Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


New Details on the Shooting at Virginia Tech

Aired April 18, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the new video we're getting of the chaos on the campus during the Virginia Tech massacre. You're going to see the shocking drama unfold.

Stalking complaints, suicide fears and a commitment to a mental facility -- there's new information emerging right now on the precarious psychological state of the gunman long before he methodically shot dozens of people.

And she helped rally this campus in its hour of greatest need. We're going to hear from poet and professor Nikki Giovanni, who's anguished that no one could stop the student who she said she once found so mean and so intimidating.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're learning much more today about the gunman blamed for the bloodiest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. Police say the gunman sent a package to NBC and NBC is saying it contains his writings and videos.

It was apparently sent between the two sets of shootings here Monday morning.

We also have dramatic new video as students caught scenes of shock and panic as the massacre played out.

Authorities now say Cho Seung-Hui was committed to a mental health facility in late 2005, after two female students complained about this attempts to contact them and after an acquaintance told police that Cho might be suicidal.

And we're also learning more about the weapons used in Monday's killings. A local pawnshop owner says Cho picked up a Walter P22 handgun at his store. The weapon was purchased out of state. A Virginia gun dealer says Cho had both a .9 millimeter Glock at his shop in Roanoke. That's not far from the campus here.

A string of stunning new developments unfolding this hour.

CNN's Brian Todd is here. Let's see what the new video, the chaos of the massacre, as was recorded by these two exchange students.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very dramatic stuff, Wolf.

This video shot as the shootings were occurring at Norris Hall. That is where the second round of shootings occurred, where 30 people were killed by alleged gunman Cho Seung-Hui. This video shot by Swedish exchange students who appeared to be in a building next door to Norris Hall. The video showing a lot of confusing scenes -- police running around.

We spoke to these students a short time ago and they -- they told about the experience of shooting this video and what they were seeing.

You do see just massive confusion on the street there. This, Norris Hall, is about an 11-minute walk by foot -- we actually timed this yesterday -- from the scene of the first shooting at Amber Johnston Hall, across campus from here.

There's police -- a law enforcement officer running there. You see law enforcement officers running all over the place. The video is a little bit jagged at times, but the photographer does get his bearings at various points and you can clearly see illustrated just scenes of confusion there.

This is, again, the same scene, the same building where video was obtained two days ago from a cell phone photographer on the other side of the building, capturing the natural sound of gunshots going off.

So those shootings at Norris Hall now captured on two very, very dramatic pieces of videotape -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And tell our viewers about this court order involving Cho's mental health.

TODD: We have two court documents and there's been a little bit of confusion on this case, because the court documents that we have, one is from the district court. Actually, they're both from the district court here in Southern Virginia.

One of them says that the -- the alleged shooter is -- "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness."

There's a box checked for that. There's a box not checked stating whether he presents an imminent danger to others. However, there is another document that we have here from the district court, a temporary detention order. These are both dated the same day -- December 13th of 2005.

There is a box checked on this detention order for Cho Seung-Hui which says that he is mental illness and in need of hospitalization and "presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self and is incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment." So a little bit of confusion as to whether he was a danger to others. But two documents show, Wolf, that he was a danger to himself, according to the court.

BLITZER: All right, the stunning, stunning developments. And we're going to continue to watch the ramifications of that.

We spoke to the special justice in the past hour. They gave us some information on how they go about declaring somebody mentally ill and of imminent danger not only to himself but to others, as well.

We don't know what fell out as a result nearly two years ago of that court order.

We're also getting another shocker coming in, word that NBC News received a package believed to have been mailed by the Virginia Tech shooter in between the two sets of shootings Monday morning at the dorm and later at the engineering building here on the campus.

Let's get the latest information we're going from Mary Snow.

She's joining us in New York.

What are you learning -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, authorities are saying this is a new critical component of this investigation. NBC reporting that it received this package by U.S. mail. And, as you mentioned, NBC says it is believed that this package was sent between that -- the first and second shooting in this two hour gap.

Just a short time ago, authorities in Virginia announced this latest piece of evidence.


SUPT. STEVE FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: 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.


SNOW: Now, those writings are being described as rambling writings. NBC did turn this over to the FBI this afternoon. The network is expected to release a statement shortly about this package and this latest development -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The FBI saying -- saying to the authorities here, it could be a critical component of this investigation. The FBI has the originals, Mary. They're evaluating all of this.

Have you had a chance yet to get any -- any reaction from NBC itself?

SNOW: Well, NBC now is, in terms of what it's reporting about what the content is, pictures, video and, clearly, this could be such a crucial element to this shooting, and especially in that two hour gap, this could explain so many questions about where the gunman was and what he was doing. And this could explain that gap.

BLITZER: Mary Snow is staying on top of this story for us.

The Virginia Tech community here got a badly needed boost from one of its best known personalities, Nikki Giovanni, who rallied the mourners here only yesterday. She's been agonizing, as well, though, about some of these developments.

Carol Costello is joining us here on the campus -- you've been speaking to her and you've been getting some incredible information.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, and, you know, agonizing is the right word, because she is agonizing over this.

At one point, Wolf, she looked at me and she said, "You know, if we adults could have stopped this, don't you think we would have?"

But as they say, nothing is quite that simple.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Nikki Giovanni is a poet and professor. When she spoke at Virginia Tech's memorial convocation yesterday, she spoke from the heart.


PROF. NIKKI GIOVANNI, POET: We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.


COSTELLO: But when I caught up with her today, her voice was full of frustration.

Why hadn't this student been stopped before he became a killer?

(on camera): Tell me what this kid was like, Cho?

GIOVANNI: I think Cho was mean. And it's an expression I use -- I've taught students that I know to be a little on the crazy side. I've taught students I know to be a little disturbed emotionally or mentally. And this was a mean guy. And I think he tried to intimidate everybody.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Monday, he killed another of her students, Matt Laporte. GIOVANNI: Matty was such a sweet kid. He really just -- just had this little sweet face and, you know, he said, "This isn't a good poem."

And I said, "Mr. Laporte, all of the poems we write are good poems, because why?"

And he'd kind of look up and he'd say, "Why, we are poets."

COSTELLO: Cho's behavior in class was anything but poetic.

GIOVANNI: Cho had his cell phone and so he'd be taking pictures of the girls. Well, he's at knee level, so -- it may, you know, most of the Virginia Tech students are wearing pants, so it's not like he's under their skirt or anything like that. It's just that he was taking these photographs.

And the kids finally said to me, you know, Nikki, you know, he's -- he's taking these pictures.

What are you -- what are you going to do?

COSTELLO: Giovanni says Cho also failed to complete his assignments or take off his classes and hat in class. She told him she had asked administrators that he be removed from her classroom.

GIOVANNI: I said I can't -- I'm not helping you and I can't continue with you and I would rather you did. And he said no. And so I wrote, you know, I wrote him up.

COSTELLO: Lucinda Roy, the department chair, began teaching him on her own.

(on camera): When you heard about the shooting and you heard the suspect's name...

GIOVANNI: I heard about the shooting and I heard that he was an Asian looking fellow and I knew who it was.

COSTELLO: Did you?

GIOVANNI: And I said that to a -- well, yes. I mean I would have been shocked if it wasn't. I said oh god, I taught that kid.


COSTELLO: And, you know, I asked her if university officials should have kicked this kid out of the university and she says, you know, for what?

There was another kid that I knew of who was so eccentric that he could have done it.

You know, I guess when you get to the bottom line and talk to university officials, since Cho was not convicted of any crime or charged with any crime, there was very little the university could do. BLITZER: Although we are getting this information that's just broken in the last hour that there was some sort of court order declaring him of imminent danger to himself and to others because of his mental illness.

COSTELLO: Yes, but, you know, it's conflicting. As Brian Todd said, we don't know if it was to himself, because he was admitted to that mental home for suicidal tendencies. And then he was fine.

This all happened in the year 2005. And in 2...

BLITZER: At the end of 2005.

COSTELLO: Right. In 2006, apparently, according to police at a press conference this morning, there were no more problems with him.

BLITZER: Is she -- is she suggesting any sort of guilt or remorse that she didn't do enough, that she could have done more to alert authorities?

She's a remarkable, remarkable woman.

But does she feel that she could have done more?

COSTELLO: I asked her about that and she said she really believes in the chain of command. She reported this student's behavior to her chair, as she was supposed to, and she assumed it would go up the line. And as far as we can tell, it did. They removed this kid from the classroom. They gave him special tutoring. And, as we know, that didn't really work out either.

BLITZER: Carol -- Carol is doing excellent reporting for us here.

Carol, thank you very much.

We just got a statement in from NBC News. Let me read it to you: "NBC received a communication from Cho Seung-Hui, the man identified by police as the Virginia Tech shooter, via the U.S. mail this morning and immediately turned it over to the authorities.

The package included images, videos and writings, and appears to have been mailed between the two shootings.

We are cooperating fully with the authorities."

That statement just coming in from NBC News.

Chilling, chilling information here on this investigation.

We're following up all of these developments, the breaking news, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also coming up, parents of one of the victims here speaking out publicly now for the first time about the heart-wrenching loss of their son. They'll sit down with me for their first interview. That's coming up this hour.

Also, we'll have new details of harassment allegations against Cho dating back almost two years.

Were they an early warning?

And the massacre thrusting the controversial issue of gun control back in the spotlight.

Will anything change?

Stay with us.

Our special coverage continues, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're live here on the campus of Virginia Tech and we're joined now by Mike and Peggy Herbstritt.

Their son Jeremy was a graduate student here.

This is their first interview since his death.

Also joining us is Ken Stanton, a friend, a close friend, of Jeremy's.

And, first of all, I want to say, on behalf of everyone at CNN, all of our viewers, our hearts go out to all of you. Our deepest condolences, Peggy and Mike.

I know this is very hard for you to talk about your son under these circumstances, but tell us a little bit about your -- your wonderful, loving son.

PEGGY HERBSTRITT, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Jeremy had a lot of energy. From the time he was born and even through graduate school, I don't think he slept more than a couple of hours a day. He loved life. He did everything to the fullest. He -- he was never afraid to try anything, either. Whether he thought he would succeed or not, he just jumped right in.


MIKE HERBSTRITT, VICTIM'S FATHER: He was a great son. He was the best son in the world I ever had. You know, I have two sons. I love them both. And Jeremy was a son that -- he worked with me side by side. My son Joe does the same thing. Joe is a very beautiful son. And I have two daughters.

And Jeremy, sometimes he'd tell me, he said, "Dad, we're going to put up a fence." And to Jeremy, it wasn't just working four hours or eight hours. When he said you're going to put up a fence, you worked 12 hours. And he worked until he got that fence done, you know?

And he loved this Blacksburg area. Jeremy was a hiker. He was a biker. He ran in marathons. And he was a good kid. Everybody -- everybody that met him liked him, you know? And he was happy. And he lived his life happy.

BLITZER: What was he majoring in?

Peggy, what was he majoring in here at Virginia Tech?

He was a graduate student.

P. HERBSTRITT: A graduate student in civil engineering.

BLITZER: So he was in that engineering building at the time?


BLITZER: Did -- have you learned of the circumstances of -- of what happened?

M. HERBSTRITT: All we learned...

P. HERBSTRITT: Well, we...

M. HERBSTRITT: ... is that -- that...

P. HERBSTRITT: We really don't know.

I do want to tell you this. Monday, we were in Boston at the marathon. And Jeremy, because of his energy and his -- his zeal for running, he involved all of this siblings. Jeremy has to sisters and a younger brother. And Jennifer -- she's 25 -- she ran the Boston marathon and we were there that day watching her run.

And Jeremy had called the night before...

BLITZER: Sunday night?

P. HERBSTRITT: Sunday night.


P. HERBSTRITT: Uh-huh, calling to wish her well and to hope things went well for her.

BLITZER: Was that the last time you spoke to him?


M. HERBSTRITT: And he...

P. HERBSTRITT: Yes. He loved his brothers. He loved his sisters and I hope Joe, Stef, I hope you're -- and, Jen, you're watching -- and Brad. Jeremy has a lot of friends here at Virginia Tech. He definitely left an impact on him.

They said he was a quiet young man, if you can believe that, OK?

M. HERBSTRITT: Who said that?

BLITZER: Well, one of his good friends is here.

Ken, talk a little bit about Jeremy, because he -- by all accounts, everything we've heard -- and we know the parents are loving, wonderful parents -- talk a little bit about this really, really great guy.


You know, it's kind of funny because he moved into my building the beginning of this academic year. And I saw a lot of new people moving in, so I said hey, I should get to know them.

I had a party at my place, invited everyone to come down and just hang out and get to know each other. And, you know, Jeremy was one of those.

And instantly, he walked in and just started talking. And everybody got to know everybody very quickly. He's -- he is very energetic and passionate and, you know, can just talk up a storm.

And, you know, I've hung out with him nearly every weekend since that point in time. He's -- he's, you know, very -- a lot of fun to hang out with and I saw him regularly, of course, living downstairs from him.

M. HERBSTRITT: And if anybody ever asked Jeremy for some help, Jeremy was there to help them.

STANTON: That's so true.

M. STANTON: He helped everybody out.

STANTON: He helped me a lot.

M. STANTON: And -- and he had a good heart. He had a good heart.

BLITZER: What else would you like to say?

I know this is -- this must be so...

M. STANTON: He caught...

BLITZER: ... so painful...

M. STANTON: He caught...

BLITZER: ... and difficult and I know you've never really done television interviews before, but you really want to speak about your son and tell the world about this remarkable young man, Peggy, right?

M. STANTON: He caught the first West Nile mosquito in Center County, you know? He was on the West Nile virus mosquito program. It was one of his jobs. And he was a good son to both Peggy and myself. STANTON: You know...

BLITZER: So special.

STANTON: ... to put -- to put it into perspective for you, I had a couple of people come up to me at the convocation yesterday, three girls. And I hardly recognized them. I had only met them once, one night out with Jeremy. We talked to them for, maybe, collectively, two hours.

And they were just, you know, totally devastated. And I thought to myself, these are people who hardly know Jeremy. But then I realized, it doesn't take long. He's an open book. He's a -- he has a very open mind. He's very talkative and ongoing. And it just -- he overcomes, you know, you very quickly and he's very captivating.

M. STANTON: He was an honest boy.


M. STANTON: A very honest boy. He told you the truth, whether you liked it or not.

STANTON: Very true.

M. STANTON: You know, he told you the truth.

BLITZER: He was -- he was so special.

Peggy, is there anything else you would like to say?

I know this is very, very hard for you to do this and -- but if there's -- if there is anything you'd like to say, you know, go ahead.

P. STANTON: It is. It will not seem real to me until I actually see his body. But I want to say to my other children, Jeremy loved you very much. I know right now you think of him as being dead, but we can keep him alive in our hearts. We will find a way to make this -- make some kind of positive out of this.

So, please, guys, stick together, OK?

BLITZER: How are the...

P. STANTON: We love him.

BLITZER: How are your other kids doing?

M. STANTON: It's tough. It's tough. They're -- they're sad.

They're missing their brother, you know?

And it's -- it's hard to lose your brother.

It's hard to lose your son, you know? And on Monday night, I was watching some of the newscasters. And I don't think the newscasters really understand how hard it is, you know, to lose your son, you know?

It's -- it's really hard. And it hits you right in your heart. You know, that's the whole thing really. But we have to go on. We've got to celebrity Jeremy's life.


M. STANTON: That's going to be the rest of our life.

BLITZER: We're trying to do that...

M. STANTON: The rest of our life is going to be to celebrate his life, to say what he did good, you know, and to say that Jeremy was a good boy, a good man and we're going to love him forever.

STANTON: That's right.

M. STANTON: That's what we're going to do. We're going to love him.

BLITZER: God bless him and god bless all of you and -- and thank you for sharing his story with us.

Peggy, is there anything else you want to say?

P. STANTON: No. Just thank you to his adviser, to Dr. Dipliss (ph), to all the people in the department. Jeremy really found his niche here. This really -- this was his home and you people were his family. And he -- he loved it here. And he learned so much from you.

I just want to say I thank you for doing that for my son.

BLITZER: And we know that he was just awarded a scholarship, too, for outstanding academic achievement.


BLITZER: It was just a fitting tribute to his...

STANTON: He was so happy.

BLITZER: ... to his great -- his great academic skills.


BLITZER: All right, thank you very much.

Hold on a second.

We're going to -- we're going to talk a little bit off camera, all of us.

Thank all of you for sharing this -- this moment with our viewers.

We're going to continue our special coverage here on the campus of Virginia Tech.

There are breaking developments about this gunman. NBC says it has received a package from him. New court documents showing he was considered harmful to himself.

Also, since Monday, we've been asking why there was a two hour delay between the first shootings and the massacre. Our Brian Todd is getting some explanations on what may have occurred. All that coming up.

Also, the Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham -- he's here on the campus of Virginia Tech. He's trying to offer comfort. I'll be speaking with him this hour, as well.

Much more of our special coverage coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There is new information and images coming in this hour about the bloodiest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Here is what we know right now.

Dramatic new video showing the chaos on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning. Two visiting Swedish students capturing these images as the massacre was unfolding inside Norris Hall, the engineering building.

You can see officials running back and forth, emergency vehicles, and you sense the urgency and the confusion that gripped this school.

Also, we've learned that a special court judge here in Virginia declared Cho mentally ill back in 2005, saying he represented an imminent danger to himself. It described Cho as "flat and depressed and in need of hospitalization."

And NBC News now confirming it received correspondence from Cho, including writings and images, documents it says were mailed between the first killing inside a dorm and the later rampage inside Norris Hall. Officials say the originals have been turned over to the FBI for investigation.

The enormity of the massacre here at the Virginia Tech campus can overshadow the individual losses. That's why it's important we learn as much as we can about each of those who lost their lives.

Michael Pohle was a senior majoring in a five year medical science program. He was 23 years old, a native of Flemington, New Jersey. He also worked at a restaurant near the campus called The Nerve.

Laura Dunning is the manager of the restaurant. Laura is here.

And, Laura, you're holding a memorial service in honor of Michael later tonight, is that right?

LAURA DUNNING, VICTIM'S FRIEND: It's not so much a memorial service. It's going to be a small gathering for his very close friends, mainly his girlfriend Marcy and his close guy friends.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about this young man.

What was he like?

DUNNING: Mike was probably the most stand up guy I have ever met in my life. It was definitely a pleasure getting to work with him and getting to know him. And he would have done about anything just for anybody.

BLITZER: Was he an undergraduate or a graduate?

DUNNING: He was an undergraduate.

BLITZER: And majoring in?

DUNNING: Biology.

BLITZER: Biology. So he was, what, 19, 20 years old?

DUNNING: No, Mike was 23.

BLITZER: Twenty-three. So -- and he worked at the restaurant.

What was he doing at your restaurant?

DUNNING: Mike was our head bartender and he was very impressive. He always had a way of making all the customers laugh, the employees smile and just doing a good job.

BLITZER: So this was a part-time job or a full-time job for him, because he was a full-time student?

DUNNING: Mike was a full-time student and he made his job a full-time job.

BLITZER: Have you been speaking to the family, Mike's, you know, family, his parents, his friends? What do they say? How are they coping?

DUNNING: It's a horrible loss and I think that everyone right now is just at a loss. They're coping as well as I think they can.

BLITZER: And his girlfriend?

DUNNING: Is hanging in there. And she's a very strong person, as well.

BLITZER: So -- and you're -- you're trying to comfort them and console them and help them, as well.

DUNNING: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: Is there any sense you can make out of any of this?

I mean you live in this area.

You know, what are people saying to you?

DUNNING: Well, the one thing I know about Mike is, is that he was very proud to be a Virginia Tech student. And I think that he would want everyone to come together and to still represent that.

BLITZER: Which class was he in at the time of this shooting?

DUNNING: He was in a German class.

BLITZER: He was in that German class. And so many of the dead were in that class. They were studying German. And all of a sudden it ended that quickly.

All right, is there anything else you want to say, to share with our viewers?

DUNNING: A few of Mike's friends wrote a few things about him. They wanted to say: "As many of you who knew Mike, he wouldn't go down without a fight. Michael was a terrific and loyal friend to everyone, who had an uncanny ability to make everyone who came in contact with him laugh. Even if it took lighting his trademark chin- strap (ph) beard on fire to impress a few girls at the bar."

Aside from being an unbelievable person and full of good nature, he was an equally amazing boyfriend and companion to Marcy (ph). He would have done anything for her."

"Please always remember Mike in this way: honor him and respect him as the admirable and true person he really was. He gave himself selflessly to others in both life and at the time of his death."

BLITZER: I don't think we can add anything more beautiful than that. A really great, great guy, and thank you so much for sharing some thoughts. And please convey our deepest condolences to his family, his friends, when you meet with them later tonight.

DUNNING: I will.

BLITZER: Laura Dunning joining us here on the campus of Virginia Tech.

We're learning in addition to that some important new revelations about the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-Hui. And they paint a picture of a deeply disturbed young man whose problems date back years before Monday's massacre.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live in New York.

Jason, how far back do Cho's problems really go?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Cho's problems go back at least two years, and earlier today investigators revealed more about what they were able to uncover.


CARROLL (voice over): It is the now clear Cho Seung-Hui had been troubled years before he committed mass murder. He first came to the attention of Virginia Tech police more than two years ago, November 27, 2005, after a female student complained Cho had been harassing her. Police questioned him, then released Cho to the school's Office of Disciplinary Affairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't comment on whether or not he had any kind of disciplinary record because that is protected, as most of you know, by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

CARROLL: December 2005, another female student reports Cho for harassment. Cho's roommates feared at the time he was capable of hurting himself.

ANDY, CHO'S FORMER ROOMMATE: And the other time, the cops responded again, and 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.

CARROLL: On December 13, 2005, Cho was taken to this mental health facility in Radford, Virginia, for a psychiatric evaluation. That same year, a court declared Cho mentally ill and an imminent danger to himself. But police say for the next two years, they never received any reports about Cho. Cho's roommates tried to get him to interact with others, but he refused.

Dr. Michael Welner is a forensic psychologist. He says Cho shared some characteristics traits of mass killers, such as alienation and contempt for others.

DR. MICHAEL WELNER, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: We already know that he spoke rarely to his own roommate. And in my experience, many people who have some encounter with mental health in the system become so determined to avoid any contact that they know exactly what to say, and what not to say so that they don't attract attention. And they don't.

CARROLL: But Cho, an English major, did attract attention with two graphic plays he wrote this spring, both with twisted plots to kill a main character. Cho's playwriting professor, Ed Falco, e- mailed CNN with his first public comment on the writings.

"There was violence in Cho's writing," he said, "but there is a huge difference between writing about violence and behaving violently. We could not have known what he would do."

(END VIDEOTAPE) CARROLL: And in addition to the notes Cho left behind, as we all know, investigators will be looking at the contents of a package Cho sent to NBC News which reportedly contains, among other things, photos, a CD-ROM, and a recorded manifesto.

These items may hold the answers as to what ultimately drove Cho to commit mass murder -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it paints a picture, Jason, of a man clearly who was mentally ill, but quite methodical, someone who was accepted into the university. Clearly, he had a plan under way, as twisted and horrendous as it turned out to be.

Is that the sense you're getting?

CARROLL: Absolutely. And you know, Wolf, and the experts that we talked to say that it's not unusual for some people who are mentally troubled to actually be very methodical in how they think in terms of when they want to carry out an act of destruction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason. Thank you.

In the aftermath of events, horrible events like this week's unthinkable Virginia Tech massacre, everyone to make sense out of the horror.

I spoke earlier with one of those on the spiritual frontlines right here in Blacksburg.


BLITZER: And joining us here on the campus of Virginia Tech, the Reverend Franklin Graham.

Reverend Graham, thanks very much for joining us.

I know you came here to console these students. You've been meeting with them. First of all, what are you saying to them?

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSN.: Well, Wolf, what we've got, 20 chaplains. These are volunteers from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. These are men that have been trained for this type of counseling.

They have been all across campus. They came in Monday night. And so I came up today to be with them and meet some of the students that they have been talking to.

BLITZER: What are the students saying to you?

GRAHAM: A lot of it, Wolf, is not so much what they are saying, it's just that they are -- they are stunned. It's like they are numb. And you have to kind of pull it out of them by asking questions.

I think the big question that everybody asks is, why does God allow this? And Wolf, I don't -- I don't blame God. I believe there is a devil, I believe there are demons that come and dwell in certain human beings, like we saw here on Monday, that do these horrible acts of just terror.

And we saw it in the Holocaust, we saw it in Rwanda, we saw it in Bosnia. I was in Darfur just a few weeks ago with Senator Frist. We see it there.

There's evil in this world. But yet, God loves us, he cares for us. And God is on this campus, and God wants to make himself known to this student body and to each and every one of us. And as a minister, I'm here to pray with them, to love them, and, of course, I want to try to share the faith that I have in the lord Jesus Christ with everyone that I can.

BLITZER: And how have they reacted to your words?

GRAHAM: They've been very appreciative. And some kids just come up and talk to you. Some of them, I go up and talk to them.

And I noticed one little girl, she was writing on the wall, and she had tears coming. I just approached her, and I asked her what she wrote. And she began to tell me about her friend that died, and she writing a note to her friend.

And I asked her where she met her friend. They went to church together. And I found out she was a Christian. And so we began to talk and we had something in common. I just put my arm around her, hugged her, and let her know we love her.

BLITZER: Are you shocked by the way people are reacting here? Because there is a lot of anger, also, anger that the university itself may not have done enough to prevent this massacre from taking place.

GRAHAM: Wolf, I don't know how you prevent something like this. And I tell you what's going to come out of this. It's going to change the way we handle our universities.

Every campus from now on is going to review their security. I look at -- we have an enemy right now. We are at war. They see how open our campuses are.

I guarantee you, they are planning a similar attack, and we better be ready. We better be prepared. And we're all losing our freedoms slowly. And a day like what we saw here on Monday is going to change our campuses forever.

BLITZER: So, what's the bottom line? From your point of view, a minister, as you come here and you get ready to help these people, what's your bottom-line message to these individuals who are suffering so much?

GRAHAM: This is a reminder of the brevity of life. We are only here for a short time.

We need to be ready, Wolf, all of us, be prepared to stand before a holy God. And the bible tells us that God loves us, that he cares for us, and the bible makes it very clear that Jesus is the way to truth and the life, and no man comes to the father but by him.

And I want these students here, I want those who are listening to know that God loves them. He hasn't abandoned them. And he's provided a way for each of us to be with him in heaven one day.

And we need to be prepared for heaven. Life is short. And it can come to an end for each of us. It could come today.

I don't know when my life -- I'm 54 years old, I'm a grandfather. I've lived a good life. And my life could come to an end tomorrow. And I need to be ready to stand before God.

BLITZER: Reverend Graham, thanks for the work that you do, thanks for coming here.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: And still ahead, were authorities chasing a false lead during the critical two hours after the first shootings on Monday? Our Brian Todd has been looking into this. He's tracked down some answers.

Also, coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we'll update you on the dramatic new information, the documents, the pictures police have just received. The FBI going through all of that right now. They were sent by Cho after the first shooting, before the massacre.

Stay with us. Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Two major developments unfolding here today. We are following all of the stories.

A court order just about two years ago declaring the shooter in this case mentally ill. And only in the past hour or so we have learned that he actually sent some documents, some images to NBC, after the first shooting, before the massacre in that engineering building.

We are going to update you on all of this going on. That pair of killings unfolding here. We're getting new information.

The first stage was in the dormitory, then two hours later there was that mass slaughter in an engineering classroom building. Did police lose precious time in between on a false lead?

Let's get back to our Brian Todd. He's here.

Brian, what have you pieced together? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've gotten some incredible new insights, really, from police themselves and from court documents that explain at least in part what the police were doing in those crucial hours between the first and second shooting incidents.


TODD (voice over): In those crucial minutes after the first shootings, before the second incident, Virginia Tech police pursued what now appears to be a false lead.

CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: It was information that the officers obtained from the initial -- speaking with witnesses.

TODD: One of those witnesses? The roommate of Emily Hilscher, one of the first victims to die at Ambler Johnston Hall.

According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by CNN from the Montgomery County Circuit Court, Hilscher's roommate, Heather Haugh, seen here on photos on her Web site, told police she had recently shot guns at a range with Carl D. Thornhill.

On his Web site, where we got these pictures, Thornhill characterizes himself as in a relationship with Emily Hilscher. Describing Thornhill's weapons, the affidavit says it is reasonable to believe that Thornhill has these guns still in his residence in Blacksburg.

FLINCHUM: Based on the information, we were following up and we were trying to explore all avenues to determine exactly what had happened.

TODD: Police interviewed Thornhill. According to the affidavit, he told them he had taken the guns to his parents house in another Virginia town. While they interviewed Thornhill, police got word of a second round of shootings at Norris Hall.

Police say they never held Karl Thornhill. He's never been charged, and is not a suspect. It's not clear how much time police took after the first shootings pursuing Thornhill, or if they were following other leads at the same time.


TODD: We went to Karl Thornhill's residence here in Blacksburg. We also called there and tried to reach his parents' residence. We also tried to contact Heather Haugh. None of them could be reached -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. I know you are staying on top of this for us. And we'll be watching every step of the way.


BLITZER: We're live here in Blacksburg, Virginia, the scene of the worst shooting incident in modern American history. We have got some more information, we'll get back to that story in a moment.

As you just heard from Lou, Zain Verjee is monitoring some other incredibly important stories that are happening right now, including what's going on in Iraq.

Zain, tell our viewers the latest.


BLITZER: Some fast-moving, stunning developments this afternoon, as we learn more about the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, his history of mental illness, and now his communication with NBC News, apparently the same day, the same morning as the massacre unfolded here on the campus.

For more on all of these major developments, we're joined by my colleagues -- Paula Zahn, John Roberts and Brianna Keilar.

You've been spending several days here looking at this story, and I know, Paula you've been speaking to some individuals who are really close to at least one beloved professor who died on this campus.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And even they, too, are very conflicted about how to look at this latest news.

These are kids who happened to be in a class where the professor essentially put himself up against the door as the firing started to protect his students. Some jumped out the window, obviously to help them save their lives. But when you ask these kids about these latest developments, and this picture that is emerging of this man, now that we know he was declared mentally unfit and a danger to himself and others, the question is, why for a two-year period, or for that two- year period, was he tracked?

And some of these kids are saying the university has let them down, that they certainly were left vulnerable to some kind of potential attack. And other students say, you know what? Let us grieve. We are trying to bury friends that we have lost, and we are not, right now, going to point fingers at the system.

But there are so many unanswered questions tonight about what happened -- and Brian Todd and you were just talking about it -- from the end of 2005, until up until recently.

BLITZER: And these questions are not going away, John. You have been looking, very closely at all of this, and just give us some sense, if you can make any sense, out of this tragedy.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's the problem that people are having. I just went over and spent a couple of hours over by the memorial that's in front of Burruss Hall. They have those eight sandwich boards, if you will, where people are leaving messages, flowers, and whatnot, reading a lot of the messages.

Most of the people are saying that we're going to come back from this. But there is just such a lack of understanding of what could possibly happen in a tragedy like this, and how something like this could happen.

And I also ran into a couple of neighbors of Professor Loganathan, who was one of the professors who was killed. I talked to a young girl who is good friends with his daughter.

She was telling me how the family is and isn't coping. She said, you know, the daughter is doing all right, but the mother just -- she can't understand what happened.

This is Blacksburg, Virginia, a small town, Virginia Tech. A wonderful community here. And her husband, this young girl's father, is now dead, along with 31 other people.

And I think that that's the greatest problem that people have here, is just trying to come to grips with how Cho Seung-Hui did what he did, why he did what he did. Maybe we'll get something out of this manifesto as the details of it become -- become known in the days and weeks ahead. But right now there's just no comprehension of this.

BLITZER: And I know, Brianna, this has happened to you, because it's happened to me, and I assume it's happened to John and Paula. Young students, they just sort of come up to you, and they break down and start crying.


I was talking earlier today about one student in particular, and he didn't -- he didn't come up to me. But I was watching this convocation yesterday, and it was mostly media watching upstairs in the conference center, and he came over because he wanted to watch it.

And we never spoke, but he was sniffling the whole time. And he couldn't control himself. He couldn't stop. It was very difficult for him to watch this convocation.

And I got him some tissues. And I handed him the tissues, and he started to lose it just because I had reached out to him.

And I patted him on the back, and he started -- he started really crying. And that upset me. I mean, you can't be here around these people who are going through this. And we can't understand exactly how deeply -- how deep their loss is. But there's no way that you can't feel connected to it.

ZAHN: What I was struck by today is talking to Korean-American students. They're about a community of 400 of them here on campus. We were told about half of them have gone home.

And when you ask the question, the parents just want to bring them home to make them feel safe, they said yes. But also, they are very fearful that there might be some backlash against Korean-American students because of this attack, and that is something that these kids are feeling profoundly.

BLITZER: The -- you know what's really underscored to me, John, and I assume to you as well? That people grieve in different ways. ROBERTS: Very different.

BLITZER: God forbid any of us who have kids, a tragedy like this could unfold. You know, you think you would go crazy. But some people, they want to come forward, they want to speak -- speak to us, share their stories, and talk about their son or daughter.

ROBERTS: Yes. It is different. And we found that over at the memorial.

I went over with just a small little camera so that we didn't have the big crew around me, and just taking some pictures of what people had written, taking pictures of people writing things down, asking some of them what they had written.

Some of them wanted to talk with us. They were happy to share their thoughts, happy to tell me what they had written. Others said, "Please, if you don't mind, could you not take a picture of this?" Of course, you just, you know, accede to their wishes, because you know that they are grieving.

The think that struck me about it, which was really unusual, was that you read those writings yourself, and Brianna said that she broke down when this young fellow broke down with her. You almost start crying when you read what people have written, because you put yourself in their shoes.

And there's a lot of parents there, as well. And I'm the parent of a senior in college and a young daughter who will be in college in a couple of years. And there's such a fine line for parents across America and children across America for being there in that building at not being there.

It could have been Virginia Tech, it could have been any university across the country. It could have happened on Monday, it could have happened on Tuesday. It would have been a completely different set of children. And what put you in it and kept you out of it is like that, and you just never know when it could hit.

ZAHN: And I know you spoke with Reverend Graham, Franklin Graham earlier tonight. And I asked him what it is we, as parents, should be telling our children about this horrible tragedy. And he said, you know, just as you said, we have to remember how quickly life can leave us, and that we need to have this great sense of gratitude for any moments we have here.

ROBERTS: And I know I mentioned it a couple of time. I think it bares mentioning one more time, that John King story that he found about the cell phones going off while the body bags were being taken out of Norris Hall. Can you imagine...

BLITZER: It's just so haunting. So haunting.

ROBERTS: ... being a parent or sibling on the other end of that line?

BLITZER: And so chilling.

Brianna, you were our first reporter who got here to the scene shortly after we learned of the enormity of this tragedy. You have been here since. Have you seen a change on this campus over these -- since Monday afternoon, when you got here?

KEILAR: You can see the change on Monday afternoon. I think I arrived some time in the early afternoon hours, and I was actually ushered through a hallway that later I realized I shouldn't be in I was told by police.

At that point, though, things were somewhat disorganized. It was the area outside the ballroom in the alumni center where family and students were waiting for news on people who they were calling and trying to figure out if they had survived, if they had just scattered.

And I came back to that hallway two hours later, and, Wolf, the difference was amazing. I have never seen so much grief in such a small space.

Just the look on people's faces. Your heart broke when you watched what they were going through, the uncertainty. It had moved from some hopefulness towards just realizing that things were not going to be the same probably for them.

BLITZER: Paula, you're going to have a special "PAULA ZAHN NOW" coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Give our viewers a little sense of what's in store.

ZAHN: Well, as we all know, these facts seem to change by the minute. So we are going to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together as best we can, how -- how it was that this young man could have had three contacts with law enforcement at the end of 2005, how he could have been evaluated, how he could have been put in a mental health facility and then, seemingly, not tracked over the next two years.

Police are now telling us they have no record of any mental health officials tracking him from that point on. How can that be? And where was the university in all of this?

BLITZER: Paula Zahn is going to be having special coverage.

You're going to be here tomorrow morning as well, John?

ROBERTS: Tomorrow morning, 6:00 on "AMERICAN MORNING".

BLITZER: Six to 9:00 a.m. with Kiran Chetry, our new anchors for "AMERICAN MORNING".

John, this is a powerful story that we're not leaving.

Brianna is going to stick around and do some excellent reporting for us as well.

Up ahead, schools nationwide looking into an emergency text message system in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. Our Internet reporters standing by to show you the situation online.

And this note. Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, inside the brain of a killer. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has a special report you're going to want to see.

Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Want to show our viewers some pictures that we're just getting. It's the first glimpse of it, and John Roberts is here with us.

John, let's take a look at this. You and I are going to see these pictures for the first time.

ROBERTS: Oh boy.

BLITZER: There it is. That is the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, with his guns. These are pictures that were sent to NBC.

ROBERTS: That's the .9 millimeter Glock in his right hand and the Walther .22 in his left hand.

You know what this looks like, Wolf? This looks like the first pictures that we saw of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold after Columbine. They, of course, had a video that came out long after that. We learned much more about their murderous intent as time went on.

It even took a couple of years for it to come out.

BLITZER: But look at that. Look at that face. Look at that expression that he's making as he's wearing those gloves and holding those two weapons.

ROBERTS: I mean, it's just -- you know, he's trying to look menacing, obviously. It would be interesting to know, is that a self- portrait, or did someone else take that picture? Quite possibly just set the timer on the camera and got in front of it, but it could be cropped for production, but it looks fairly sell centered and the height's all right and everything.

It's possible somebody else took it, but...

BLITZER: Yes. If somebody else took it, there could be an accomplice. And that's one of the things that authorities have not necessarily completely ruled out.

John, stand by.

We're going to continue our special coverage. A lot more coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

But Lou Dobbs picking up our coverage right now.


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines