After weeks of negotiations, investigating officers obtained the university mental health records of Seung-Hui Cho, who caused one of the bloodiest shooting rampages in American history.
Cho killed himself on April 16, shortly after a shooting rampage in which he killed two students at a dormitory and then 30 other students and staff in a classroom building- Norris Hall at Virginia Tech.
AdvertisementAccording to the panel members investigating the case, federal privacy laws (even after death), had prevented them from accessing the records of Cho earlier. The panel chairman, W. Gerald Massengill, had said he would go to court if necessary to obtain them. "This is not all the records that we will need, but this is certainly some that we felt a strong need to take a look at", Massengill was quoted.
According to school spokesman Larry Hincker, Virginia Tech officials had been in negotiations with the family since the panel met in Blacksburg last month. Panel members (who do not have the power to issue subpoenas to compel testimony or obtain records), have expressed frustration with state and school officials, who have said they could not turn over Cho's medical, mental health, or scholastic records because of the federal privacy laws.
For the first time since the shooting, university officials let members of the news media tour Norris Hall. Here, Cho, armed with two handguns, had fired 174 shots in nine minutes in four classrooms. Bullet holes have been patched, walls freshly painted off-white, and doors, ceilings, and floors replaced, leaving no visible evidence of the rampage or its victims.
Said professor Bryan Cloyd, whose daughter, Austin, was killed: "I almost didn't recognize my own classroom."
According to Hincker, Cho's family gave permission for the school to release his mental health records late last week. Massengill said that they were delivered to the eight-member panel Wednesday but that he had not yet examined them. They will not be made public.
"I think these records should show a number of things, but certainly some of the questions that we had as to any counseling, any encounters he had had with the mental health community," says Massengill, who is incidentally a former Virginia State Police superintendent who oversaw the agency's response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon and the 2002 Washington-area sniper attacks.