getting ready for -- for what was going on.
Brian, as you see this video right now, you were over there at that hall...
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: ... the engineering building. And it's quite a complex.
TODD: It really is. It's an old gothic stone building, as most of the buildings here are. One of the students who I walked around that building with yesterday told me that, you know, inside those classrooms where the shootings took place there's really nowhere to go except out the windows.
If that -- if the shooter came in through the doorway of any of those rooms, there was just no exit except out those windows, hence why some of the students jumped out. Again, none of that captured on this tape, at least so far.
You see people running from the building there, in addition to the students who were just kind of barricaded inside that -- that building next door.
But, yes, it's not the biggest classroom building on this -- on this campus, but it is, you know, it's one of the more impressive looking.
BLITZER: And there you see -- there you see the students inside. They're on the cell phones. They're clearly trapped inside right there as they -- as they watch and try to figure out what's going on themselves. And, clearly, you see police officers running to the scene trying to deal with an unfolding situation.
At that point, I don't think they necessarily had a clue...
BLITZER: ... at the extent of the horrific killings that were going on inside those classrooms.
TODD: And, of course, it was the same time frame that the other student, Mr. Albaughouti, took the cell phone video that we heard the gunshots and that, as you remember, Wolf, there were multiple, multiple gunshots going on at that time.
You can assume, of course, that during this same time period where this video is being shot, that's what was going on on the other side of the building, where he took that video. But, you know, as you see these police running back and forth, clearly they're -- they're dealing with a confusing scene, possibly hearing those multiple gunshots going off. So, clearly, a scene of confusion there.
BLITZER: You know, I want to get back to this video and speak to those two Swedish students. They're standing by, Brian.
But as we await their arrival here at Virginia Tech, where we're located on the campus, you've been doing some digging into what's been going on on this day. I want you to update our viewers on some of the dramatic developments that have occurred so far today, what we've learned.
And, as I say that, I want to remind our viewers, we're standing by for a live news conference here at Virginia Tech. We're expecting to get more details from university officials, as well as from police -- police investigators who are looking into this.
We'll go back to the video, the new amateur video we're getting. And we'll speak to those Swedish students who shot this video.
But update our viewers now, Brian, on what has happened on this day.
TODD: Well, it was another dramatic day, Wolf, as every day seems to be here. And today what we learned are startling new details about Cho Seung-Hui's psychological and legal troubles.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): A dark picture of a mass murderer that includes stalking and threats of suicide. Police say Monday's killing spree was not their first encounter with Cho Seung-Hui.
November, 2005 -- a female student calls police to complaint about annoying phone calls and run-ins with Cho.
CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: The student declined to press charges and referred to Cho's contact with her as annoying.
TODD: No charges are filed. That is just the beginning.
FLINCHUM: In December of 2005, Cho instant messaged a second female student. Again, no threat was made against that student. However, she made a complaint to the Virginia Tech Police Department and asked that Cho have no further contact with her.
TODD: Cho's roommates say he had a history of troubling behavior with female students, including repeated unwanted text messaging and phone calls; that the warning signs were there.
ANDY, CHO'S FORMER ROOMMATE: All the instances with the girls, I think, are the big warning signs. Like none of them ever came to like charges or anything, because I'm sure those girls weren't trying to cause trouble. But if any of them had, it may have stopped things then.
But those were definite warning signs of someone who had some social problems.
TODD: The second time police were called, Cho made a threat -- a threat his roommates took seriously.
ANDY: Seung became upset about that and he had told me that he might as well kill himself. And so I told the cops that and they took him away to the counseling center for a night or two.
TODD: Virginia Tech police say out of concern for Cho's own safety, he was sent to counseling.
FLINCHUM: Based on that interaction with the counselor, a temporary detention order was obtained and Cho was taken to a mental health facility.
TODD: He was released just a few days later. Police say they never ran into Cho again, until they found him dead in Norris Hall, surrounded by the bodies of fellow students.
Despite the warning signs of a disturbed young man, police say there was nothing more they could do.
CHRIS FLYNN, VIRGINIA TECH COUNSELOR: It is very difficult to predict when what someone perceives as stalking is stalking and -- and then how it might translate into violence later. In general, that's a very difficult thing to predict. Clearly, if anyone had had any warning about a violent incident, people would have stepped in and acted.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: All right, that was Brian Todd.
We're joined here on the campus of Virginia Tech -- our Brianna Keilar is here with me. Also, two Swedish students who are undergraduates here at Virginia Tech, Martin Arvebro and Carl Nordin.
These are the two students, Brianna, who actually shot this amateur video that we've been watching.
We're going to play it for our viewers and they're going to tell us what we're seeing.
But first set the scene for us -- Brianna.
Tell us where these guys were, what they were doing and how they came upon this extraordinary video that we're about to see.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's kind of a coincidence that Martin and Carl were actually even on the Virginia Tech campus. They were visiting for a one week exchange from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden. And they were actually supposed to be here last week. It turns out that they ended up here this week.
So they were wandering around campus when this happened. And they went into McBride Hall, which was right next to Norris Hall, and that's when they started noticing this commotion.
BLITZER: All right.
All right, now I want to, Martin, start with you.
What are we seeing right now, because you two guys shot this video?
ARVEBRO: Well, at the moment, we just saw the building opposite where we witnessed what we think is a teacher coming out with a gunshot in his arm. So at that point, we actually thought that they were trapped in that building.
BLITZER: And that's Norris? That's the engineering building that you were shooting, where 30 people were killed, right?
CARL NORDIN, SWEDISH EXCHANGE STUDENT: That -- that's the one next to it.
MARTIN ARVEBRO, SWEDISH EXCHANGE STUDENT: This is the opposite building -- NORDIN: This is the other side.
ARVEBRO: ... which, I'm not sure -- the red building opposite Norris is over there where they're running toward.
BLITZER: They're running toward that.
BLITZER: But they were running from Norris.
BLITZER: That's where most of the -- most of the shootings occurred?
ARVEBRO: That's correct.
BLITZER: All right, so tell us what we're seeing now.
ARVEBRO: Well, we're seeing more and more police and other people -- obviously civilian, police and -- running up toward Norris, where apparently the things are happening.
NORDIN: We had no idea as to what was going on at this point.
BLITZER: What do you think, Carl, when you -- when you saw the scurrying, the people running back and forth, what went through your mind?
NORDIN: We thought it was an exercise. We had no -- we heard no gunshots. BLITZER: A training exercise?
NORDIN: A training exercise, yes.
BLITZER: And so what -- what made you and Martin decide to go ahead and roll -- roll your video, your camera?
NORDIN: Well, because it was so -- the police came and it was -- they were really, really upset. And they screamed, "Get back! Get back!" And they had -- and they pushed us back into the building.
And then well, it was so very dramatic. So we had the film cameras there and thought well, let's just shoot it.
BLITZER: And then what happened?
Walk us through this process, Martin, what we're seeing now.
ARVEBRO: What we're seeing now is the ambulance made it -- made itself way up to the Norris building. At this point, there were actually students telling us to get out of McBride Building. But for some reason, call it stupid -- my mom would -- I just stayed around because I knew there was a stretcher going in. So I just wanted to see what would come out.
So -- and momentarily we will be seeing a stretcher of a girl coming out, which, from what I could see at the point, had blood stains on her knees.
BLITZER: And she was taken to this ambulance that we see there?
NORDIN: Yes. I think she was rolled out at the moment here.
BLITZER: And she was -- she was coming out of Norris, the engineering building?
BLITZER: That's -- is that her?
NORDIN: That's her, yes.
ARVEBRO: Yes. And she's lifting her head, so -- right there. So that's what -- that was my indicator that she was at least -- that she was still alive.
BLITZER: Do you -- have you subsequently learned who that person was?
BLITZER: So you don't know who that was? But she is being rolled into this ambulance and she's going to be taken to a hospital where hopefully she's eventually going to be just -- just fine.
But did you see more of this kind of situation unfold, more wounded students being brought out of that Norris engineering building?
NORDIN: No, students, but we saw a professor being brought out from the building opposite us.
BLITZER: That's Norris. You were across the street.
ARVEBRO: Exactly. Yes. OK. That's right.
BLITZER: And who was -- do you know who the professor was?
NORDIN: No, we do not know.
BLITZER: But do you -- we will see that on this video?
ARVEBRO: Yes, you should be, if it was edited in. It surely was.
BLITZER: How long -- how long were you rolling? How much tape did you actually go -- go forward with?
ARVEBRO: I had -- well, we had two cameras, one a mini D.V. cam and a digital cam with video functions. So I was kind of changing in between, as the battery was kind of worn -- wearing out.
But we have about -- I think we have about 50 minutes on the mini D.V. and then a couple of smaller files on the other camera.
BLITZER: Brianna, you've been there. You spent a lot of time at Norris. You can't get in now, it's closed off because it's under, you know, investigation.
But that building across the street, it's very -- very nearby.
KEILAR: That's right. And what's interesting is they were just sort of wandering around campus and deciding which building to go into. And they decided to go into McBride, you guys told me, because it seemed very interesting, the architect, right?
And so, in a way, you feel as if you could have headed right into Norris Hall instead of McBride Hall?
ARVEBRO: Oh, yes. We were completely going all around them. Yes.
BLITZER: And you had no real need to go into McBride. You had no need to go into Norris, but you were just walking around the campus.
How long had both of you been here on campus? When did you arrive at Virginia Tech?
ARVEBRO: Sunday evening.
BLITZER: Sunday evening?
You just got here Sunday night?
NORDIN: Yes. This is the first thing that happened to us.
BLITZER: The first -- the first day -- the first full day that you were on the campus, you see this horrific tragedy unfold and you had presence of mind, both of you, to get your cameras out and to roll tape.
What do you think? What was your impression, Martin, as you watched all of this?
ARVEBRO: I mean, initially it just seemed so surreal. It seemed like something you see, I mean, through American television all these years back in Sweden. So it just -- it still seems surreal, because I think since we were right in the middle of it, we still haven't been able to digest it properly, since the Swedish media has obviously been all over us.
BLITZER: The Sweden media has been obsessed with this story.
I got an e-mail earlier today, coincidentally, from an anchorwoman in Sweden who was watching our coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM on CNN International. And she said they're obsessed in Sweden about this story because there have been, in recent years, some random shootings in Sweden, people just going out and killing some other people.
So this is a problem in Sweden, as well.
And you -- you're familiar with some of those highly publicized incidents in Sweden, right?
NORDIN: Frankly, no. I -- I have -- I can -- this...
BLITZER: The former prime minister.
ARVEBRO: Oh, yes.
NORDIN: Yes, of course.
BLITZER: How could -- how could you forget?
NORDIN: That was a catastrophe.
NORDIN: Yes. ARVEBRO: I thought you meant school.
NORDIN: I thought you meant -- yes.
BLITZER: No, not in schools.
NORDIN: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: But there have been some -- some random shootings with deranged individuals...
BLITZER: And so people in Sweden are looking at this right now and -- and they're -- and trying to understand what's going on in the United States.
NORDIN: Yes. They understand the tragedy of it. Yes.
So it's -- that's why they're watching it as closely in Sweden as they are right now.
Well, I want to thank both of you for sharing with us this videotape, getting a little different perspective on what we saw.
We're going to continue to go through the videotape and make sure our viewers get a better understanding -- because this is a story that's clearly dominated the thinking here in the United States, as well.
Is there any other final points the two of you want to make?
ARVEBRO: I mean, I would like to stress that the four Virginia Tech students that we are exchanging with who are in Sweden right now, I mean, our -- our concern, of course, is with them, because they are so far away and their friends are among and may be among the victims. So, I mean, it's got to be terrible for them, too, not knowing, not being here.
BLITZER: And Carl?
NORDIN: Yes. So tosgol (ph) to them.
BLITZER: One final question to both of you.
Why Virginia Tech? How -- how did you land up here on Sunday night and witness what was going on Monday morning?
First to you, Martin.
ARVEBRO: I mean, the main reason -- we were supposed to leave during Easter. But I went to Stockholm then and we decided to postpone it until this week. So just random.
NORDIN: Sheer coincidence.
BLITZER: Somebody recommended Virginia Tech and you're here?
NORDIN: Yes. It's a good university.
BLITZER: It's a great university and you should be happy you're here.
Are you going to stay? Are you going to leave? What are your plans?
ARVEBRO: We're here for a week...
BLITZER: That's a...
ARVEBRO: ... and then we're going back to Sweden again.
BLITZER: So you're not going to cut short your stay?
BLITZER: Neither one of you.
Martin Arvebro, Carl Nordin, both from Sweden.
I'm going to have Brianna stand by because she's got some new information she's working on, as well.
We're standing by for a live news conference here on the campus of Virginia Tech. They expect to provide more details on the investigation, more of what we know. And they're dealing with tragedy, as all of us know.
Coming up, I'll speak with a young man whose sister was wounded in Monday's shootings.
Plus, Virginia's governor visits with those who were shot but survived. We're going to go live to the hospital here near this campus to find out the condition of some of the patients who are fighting to survive.
And later, he's a legend here on the campus. I'll speak with Frank Beamer. He's the head coach of the school's extremely popular football team. He's been counseling a lot of young kids here.
We're live on the campus of Virginia Tech and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're just getting some more very disturbing information coming in on the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui. Brian Todd is joining us on the phone to update us on this disturbing information that's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- Brian, what are we learning?
TODD: Wolf, we've learned from the court -- the district court here has told CNN that a court order from 2005 states that the alleged shooter in this case, Cho Seung-Hui, was declared mental illness by the Virginia special justice and was also called "an imminent danger to others."
That is, again, according to the clerk at the district court here. This order was filed by a special justice in Virginia; again, that in 2005, the alleged shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was declared mental illness by the Virginia special justice and "an imminent danger to others."
Wolf, we're getting more information from these documents as we speak and we hope to bring more to you later.
BLITZER: In 2005, he was declared by a court, a special justice of the Commonwealth of Virginia here, as "an imminent danger to others." Yet some two years later, he was still at large here on the campus and, as we now know, caused this horrific, horrific massacre that unfolded.
More questions that are certainly are going to be asked at this news conference that's coming up later this hour. And we're standing by for that. Questions -- we'll see if the investigators, authorities on the campus, the police, have answers to why he was allowed to remain at large when he was declared by the court here in Virginia: "an imminent danger to others."
A lot -- a lot of questions are going to be asked on this and it's going to be a subject of quite con -- of quite a controversy. We're watching it unfold. We'll bring you that news conference live as it happens here on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Let's get to a gripping story now. It's the story of Katelyn Carney, a student wounded in the Virginia Tech attack Monday morning. She lost a finger, but could have lost her life.
Listen to this. When the shooting started, she dove under her desk and covered her head with her hands. A bullet smashed through her desk. The desk slowed down the bullet. The bullet lodged, though, in her left ring finger, gazed her head.
Oddly enough, her father, a former federal marshal, was also once wounded in the head and hand.
Doctors later removed Katelyn's injured finger. Her brother Danny hopes to be reunited with Katelyn this weekend, when she's supposed to walk down the aisle as their sister's maid of honor.
Danny Carney is joining us on the phone right now.
Danny, thanks very much for joining us. Your sister is a very, very lucky young lady.
You're joining us now from Boston.
I understand you spoke with her earlier.
Tell us about that conversation.
DANNY CARNEY, KATELYN CARNEY'S BROTHER: Yes, Wolf, I did. I spoke with her about an hour ago. She's in good spirits. She's feeling well. Still in a lot of pain. Her hand is -- her hand is pretty beat up. But she's doing well. She's got to start walking soon and she's in good spirits.
BLITZER: And she's going to make the wedding this weekend?
CARNEY: Absolutely. Yes. She's the maid of honor, so she'd better be there.
BLITZER: She'll be there.
Well, thank god, thank god she's OK under the circumstances. She's very, very lucky.
Did she give you any specific details of the ordeal she went through Monday morning, what she was doing, precisely where she was?
CARNEY: Absolutely, she did. I just found out earlier today because I didn't want to press her any earlier in the week for details. But she volunteered some details to me today.
I guess she was sitting in the middle of the classroom, all the way against the wall, the same wall that the gunman came in through.
He immediately started firing. He shot the professor. He shot the students in the first row of seating. And then he just moved back row by row.
And my sister Katie said that, you know, the kids sitting in the front of the classroom, unfortunately, were the ones that were killed. The kids in the middle were the ones that were injured pretty badly. And then the ones -- the kids in the back were able to escape injury- free.
BLITZER: And she was an eyewitness to this kind of horror.
And you say she's doing OK right now?
CARNEY: She is, yes. She's putting on a strong face. She's a real tough girl and she seems to be doing all right. My parents are with her right now and she's got a lot of friends who are visiting her. So she's -- she's taking it a minute at a time. But she's doing well.
BLITZER: Did she have a chance to discuss, to describe to you the shooter? CARNEY: She just said that he was a tall Asian guy. Other than that, you know, she had never seen him. She didn't recognize him from campus. She said that he was just very...
BLITZER: And she...
CARNEY: ... very methodical, just shot after shot, just, you know, loading back up and, you know, just didn't -- didn't relent.
BLITZER: And by almost all of the other accounts -- and I assume her account, as well -- he really didn't utter a word as he was just methodically killing people.
Is that right?
CARNEY: That's right. Yes. That's what I've heard. He didn't say anything.
BLITZER: What about the professor? Do you know anything about the professor who was shot and killed in her class?
CARNEY: I do know that he was a favorite professor of hers. She was crazy about him. He was a great guy, a 35-year-old man, as far as I know. And I don't know anything about him personally, but I do know that he was a great instructor and she liked him a lot and she was really upset at his passing.
BLITZER: What -- what was the class she was in? What was she studying?
CARNEY: It was German class.
BLITZER: So that was the professor known as Jamie. He was a younger man who -- you're absolutely right, because I've spoken to several students who have studied with him and he was just a delight. And he was obviously one of the first ones killed in that German class -- so painful, so horrific, so inexplicable, so random, if you will, and yet he died for no reason whatsoever.
Danny, I want to thank you very much for sharing your story with us.
Please tell your parents, you know, we're really happy that Katelyn not only survived, but she's going to be at this wedding, the maid of honor of her sister, this weekend.
Good luck to her and good luck to all of the family as you go forward.
It's a remarkable, remarkable story.
Is there anything else you want to share with our viewers before I let you go, Danny?
CARNEY: Yes. I'd just like to say that I'm incredibly impressed with the resiliency and the attitude of the Virginia Tech community, from what I've seen and from what I've heard from my parents. It's -- it's incredible how they've -- how they've banded together and I couldn't be more proud. And all of my condolences go out to -- to the victims and the families.
BLITZER: And Katelyn, is she going to come back to school here or is she going to transfer?
CARNEY: That remains to be seen. I don't know. She -- she may come back, she may not. I know she's going to take at least -- at least a week or so off and compose herself. But -- but she's a tough girl and I wouldn't be surprised to see her right back there.
BLITZER: All right, Danny, thanks very much.
Danny Carney joining us from Boston.
His sister Katelyn was injured, but she's all right. She's going to be at her sister's wedding this weekend in Boston.
We have some more pictures of students and teachers whose promising lives were snuffed out on this campus two days ago. Ryan Clark of Georgia and Emily Hilscher of Virginia are the students who were killed first in that dormitory. The rest died in the classroom building.
Among them, Brian Bluhm, a student who went to high school in Kentucky.
Austin Cloyd's family moved to Blacksburg a couple of years ago. He was an international studies student; Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French instructor; Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva (ph) of Virginia; Kevin Granata, a professor of engineering; and Caitlin Hammaren, a student from New York. Some of the faces -- some of the faces of this tragedy.
We're standing by for this live news conference here on the campus of Virginia Tech. That is supposed to start very soon. We expect more details, lots of questions being asked about the shooter in this particular case, also some chilling words from one of the professors who taught the Virginia Tech shooter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI GIOVANNI, NOBEL LAUREATE: This was a mean guy. And I think he tried to intimidate everybody. And I don't think it was personal to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: From Nikki Giovanni, a Nobel laureate and professor, who wanted Cho Seung-Hui out of her class.
Plus: dealing with overwhelming loss. I will speak with the parents of some of the students who were killed in Monday's tragedy. They want to speak out. We will hear their remarkable stories, the stories of their kids as well. Stay with us. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The news conference on the campus here at Virginia Tech is just starting right now. We expect to get some more information on this investigation, on the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui.
Let's go there right now and listen to preliminary remarks.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
LARRY HINCKER, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR UNIVERSITY RELATIONS, VIRGINIA TECH: ... in the week preceding commencement. I don't have that exact date, but it will be the Sunday before May 11.
Finally, there is the issue of how we are going to accommodate at least a week of lost classes. Each college is going to determine at their level how they best do that, whether they skip final exams or whether they decide to truncate the course sessions or whatever that might be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have more information (OFF-MIKE)
Finally, again, a relatively minor thing, but many people are parking where the buses are supposed to park around the drill field. We would ask that you respect that. We will do our very best to try to help you park your vehicles.
I now want to address a solemn issue. Many of you already know the names of the deceased. I have several names here that I want to read. We will have a list handed out for you at the conclusion of the conference.
I did speak to the families, some of the families, about an hour- and-a-half ago. Several of them said to me that they don't want to be contacted. Obviously, I don't know who they are. You don't know who they are. You all have been through this before. I know that you understand the trauma, the hell that they're going through right now.
And, so, I know that you will respect their wishes, if they say to you that they don't want to be contacted, after you make that call. In that respect, we have also assigned a person from the Office of Student Affairs as a liaison to each of those families to ensure they're getting all the support that they need from the university. And many have different kinds of support.
I'm going to read the names to you in alphabetical order, last names first.
Alameddine, Ross Abdallah Alameddine. His hometown is Saugus, Massachusetts. He was a sophomore in university studies. He's been a student since the fall of 2005. Gwaltney, Matthew Gregory, hometown in Chesterfield, Virginia. He was a master's student in environmental engineering. And he's been a graduate student since the fall of 2005.
Hilscher, Emily Jane, her hometown was in Woodville, Virginia. And she was a freshman in animal and poultry sciences. She was a student since the fall of 2006.
La Porte, Matthew Joseph, his hometown was in Dumont, New Jersey. He was a sophomore in university studies and a student since the fall of 2005.
Lee, Henry J., he was from Roanoke, Virginia, and he was a sophomore in computer engineering. And he was a student since the fall of 2006.
McCain, Lauren Ashley (ph), her hometown was in Hampton, Virginia. She was a freshman in international studies. She was a student since the fall of 2006.
Panchal, Minal Hiralal (ph), his hometown was Mumbai, India. And he was a master's student in architecture. And he was a student since the fall of 2006.
Shaalan, Waleed Mohammed, his hometown is Blacksburg, Virginia, but he was originally from Egypt, Ph.D. student in civil engineering, a student since the fall of 2006.
One confirmation on a faculty member, Librescu, Liviu, who was a professor in engineering science and mechanics, his residence was in Blacksburg, Virginia. He joined Virginia Tech in September 1, 1985. And many of you saw a story on his funeral arrangements that were taking place in New York.
Again, we had the medical examiner here yesterday , explaining the delay and why this takes so long. We also had to explain to the families. They're frustrated, as you can obviously imagine how frustrated they might be, because they can't come in contact with their loved ones. But the medical examiner, as she said, has got to have scientifically validated proof.
This list is going to be available to you. And we will continue to do this as soon as we get these available. I will tell you that I had with me -- I have with me several people to speak to you about the process of student affairs, counseling students, like we had this morning. Many of you had questions. I wanted to pick up on that again.
However, we're not going to do that. We're not going to take questions, because we have some extremely troubling news.
And the superintendent of State Police, Steve Flaherty, is going to share with you a piece of new information. Some of you might have seen it breaking on the air just a few minutes ago.
COLONEL STEVEN FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: Thank you, Larry.
As Larry has described, we do have some significant news to share with you. Earlier today, NBC News in New York received correspondence that we believe to have been from Cho Seung-Hui, the gunman who is responsible for the fatal shootings in Norris Hall.
The correspondence included multiple photographs, video and writings. Upon receipt of this correspondence, NBC News immediately notified authorities. And I certainly want to commend NBC News for what they have done, the way that they have -- they have secured this information, the way they have handled it with dignity. We certainly appreciate that.
And I publicly thank NBC News president Steve Capus, that I have personally have spoken with, thank him for working with us.
The originals were turned over to the FBI. And they are in the process of transporting those back. 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.
So, thank you for your time.
HINCKER: I'm going to go ahead and finish up.
They're writings and images. They're writing -- writings and images.
HINCKER: I know. I know. I know.
QUESTION: ... piece of paper?
QUESTION: Our job is not to relay the chief's messages. Our job is to ask questions.
HINCKER: My job is to try to answer them.
QUESTION: How did they receive them? Did he say how he received (OFF-MIKE)
HINCKER: No, he didn't. NBC...
QUESTION: Was it in between the two shootings?
QUESTION: Are they of any of the students that were killed?
HINCKER: I don't know that. NBC News is going to be reporting on it tonight.
QUESTION: So, is this an NBC story at this point? So, the university is working with NBC to tell this story?
HINCKER: It isn't a story, as much as it is the investigation.
It isn't a story, as much as it is the investigation. So, NBC News has turned over information to the police department, the state superintendent.
HINCKER: So, I can't -- I can't get into that. I want to -- the chief has told -- I mean, the superintendent has told you what he knows.
What I want to tell you is, I want to answer the questions. I had five people lined up to talk to you about some of the issues that you had this morning. They want to go address this latest breaking news that just came in within the last several hours. I'm going to have the vice president of student affairs.
I'm going to have the provost, the chief academic officer of the university, with us tomorrow. I'm going to have the head of Cook Counseling Center here again tomorrow. I'm going to have the head of the judicial review system tomorrow.
So, we can talk about some of the issues that you wanted to address here today.
QUESTION: Sir, Virginia's special justice has said that he ruled this man was mentally ill and declared that he was an imminent danger to others. Did you know that? And, if you did know that...
QUESTION: ... why would you let him stay on campus?
HINCKER: That's absolutely -- that's total news to me. So...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE) They are making the copies right now of the list of names for you. It will all be posted on the Web site.
Someone had asked went correspondence came in. It was earlier today.
QUESTION: But, Larry, shouldn't the university have known that, though? Why is that news? I mean... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not commenting on the -- how NBC received it at this point.
QUESTION: But the news about him being declared a danger, shouldn't the university have known that?
QUESTION: How could you not?
BLITZER: All right. All right.
There you have it. That's a major development that we have just learned about, a major development unfolding right now -- the authorities now saying that NBC News received a package of information from the shooter only days ago, before the shooting, obviously, may be a critical component of the investigation, according to what we just heard from the police here on the campus of Virginia Tech.
They're evaluating all of this right now. Cho Seung-Hui apparently sent this package, images and other information, to NBC News to give them the -- what is undisclosed at this point. But NBC made the decision to make it available to authorities, to law enforcement. The FBI has the originals right now.
They're reviewing it. They're going through it. And we may learn in the process of what was behind this horrific incident Monday morning here on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Brian Todd has been investigating. He's been looking into all of this. Update our viewers, Brian, who may just be tuning in right now on what we know in this latest -- there's been a series of twists and turns that have unfolded in the past hour alone.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Literally, Wolf, in the past probably 15 or 20 minutes, first, we learned that, according to a documents from a Virginia special judge in the U.S. -- in a district court here, in 2005, the alleged shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was declared by a special judge to be mentally ill and presenting an imminent danger to himself and others.
I am going to read to you what it says on this line that is checked on this court order, describing Cho Seung-Hui, that he is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness or is so seriously mental ill as to be substantially unable to care for self and is incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment.
That is according to a document from district court here. Then, just a few minutes later, we received word, just at that news conference, that then suspect, Cho Seung-Hui, mailed correspondence to NBC News shortly before the Norris Hall shootings, correspondence, we were told in that news conference, contains multiple photos, other images, and writings.
The police officials who briefed us on that said that the NBC News officials immediately contacted authorities, and the originals have been turned over to the FBI, Wolf, so quite a few very startling developments just in the last half-hour.
BLITZER: Two very startling developments.
And we're -- we're hoping to speak to that special justice later this hour, and get his account of what happened, the whole process on why he was declared mentally ill, Cho Seung-Hui, and why he was described as potentially being a danger, imminent danger, to -- not only to individuals around him, but to himself as well.
And then this other information sort of underscoring what we have suspected for some time, that this was a well-thought-out move by Cho Seung-Hui to go forward with these methodical killings of students and faculty and others here on the campus of Virginia Tech, where he himself, a 23-year-old, was an English major.
And all sorts of alarm bells, now we know, had been raised in the two or three years earlier about his mental capacity, about who he was, how much of a danger he was. And it sends a chill down your -- your spine to hear that a special justice of the Virginia courts had declared him to be a threat, a threat to others, including -- and a threat to himself as well.
In fact, Paul Barnett is that special justice. He's joining us on the phone.
Justice Barnett, thanks very much.
First of all, tell us about the work that you do for the judicial system here in Virginia.
PAUL BARNETT, VIRGINIA SPECIAL JUSTICE: Well, I want to preface everything. I'm not going to talk about any specific case, any specific person, or any specific action that I have done. That's totally improper. And I'm not going to do that.
I'm a special justice appointed by the circuit judges in my judicial circuit to hold commitment hearings and to issue certain orders related to mental retardation and medical treatments. And, in those particular cases, I have equivalent powers to a general district court judge in Virginia.
BLITZER: All right. So, we won't talk about any specific case, including the case of Cho, because you're -- clearly don't want to discuss those cases.
But let's talk about the process. Why would someone come before you? What kind of evidence, what would be needed, for you to hear a case?
BARNETT: The process begins with a petition by any person that thinks that another person is mentally ill, and, as a result of that mental illness, is an imminent or an immediate danger to themselves, as in suicidal, or an imminent danger to somebody else, or that they're substantially unable to care for themselves.
Upon that petition, the person, if they're not already in a place where they can be seen, can be brought in on an emergency custody order, which would allow four hours for a mental-health-certified person to see them and to assess their mental situation and dangerousness.
And, if that evaluation resulted in an opinion that something needed to be done, they can contact our magistrate. And our magistrate is the quasi-judicial officer that issues criminal and other types of warrants and arrests orders.
And the magistrate, upon the petition and that advice from the mental health professional, can issue a temporary detention order. The temporary detention order allows the police officers to pick up the person and take them to an inpatient psychiatric facility.
BLITZER: So, Justice, if -- and I assume I can call you Justice Paul Barnett -- if someone is declared...
BARNETT: Mr. is fine. Mr. is fine.
BLITZER: Mr. Barnett, if -- if someone is declared mentally ill, an imminent danger to others, including himself or herself, what is the -- what happens then? What -- what goes forward?
BARNETT: After a hearing -- and there's several processes that -- that are looked at first -- after a full hearing on this matter, if a person has declined to be a voluntary patient, I'm required to find if -- if there is clear and convincing evidence of those factors.
And, if I do find that, then I'm required to look at less restrictive alternatives to an in-patient hospitalization. And that would be various forms of outpatient treatment, therapy, medication, substance abuse treatment, all those forms of therapy that would be done outside of a hospital.
If they are found to be available and appropriate, then I am required to order they do that, and...
BLITZER: And what happens if an individual -- an individual who is deemed an imminent danger to himself or herself decides not voluntarily to seek special treatment, but just wants to go on with whatever he or she were doing? What -- what do the courts do then?
BARNETT: The whole process is to determine if there are alternatives to being in a full 24-hour hospital.
If there are not any reasonable alternatives to that, or if the person would not be amenable to that, then the commitment order can be issued that keeps them in the hospital, until a psychiatrist says that they should be discharged.
BLITZER: All right.
And I just want to be precise with our viewers. The documents that we have -- and I know you don't want to discuss the specifics of any case, including the case of Cho Seung-Hui -- but the documents we have from 2005 declare that he was declared mentally ill by the Virginia special justice -- that would be you -- and of imminent danger to others.
I know you don't want to add anything specific to that, unless you do. And I will give you a chance before I let you go, Mr. Barnett.
BARNETT: I'm not going to discuss any particular finding on any particular individual.
But I want to stress that the statute requires me to investigate several different things, first whether they would be voluntary in a hospital, and, if they decline that, if they meet the criteria by a very strong level of proof. And, then, beyond that, even if those criteria are met, I have to examine less restrictive alternatives to an involuntary admission.
BLITZER: Paul Barnett, thanks very much...
BLITZER: ... the special justice here in Virginia, who's got a tough assignment.
Thank you very much for sharing some thoughts with us.
We're also learning more about what authorities found in Cho's dorm room while carrying out a search warrant the night of the shooting.
Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, what does the warrant say police were actually looking for?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it says they were looking for weapons, explosives, but also pens and paper that could have been used to communicate bomb threats.
Here's the warrant here -- we have put it online -- for the residence of Cho at Harper Hall, which is on the Virginia Tech campus there. There's what the police were looking. There's also a list of what they took away, 16 items.
Let's go through some of them. A chain was taken, a knife. A Compaq computer was removed from Cho's room by the police during the search, a combination lock, Dremel tools, along with a case. And then assorted books and notepads are mentioned, along with six sheets of green graph paper.
Now, an accompanying affidavit to the search warrant explains why the police were so interested in these notepads and paper. It says that a bomb threat, a written bomb threat, was found at the site of the killings, found at Norris Hall, a written bomb threat against the engineering department.
And this affidavit goes on to say that it's reasonable to believe that the presumed suspect, Cho, was the author of that note.
We have put the entire search warrant online at CNN.com, so viewers can see it for themselves -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that. We are going to check back with you, because a lot of information is being shared with us online.
We're following the breaking news, a number of unexpected developments here in the Virginia Tech massacre, including news Cho Seung-Hui sent a package to a national news organization before he undertook the rampage, killed himself.
Also, prayers to help with the pain -- I will be speaking with the Reverend Franklin Graham. He is here at Virginia Tech. He's trying to help those deal with this immense loss.
And later: He's a legend on the campus, the Virginia Tech head football coach, Frank Beamer. He will be joining us to talk about his special efforts to boost the spirits of a school dealing with horrific tragedy -- much more of our special coverage coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Getting lots of new developments here on the campus of Virginia Tech. We're going to update you on all of the breaking news that's coming up.
But, first, the football coach here at Virginia Tech, he has developed a powerful, powerful football program, but he's canceled his team's annual spring game, saying some things are more important than football.
Joining us here, another very popular figure on the campus, the coach Frank Beamer.
Coach, I would have loved to have spoken to you under different circumstances. Been a great admirer of yours over many years. You have built an outstanding football program.
Talk to us a little bit about the counseling you're giving. What are you saying to the young kids who have been so traumatized by what happened Monday morning here?
FRANK BEAMER, VIRGINIA TECH FOOTBALL COACH: Well, I'm leaving that to the professionals.
Most of our players are off campus now. We contacted them Monday, when this happened. And then we contacted them again just to talk, if they needed counseling, how to go about that.
But, you know, it was one of those things, for us, that you know, we got -- we're in spring practice. We're practicing...
BLITZER: Which is huge here on the campus.
BEAMER: It is. And, for our spring game, Saturday, there would have probably been 35,000, 40,000 people there.
BLITZER: And you canceled that?
BEAMER: I did. We did.
I think there's probably going to be funerals going on Saturday. And we're practicing. And, to me, out of respect for the victims and their families, I think that's what needs to take place.
However, there are so many times I have talked about our football team, and we're in this all together, talking to the alumni, and talking to the students here and the faculty here. We're all in this thing together. And, right now, I feel like, at this university, we certainty are all in this thing together.
BLITZER: What are your -- are your -- your players, the football players, what are they saying to? Because these are talented athletes. They're big. They're strong. They're tough. But they're young kids.
BEAMER: Well, you know, and they're hurting, like everyone else.
And we grieve with the families. We are in this thing together. And we're going to grieve with them. But we're going to come back from this thing, too. This is a very close campus. It's a very close community here. Hokie people are very close. And...
BLITZER: I just want to let our viewers know, the Hokies, that's the name of the school.
BEAMER: Oh, absolutely.
BLITZER: A lot of viewers probably aren't familiar with that.
BEAMER: And, if I know anything, these Hokies are going to come back. We're going to get tighter. We're going to care about each other more. We're going to respect each other more, as we go around this campus.
And mark it down now. When we open that football season next fall against East Carolina, I will bet you will see a togetherness, even more so than you have ever seen in past...
BLITZER: Any of your players want to transfer or leave Virginia Tech?
BEAMER: No, I don't -- I haven't heard any of that.
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: And were any of them close to the carnage? Were any of them on campus, nearby?
BEAMER: I think some of them knew them. But I don't -- I don't think it was anyone close.
But, you know, I feel strongly that, you know, we can't let -- when you start about talking about transferring and those things, we can't let one person -- now, when you get down to it, this -- it's one person that had some serious problems. And to destroy everything that we have around every today, the togetherness, the caring, the great community, the great feeling here at this university, we're not going to let that one person destroy that.
We're going to come back and be stronger than ever. And I just know the Hokies, they -- that's exactly what's going to happen.
BLITZER: Well, I'm confident you are absolutely right. Well said, coach. Hopefully, you will have a great season coming up. And you always do. I'm sure you will next year as well. We will be watching very closely.
BEAMER: Well, we're going to try. And we're going to get ready to have a celebration in that opening ball game in Lane Stadium against East Carolina. And -- and we're going to get through this. You know, it's hard. We feel for the families, but we're going to get through it and be stronger than ever.
BLITZER: Coach Beamer, thanks very much.
BEAMER: Thank you.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: the new video we are getting of the chaos on the campus during the Virginia Tech massacre. You are going to see the shocking drama unfold.
Stalking complaints, suicide fears, and a commitment to a mental facility
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