Dormitory Shooting First Thought to Be 'Isolated Incident'

July 7, 2008 - 8:23 PM

Updates with identity of gunman

(CNSNews.com) - Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said on Tuesday that the gunman who killed so many people on a stormy Monday morning was an Asian student who lived on campus.

Press reports said he was a Chinese exchange student, but later Tuesday morning, police confirmed his identity as Cho Seung-Hui of South Korea, a resident alien who was enrolled at Virginia Tech as an English major. Police said he listed an address in Centreville, a town in northern Virginia.

Steger became Virginia Tech's 15th president seven years ago. An architect, his bio describes him as " a visionary thinker with concrete achievements." But since the tragedy, he's been on the defensive, as reporters and others question why the school waited two hours to warn students about a possible gunman on the loose.

"I believe, based on the information we had at the time, that we took the appropriate steps," Steger said on Tuesday morning.

Steger said police believed that the first shooting -- which happened around 7:15 a.m. in a dormitory room -- was a murder-suicide, involving as it did a male and a female student.

Steger said police expressed the opinion that the incident was confined to that one building. "So we closed that building immediately, surrounded it with security guards, cordoned off the street, notified all the students in the building," Steger told Fox News's Geraldo Rivera.

As it turns out, no weapons were found in the dormitory, but it apparently took police a while to understand what that meant -- that the killer had fled.

Steger said with so many people on campus or arriving on campus, he and other administrators were trying, after the first shooting, to "manage" the information process, still believing that the first shooting was an isolated incident.

"If you don't do it right, and you report misinformation, you have chaos," Steger told Fox News.

Steger said he spent part of Monday morning "trying to figure out what was going on." He said he heard the gunshots in Norris Hall, and radio reports informed him that "there were multiple fatalities, another shooting incident was underway."

Steger said he deployed all available security forces with the idea of stopping the violence and rescuing victims.

Steger said he'll work with grieving parents "as best we can," and he admitted it's hard to understand what they must be experiencing.

President Bush is expected to visit the campus on Tuesday afternoon.

A number of witnesses said they didn't recognize the loud gunshots in Norris Hall for what they were. They thought they were hearing construction noises. Press reports said the shooting may have gone on for 21 minutes.

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