Independent panel releases findings from Virginia Tech Shootings

by Kristen Dahlgren
NBC News

The independent panel investigating last year's mass shooting at Virginia Tech has issued its report.

The panel is largely critical that warning signs were missed indicating gunman Seung Hui Cho was disturbed and could pose a threat.

The report was written by an 8 member panel made up of mental health, security and education experts appointed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
The report reads like an outline of missed opportunities ways officials failed to recognize and get help for a dangerous student and ways they could have saved lives.

When Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people in a Virginia Tech dorm and classroom last April, he was known to some campus police and faculty as a mentally disturbed student.

"There were clearly indications that he was troubled and needed assistance, there was not an effective mechanism where all that information could be reviewed together and the university could make an effective intervention.," said Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.

But the report finds, school officials misunderstood federal health privacy laws, and as a result didn't share information about Cho's brief commitment to a mental health facility.

Cho never received the counseling a judge had ordered and even his parents weren't notified.

The panel also looked at campus response the day of the shooting, calling the police effort "well coordinated" but criticizing officials for concluding the first shooting that left two people in a dorm dead was an isolated, domestic incident and in the two hours between that and the classroom shootings, never considering a gunman could still be on campus.
"The broad Tech and Blacksburg community should have been notified of the fact that there was a fatal shooting and the fact that a perpetrator or perpetrators were still at large," said Kaine.

The report finds a campus wide lockdown would have been impractical, but the panel concludes if the school had sent out an alert or canceled classes, the death toll could have been much lower.
The panel found no reason for why Cho targeted victims in the dorm or that particular class building but found his violent fantasies had been in place for years dating back even to a middle school paper in which he wrote he wanted to repeat Columbine.