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Previous school violence   Media coverage   In his own words   Reaction

The Virginia Tech Shootings

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America's worst ever shooting rampage took place on 16 April 2007 at Virginia Tech. 23-year-old English major Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people 27 students and 5 teachers in two separate attacks, hours apart. He then turned his gun on himself.

First Attack: West Ambler Johnston Hall

The shootings began at West Ambler Johnston Hall. Around 7.15am, Cho killed Emily Hilscher and resident advisor, Ryan Clark. Hilscher was the first victim, followed by Clark when he presumably went to her aid. Soon after the shots were fired, authorities arrived to investigate. They initially believed it to be an isolated, domestic incident. "We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur," said Charles Steger, President of Virginia Tech.

Two-hour Gap

Cho returned to his room after the first shooting. He reloaded his weapons and left a note. He may also have filmed some footage to add to his manifesto. During this time, Virginia Tech operated as usual. Classes began at 8am with students unaware that anything was amiss. The school's leaders met at 8.25am to discuss how to inform the rest of the school about the killings. At 9.01am, Cho mailed his manifesto to NBC's headquarters in New York.

Second Attack: Norris Hall

Between 9.05am and 9.15am, Cho entered Norris Hall. From the inside, he chained shut all three entrances in order to prevent people's escape. Virginia Tech sent a school-wide e-mail at 9.26am, informing everyone of a "shooting incident" at West Ambler Johnston Hall. It didn't help those already in class. By 9.42am, police had received multiple calls from students inside Norris Hall another shooting was in progress. At 9.50am, police broke through the chained doors of Norris Hall. As they reached the second floor one minute later, the gunshots stopped. They discovered Cho's body in a stairwell; he had shot himself. At 9.50am, the school sent another e-mail to every Virginia Tech e-mail address: "A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows."

Between 9.30 and 9.50, Cho shot 60 people in Norris Hall. He killed 30. Over the course of his rampage, Cho fired more than 170 rounds. To escape the gunfire, some students played dead; others jumped out of windows. In some cases Cho lined up students and shot them. Wounded students barricaded doorways of classrooms when Cho tried to return for the survivors. Steger commented: "I am really at a loss to explain or understand the carnage that has visited our campus."


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