Police say the shooter was a 23-year-old English major from South Korea
The suspect in the deadliest school shooting in history has been identified by authorities as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a senior undergraduate English major at Virginia Tech, it was announced at a news conference Tuesday morning.
Seung-Hui was a legal U.S. resident from South Korea who lived on the school’s campus.
Police revealed that the same weapon was used in both shootings, but they have not yet concluded that there was only one gunman.
While details of the shooting – the deadliest in U.S. history – are being filled in, families who are grieving the loss of loved ones are attempting to come to grips with their loss.
Vernon Collins, a Georgia County Coroner who was given the task of telling Lettie Clark that her son Ryan, a resident adviser at the school, was among the dead, remember that she said: “Tell me it’s not true, it’s not him.”
The woman “was in disbelief,” Collins told USA Today.
Families of teaching staff feared the worst, too. According to the newspaper it took until about 11 p.m. for a school official to tell Jerzy Nowak that his French teacher wife, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, had been killed in the shooting spree in Norris Hall.
“She was so happy,” said Nowak, the head of Virginia Tech’s horticulture department. “She was a wonderful mother and wife. We’re coping.”
On Tuesday morning, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger revealed that the shooter, who turned the gun on himself at the end of his spree, was “an Asian male who was a resident in one of our dormitories.”
At least 21 others were injured in the melee, with 15 still being treated and seven still listed as critical. “This man was brutal,” Doctor Joseph Cacioppo, who tended some of the injured, told CNN, “There wasn’t a shooting victim who didn’t have less than three injuries in them.”
Eyewitnesses who survived the shooting described the gunman as “calm and serious.” One student, who was in German class when the shooter burst in, said the gunman appeared to have “no specific target.”
According to a timeline published on the college Web site, police officers first responded to a 911 call at 7:15 a.m. and found two gunshot victims in what was believed to have been a domestic dispute in a dormitory in West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall. Authorities believed the incident was contained.
But then two and a half hours later police received another 911 call, this time to Norris Hall, a building containing faculty offices, labs and classrooms.
Palestinian student Jamal Abhouguiti captured the sounds of successive gunshots on his cellphone camera as police approached Norris Hall. His footage has since been shown around the world. “I just took my cellphone and started recording that,” Abhouguiti told Larry King Live.
“At first I thought there was another bomb threat, in past week [we have had] two of these,” he said “I saw cops struggling to get in, if it was chained.”
The Virginia Tech timeline report continues: “Within a minute the officers breached the doors, which had been chained shut from the inside. Once inside the building, the officers heard gunshots. They followed the succession of gunshots to the second floor. Just as the officers reached the second floor, the gunshots stopped. The officers discovered the gunman, who had taken his own life. There was never any engagement between the responding officers and the gunman.”
Authorities have come under pressure over the way they responded to the first incident in the dormitory and their failure to lockdown the sprawling campus to prevent the second attack.
“We don’t think anyone could have predicted another event would take place,” Steger told CNN’s John Roberts early Tuesday morning. He also took the opportunity to counter critics of the campus police department. “I don’t think this is fair at all.”
The university, which has more than 26,000 students, has planned a convocation for 2 p.m. on Tuesday and a candlelight vigil for 8 p.m.
President Bush has ordered all flags be lowered to half-staff at least until Sunday, in honor of those killed at Virginia Tech, CNN reports.