Virginia Tech Shooter Identified Seung-hui Cho, a South Korean who was a senior at Virginia Tech, has been identified as the shooter in Monday's killings. Cho took his own life after killing 32 other people at the school.

Virginia Tech Shooter Identified

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

Twenty-four hours after the news began to break, Blacksburg, Virginia is still in shock from its wounds, as is much of the country. We'll cover the worst mass shooting in American history today with stories of suffering and loss and heroism. And we'll bring you what we know so far and the many questions that remain.

The shooter has been identified. He was a 23-year-old Korean immigrant, Seung-hui Cho.

CHADWICK: Joining us is NPR's Dina Temple-Ralston, who covers the FBI for NPR. Dina, what more do we know about this shooter?

DINA TEMPLE-RALSTON: Well, we know he was an English major at Virginia Tech, and we know that he immigrated here with his parents when he was 8 years old in September 1992. Other details about his family and his parents are starting to dribble up now. It looks like his parents had some sort of ownership of a dry cleaning business, and they lived in Centerville, Maryland - Virginia, I'm sorry - Centerville, Virginia.

BRAND: And the ballistics are back today. The police chief on campus, his name is Wendell Flinchum. He spoke at a news conference this morning, and let's listen to some of what he had to say.

(Soundbite of news conference)

Mr. WENDELL FLINCHUM (Police Chief, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University): A 9-mm handgun and a 22-caliber handgun were recovered from Norris Hall. Lab results confirmed that one of the two weapons seized in Norris Hall was used in both shootings.

BRAND: And Dina, tell us more about what the ballistics says.

TEMPLE-RALSTON: Well, this is why it's important. There was a question yesterday as to whether or not the shooting in the dormitory that took the life of one girl and a resident advisor was connected to the shooting that happened later at 9:00 a.m., where most of the shooting we've concentrated on in the Norris engineering building...

The ballistics match - at the dormitory - matched the Glock 9 mm casing at both locations. And what this does is it links to the shooting. And then the scant outline of the story is starting to appear now. And we haven't been able to confirm this independently, but it looks like the shooter was in fact infatuated with the girl that he ended up killing in the dormitory. And that may have set off this chain of events.

CHADWICK: Well, Dina, who is the person of interest that authorities were talking about yesterday after news broke of that first shooting? Indeed, didn't they say at one time that they were interviewing or questioning this person of interest?

TEMPLE-RALSTON: Indeed. And they still are questioning him, and they have not released his name. He is also a friend of the young lady who was killed in the dormitory, and they originally had thought that maybe he had something to do with her killing - so much so that they were interviewing him, actually, when the second shooting started in the engineering building on the other side of campus.

BRAND: And, Dina, the FBI is involved here. What is the FBI doing?

TEMPLE-RALSTON: Well, the FBI first started out helping with a lot of the identification of the victims, and that's sort of winding up now. Now, their big concern is to make sure that this is an isolated event, that there isn't some sort of a grand plan or scheme out there to have a series of these kinds of shootings either at this university or at other ones. So what they're doing now is looking at the shooter's computer. They have gotten an ISP subpoena for his personal account to look at his personal e-mails. They are looking at his e-mails on his Virginia Tech account. And they also took his computer to a special forensics lab and are trying to draw up whatever is on that hard drive or whatever they have that perhaps was deleted that they bring up with the right computer program.

BRAND: And Dina, I understand Cho left behind a note.

TEMPLE-RALSTON: Well, we understand that there might have been a note. It's unclear whether this was a handwritten note or something on his computer, but what we've heard so far is that it was a note that was rambling and talking about rich kids and debauchery and basically listing grievances. The other things that we found out - and again, this is not been independently confirmed yet - is that he - as a English major at Virginia Tech, he actually did a lot creative writing. And apparently, some of his writing concerned his English teacher at Virginia Tech, and she actually suggested that he go get counseling. It's unclear whether he did or what he exactly was in those writings. Virginia Tech has refused to release them.

BRAND: All right, NPR's Dina Temple-Ralston, thank you very much.


BRAND: And for more on Cho, the shooter, we turn now to Donald Kirk in Seoul, South Korea. He's a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and he's written a number of books. Welcome to the program

Mr. DONALD KIRK (Correspondent, Christian Science Monitor): Right. Glad I'm be with you, although I'm sorry on such a story as this. But...

BRAND: Indeed.

Mr. KIRK: ...anyway.

BRAND: Well, Seung-hui Cho, an immigrant from South Korea, what has been the reaction there in South Korea? How has the government responded to the news that...

Mr. KIRK: Well, there are two basic reactions. One is complete shock and horror over what happened and over a Korean's involvement. And the second reaction is concerned about possible reprisals against Koreans living in the States. More than one million Koreans - either it is high as two million, but I, suppose the, I think the official figure is 1.2 million - 1.2 million Koreans live in the States.

Nearly 100,000 Koreans are at American universities - 93,000 at last report. That is by far the largest single national grouping at American universities, outstripping three other, two other, three other Asian countries - India, China and Japan - and reflects the importance that Koreans have attached to American education, particularly in areas such as engineering.

Now, Mr. Cho was not in engineering. He was an English major, but he was at Virginia Tech, which is a prestigious engineering institution. So there's great concern here on an official level about what - how Americans will respond to the Korean minority in the States, especially Koreans on American campuses.

CHADWICK: Don Kirk, what about the role of guns in South - aren't guns illegal in South Korea - possession of personal handguns, rifles, perhaps...

Mr. KIRK: Yes. Right. There are no personal handguns in South Korea. You don't hear of - you hear hardly - and I won't say never, never say never. But you hear hardly any holdups and so forth in which guns are involved. You hear of knifings and you hear of fighting - a lot of fighting going on. It's a very up there, you know, emotional society.

But you don't hear of guns being used here in South Korea. That's extremely unusual. There were more than - incidentally, there were more than 400 Korean students at Virginia Tech, and one of them was quoted as saying that - well, originally that is not the accurate revelation of Cho's name.

But originally, one of them was quoted in saying, well, it couldn't be a Korean because we don't carry weapons.

CHADWICK: Don Kirk, thank you. Don Kirk, author and longtime reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Seoul, South Korea. Thank you, Don.

Mr. KIRK: Right. You're welcome.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.