August 11, 2007 in Nation/World

Tech shooter may have rehearsed

Jerry Markon Washington Post
 

ROANOKE, Va. – The Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho may have tried a practice run two days before the April 16 massacre, chaining an entrance of the campus building where he would later walk from room to room, methodically killing 30 people before shooting himself, investigators said Friday.

A witness saw a suspicious looking man with a hooded sweat shirt obscuring his face lurking by the entrance to Norris Hall on the morning of April 14, police revealed at a news conference Friday.

A second witness recalled that one set of doors was briefly chained shut around the same time, they said. Cho chained all three entrances shut during the attack two days later, slowing the police response.

Investigators have also definitively linked Cho, 23, to the earlier shootings in West Ambler Johnston Dorm, where two other victims were slain.

But nearly four months after the deadliest shooting by an individual in U.S. history, despite conducting hundreds of interviews and collecting reams of evidence, investigators said they cannot explain Cho’s actions or motives or establish any links between him and any of his victims. “At this stage, we still have no evidence that answers the persistent question of why West Ambler Johnston, why Emily Hilscher,” said Virginia Tech campus police chief Wendell Flinchum. “We just don’t know.”

Although Cho, of Centreville, Va., publicized his actions by sending materials to NBC that railed against the rich and compared himself to the downtrodden, he also took steps that have helped cover his tracks. Investigators said he returned to his dorm room after killing Hilscher and Clark and deleted his personal e-mail account. His computer hard drive has never been found.

“That’s a piece of evidence we’d love to have, along with his cell phone,” said Col. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent.

The news conference, the first public update on the criminal investigation since April, came as the state panel investigating the massacre prepares to issue its final report this month.


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