Why wasn’t the Virginia Tech campus closed down after the first shooting?
Why did it take two hours to notify the university community that there might be a gunman on the loose?
“You have a double homicide on a campus,” Jeannine Pirro, former District Attorney in Westchester County, N.Y., asked on TODAY. “Why is it that it took so long?”
It will take time to answer the many questions raised by the shootings and the response of the university and local law enforcement to them. In the meantime, the bigger question remains: How can anyone feel safe?
“You can not let fear determine the choices you’re going to make,” advised Craig Scott. He and his sister, Rachel, were students at Columbine High School when gunmen killed 12 students there in 1999. He survived. His sister didn’t. Scott has devoted his life to talking to schools, trying to see to it that such tragedies don’t happen again.
It’s important at such times, he said, for families, friends and communities to come together and reassure themselves of “how much you appreciate one another.”
“Life can be short,” Scott said. “You just don’t know when an evil person is going to do some evil thing and take the lives of innocent people.”
The carnage at Virginia Tech was unprecedented: 33 dead, including the shooter, and at least 15 wounded or injured in incidents two hours apart. Police say they aren’t positive the same gunman was responsible for all the killings.
Killer was a student
The gunman, who shot and killed two in a dormitory and gunned down another 31 in a classroom building before killing himself, was identified as a resident alien from Korea, Cho Seung Hui. The Virginia Tech Police Department said the 23-year-old was a senior in the school’s English department.
“Did they misjudge?” Pirro asked of the school administration and law enforcement.
University President Charles Steger said the university thought the first shooting was an isolated incident. He also said it was early in the morning, and more than half of the student body was on its way to school.
Pirro said that federal law spells out procedures in such cases, and that includes communicating with the student body as rapidly as possible. “You’ve got a killer on the loose, one who has already killed two people,”
Pirro said. “If there had been surveillance, if police had been checking these buildings, they might have stopped this.” She also asked why the National Guard wasn’t called out to help secure the campus.
Police thought they had a suspect in the first shooting when the second broke out.
“We have to be fair,” said Kenneth Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services. “Law enforcement is going to act on the information they have in hand. On a college campus you have a different situation than a 600-student elementary school or a high school. That’s a whole city. How do you communicate with a whole city?”
But, he added, “There are very much indeed a lot of questions to be asked.”