FBI Aiding Police in Sorting Va. Tech Evidence

Federal authorities are aiding state and local police in the investigation of the shootings at Virginia Tech. Among the evidence being processed with federal help are the gunman's computer and the weapons used in the attacks.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Little was known yesterday about the identity of the shooter. Eyewitnesses described him as young and Asian. But at a news conference this morning, Virginian Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum revealed the gunman's name.

Police Chief WENDELL FLINCHUM (Virginia Tech Police Department): That person is Cho Seung-Hui. He was a 23-year-old South Korean here in the U.S. as a resident alien.

NORRIS: University officials say Cho was a senior majoring in English, and he was due to graduate in two weeks. They say he lived in a dormitory on campus and described him as a loner. Cho grew up in Centreville, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. He immigrated to the United States when he was eight years old. Cho's father once worked at a dry cleaner. His mother works in a high school cafeteria.

Karan Greewall(ph) shared a suite in the dorm with Seung-Hui Cho. He said Cho never spoke with him or his roommates.

Mr. KARAN GREEWALL (Seung-Hui Cho's Roommate): I've never saw him talking to anybody or even when I said hi to him, it wasn't as if he was - he didn't want to talk to me or he was angry; he just had no expression on his face.

NORRIS: The Chicago Tribune reports that investigators believe Cho had taken medication for depression at some point. FBI sources told NPR there was a note left behind in his dorm room, which riled against, quote, "rich kids, debauchery and deceitful charlatans," unquote, on campus.

Lucinda Roy taught creative writing at Virginia Tech and had Cho as a student. She says she found some of his writing troubling.

Professor LUCINDA ROY (Creative Writing, Virginia Tech): I contacted the police, contacted counseling, student affairs, the college, to try to sound some alarms. And they felt that their hands were tied legally for various reasons. As you probably know, until someone actually threatens to do something, it can be incredibly difficult to make something happen.

NORRIS: Roy says the FBI has asked her not to elaborate on Cho's writings. Joining me to tell us more about the investigation is our FBI correspondent Dina Temple-Raston.

Dina, so glad you're here. They've identified the shooter, what is the next step?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the first thing they do when they go to these scenes as investigators is make sure that this is an isolated event and not an on-going threat. The Justice Department said this afternoon that they've sent 20 FBI agents and over a dozen ATF - or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms - agents to the scene. And the attorney general said he'd send more agents if needed.

FBI sources told me that they have Cho's computer and they've taken it to a computer forensic lab to get information off the hard drive. They have programs that can pull even deleted things off the hard drive or off a laptop. And so far, all that they've recovered is this one rambling letter that they've found handwritten in his dorm room. But one source told me that he couldn't provide any more detail besides what we have because they're still investigating.

NORRIS: Now, police have identified Seung-Hui Cho as the lone gunman, but what about the student that they were questioning when the second shooting broke out? Whatever happened to that person?

TEMPLE-RASTON: They called him a person of interest. And my sources tell me that they're still questioning him, and that in of itself is interesting. He apparently knew the first victim who was shot in the dorm room. You'll recall there was an earlier shooting at 7:00 a.m. of two people - a woman and a resident adviser.

And the police have not said that they're finished questioning him. And they haven't - they've been very, very careful not to absolve him of some sort of role in what happened. And we're looking into that and we hope to report more on that soon.

NORRIS: Now, just quickly before we let you go, many of the people who actually, you know, witnessed this are probably traumatized, some of them injured; how difficult is it to try to piece together what actually happened?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, that's what the FBI is trying to do. They have a special computer program, actually, in which they take all the different interviews that people have given them, and it can sift through those interviews and find common threads, which allows them to sort of find the true nut of the story and then follow that up. And that's what they're doing.

NORRIS: Thank you, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Pleasure to be here.

NORRIS: That was Dina Temple-Raston, our FBI correspondent.

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