Complaints Had Been Filed Against Cho
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And now we go to Blacksburg, Virginia. Police and Virginia Tech officials revealed more details this morning about Seung Hui Cho - he's the young man who killed 32 people and himself on Monday. NPR's Larry Abramson is here now. And Larry, we're now learning that Cho, well, he had some history with the Virginia Tech College Police.
LARRY ABRAMSON: That's right. There were multiple contacts with the police, Madeleine, because he had been stalking women at the university, sending them unwanted instant messages. And in both cases - first in November, then in December of 2005 - the women who reported these contacts to police said they were unwanted. But in both cases, they chose not to press charges and simply characterize these contacts as annoying. After the second message was received, police were notified, and they also had received information that Cho might be suicidal. So at that point, they took action and Cho was briefly committed to a mental health facility. Now it's not clear whether that was voluntary or involuntary. He was held for an indeterminate amount of time, and then he was released again because nobody thought he was dangerous. And, of course, that turned out to have been terribly, terribly wrong.
BRAND: And the women he stalked, are they among the dead?
ABRAMSON: No, they are not. We know that they - that police officials said very clearly that they were not among the dead and we don't know who they are. That information is protected at this point under mental health laws.
BRAND: Well, Larry, it sounds like the way in which the police responded to these warnings was very similar to the way his English teacher responded. She spoke out yesterday in the media upon reading his writings.
ABRAMSON: That's right. Lucinda Roy was his English teacher, and others at the university who read his essays found them very disturbing, twisted, violent, sort of full of hate. And again, they were concerned enough, and I think this is probably not that common among English teachers to go to the police, go to the counseling service and say I'm really worried about this guy. And we don't know exactly what sort of action was taken, whether there was a record kept. But there was no definitive action taken. There was no effort to expel him from the school, as far as we know, which is an option the officials described -that if they feel that he's violated the tenets of the university, so the teacher did what she thought was right. But again, nobody thought that even though he was clearly a disturbed - emotionally disturbed young man, nobody thought at any of those points in time that he would actually kill somebody.
BRAND: Larry, the police have detained a so-called person of interest. Did they reveal anything more about who that person is?
ABRAMSON: Just a bit. This is Karl Thornhill, the boyfriend of one of the first shooting victims who was killed in the first dorm early in the morning on Monday. And he was believed to be a suspect in that first shooting at some point. But now the police are saying he is not a person of interest, which basically means they're just talking to him to get information. He's not really a suspect. You'll remember that the police had not directly linked Cho to those first two killings even though that it was the same gun that was used, and it may just be a matter of time before he's linked to that. So he was not held. He's not viewed as the suspect. He's just talking to police at this point.
BRAND: NPR's Larry Abramson in Blacksburg, Virginia. Thank you, Larry.
ABRAMSON: You're welcome.
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