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A Killer's Mind; Another Tense Morning at Virginia Tech; Deadly Baghdad Bombings
Aired April 18, 2007 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up today, we're going to be following all of the latest developments at Virginia Tech right here from the campus, including the latest security threat, how that happened, and what the concerns were.
And the questions about the Virginia Tech massacre, some answers may be just moments away. School officials about to hold a news conference. We have our cameras inside. You will see it live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And Heidi, good morning to you.
And then this: a killer in their midst.
I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.
It is an interview you won't soon forget, an exclusive sit-down with the gunman's former roommates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He opened up and said he had an imaginary girlfriend. He called her...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it Jelly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jelly, and she called him Spanky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: His bizarre behavior and their first suspicions when they learned of a killing rampage on campus.
Heidi, back to you.
COLLINS: First, let's go ahead and set the stage with what we know this morning.
Alarming descriptions now emerging of Cho Seung-Hui. Those who lived with him say he was sullen and menacing, and in the weeks leading to the attacks they say his bizarre behavior became even more erratic. Other warning signs possibly in his words, writings so dark and violent some fellow students quit coming to his class. His professor threatened to quit her job, and the school tried to intervene. HARRIS: Noted Virginia Tech poetry professor Nikki Giovanni says Cho Seung-Hui had a mean streak. She told CNN "AMERICAN MORNING'S" John Roberts she threatened to quit if Cho wasn't removed from her class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI GIOVANNI, PROFESSOR, VIRGINIA TECH: GIOVANNI: He says, "You can't make me." And I said, "Yeah, I can."
You know how kids -- you know -- and again, I'm probably not doing a good job. But, you know, you talk to students and you say, well, you know, this is not a poem and you have to quit doing that. Because he was writing just weird things.
I don't know what I'm allowed to say what he was writing about. But I saw the plays. But he was writing poetry.
And it was just -- it was just -- it was terrible. It was not bad poetry. It was intimidating.
And at first I thought, OK, he's trying to see what the parameters are. Kids curse, kids talk about a lot of different things. And he just -- he stayed in that spot.
And I finally said, "You can't do that." And he said, yes, he can. And I said, "No, not in my class."
But everybody thinks you need your job. And I said, you know, I'll quit before I'm being bothered with this.
But I wanted Tech to know that it was serious that we get him out of my class. Obviously, if I had thought that this young man or any other was going to come up and do what he did, I probably would have gone to the president myself. But, you know -- hierarchy -- academia is a hierarchy. So, Lucinda was the head and I gave it to her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Giovanni says she wasn't surprised when she learned Cho was the Virginia Tech shooter.
COLLINS: We want to go ahead and update you on something that we've been following already this morning. There was a bit of an alarm here on campus, and we want to make sure that we give you the absolute updated information and the most that we have, so as to make sure there are no questions about that.
You are looking at video right now. Police officers carrying rifles and wearing flak jackets, in fact, responding to what actually turned out, thankfully, to be an unfounded threat near the engineering building, Norris Hall, as you are all familiar with now, where 31 people died on Monday.
A state police officer telling CNN there was an unusual event. This is called Burruss Hall. They responded. "It was unfounded, and that's all we're going to say."
Originally, I should tell you, there was great concern because this is also the office that houses university president Charles Steger. Not sure if they were concerned about the contents inside of his office regarding this event, but certainly, as you see the video there, police feeling like they needed to protect the office of the university president.
I want to go ahead and bring you some sound now from Virginia Tech's spokesperson regarding the incident this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But as you can imagine, any kind of call that comes in, we will follow up on and immediately respond to. And that's about all I've got, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to get into exactly what that is at this point. All I can tell you...
QUESTION: Was a man walking around (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No.
QUESTION: Was it a bomb threat?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It was not a bomb threat. I can assure you of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, to be honest with you. I don't know exactly -- I do not know the nature of the suspicious activity. I just simply know that we did get a report of that, we immediately mobilized and responded. I really can't...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, as you can see, the best information that we have to tell you is that this situation is defused, it is over. Originally thought that it was a possible bomb threat. That's not the first time students and faculty members have heard something like this on this particular campus, as you well know, but that is unfounded, as you heard from that spokesperson at Virginia Tech.
I want to go ahead and talk a little bit more now this morning about the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui. Was he destined to kill?
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining me now.
Sanjay, could something in the brain actually be dysfunctioning that could cause you to do something like this? We're not really talking about mental illness here. We're talking more about a physical illness. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A physical lesion actually that could possibly be on the brain. Could that have caused this?
That's a provocative idea and something that people have actually studied for some time, looking specifically at this idea that if there was a brain tumor or something like that, for example, causing a pressure on the judgment areas of the brain, might that have caused something like this?
Well, no consensus on that, but what's interesting is that neurologists actually looked into this idea that, in fact, lots of people who are on death row could have, in fact, had something wrong with their brains.
GUPTA (voice over): Something drove 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui to kill so many innocent people and then himself in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Answers may lie behind his eyes in the frontal lobe of his brain.
DR. PAMELA BLAKE, NEUROLOGIST: That part of the brain is called the orbitofrontal cortex. And that seems to be the area that is particularly critical to our ability to inhibit aggressive impulses.
GUPTA: To be clear, Blake never examined Cho and has no evidence of what prompted his rampage. But she did look at the brain scans of 31 other killers and found something remarkable. Twenty of them had damage in areas crucial to impulse control. Another study found 40 percent of Texas death row inmates examined as part of the research also had damaged brains.
BLAKE: What the end result is, is an impairment in the development of normal social interactions, normal empathy, normal ways of conducting yourself in the world.
GUPTA: Researchers say a number of things can damage the brain -- head injury, childhood physical or sexual abuse, even chronic stress, which can cause the brain to shrink in key emotion centers.
BLAKE: Usually several -- several factors all collide and will lead to an event like this.
GUPTA: And here's a chilling footnote. The sniper killings at the University of Texas, which until Monday was the largest school massacre in U.S. history, well, an autopsy on that killer found a large tumor on Charles Whitman's brain, suggesting to some he was physically unable to control his rage and his brain really made him to it. .
GUPTA: You know, a lot of people didn't know that fact about Charles Whitman and the fact that he had this brain tumor affecting those areas of his brain that are responsible for judgment, the frontal lobes. We don't know at this time whether or not he will have an autopsy, but that is something obviously a lot of neurologists who study this sort of thing are focused on.
COLLINS: Yes. And, you know, I think initially we had heard that there were such severe injuries to the gunman that it was difficult to identify him, so I wonder if that would even be a possibility.
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, some of the information may have gotten lost in all of that. For example, certain parts of the brain, the frontal lobes were in fact damaged previously. It's going to be hard to know what came first and what came after. But I imagine it might be something they'll still look at.
COLLINS: Yes. And, you know, it is incredibly eerie, isn't it? Because almost immediately when this happened, we were talking about Charles Whitman and sort of the comparisons there -. And now this.
So that will be something I'm sure you're going to be following.
Also, you know, I wonder, if they had known that possibly ahead of time, and I don't know how you would -- perhaps he'd been having headaches or some sort of medical attention that he received -- what do you do? What could possibly have been done to prevent something like this?
GUPTA: It's a fascinating question, and I think one of the things is, despite all the erratic behavior, despite what people will now look back and say were definite warning signs, talks about suicide, mental behavioral problems, all that sort of stuff, in aggregate, even, even piecing it all together, I'm not sure there was anything that someone could do. So many of these things aren't a problem until they're a huge problem.
And also, you're not going to screen everybody, for example, with a CAT scat or an MRI who is acting strangely. You're right. I mean, I think you're absolutely right. If he had headaches or something else that was tangible that may have prompted something like that, but in this case probably nothing different.
COLLINS: OK. It's terribly upsetting.
And with all that we now know, is there a way that we could go back -- they did say that he had had a history of mental illness. Is there a way that this could combine with the physicality and make it, you know, jump to this next level where something like this could have happened?
GUPTA: Yes. You know, if there had been some sort of physical complaint that prompted an MRI scan or a CAT scan, maybe something would have popped out. Again, we don't know that -- his brain could have been perfectly fine, and this could have been due to mental illness, without any physical lesions on the brain.
But what's so interesting to me -- and this is after talking to psychologists and social workers on campus -- is that there isn't a system in place. I mean, you heard from his roommates...
GUPTA: ... talking about he acted strange. We've all known people like that. You've known people. I've certainly known people.
What do you do about it? They haven't committed a crime. There's no obvious -- there might be intent, but there's nothing that's sort of acting on that intent, so there isn't a system in place for people to do something about it.
And I'm not sure even after this there will be, because I don't know how you craft something like this. It's sort of medical-legal sort of really combining.
COLLINS: No, I don't think there's any way either, but it's certainly something to talk about now. Hindsight is always 20/20.
COLLINS: And very painful at a time like this, too.
GUPTA: Yes, to so many people here.
COLLINS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we appreciate your time.
COLLINS: Tony, back down to you.
HARRIS: All right, Heidi.
Just another reminder for you that we are standing by for a news conference on the campus there at Virginia Tech scheduled now for 9:15 a.m., about five minutes from now Eastern Time. And at that time we expect to get the latest information on the investigation, as you see a live shot now of the hall, perhaps the names of more of the victims, future plans for the campus.
We expect to hear from President Steger and Wendell Flinchum, the chief of police for Virginia Tech.
We want to also remind you that we are also expecting to get an update on the conditions of those being treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital there in Blacksburg. That briefing is scheduled for the 10:00 hour this morning. And we will of course bring that to you here in the NEWSROOM.
If you are just joining us, it has already been another tense morning on the Virginia Tech campus.
CNN's Brianna Keilar has more on the campus this morning.
And Brianna, in the last hour, in the 8:00 hour, an amazing scene, as we saw campus police strapping on again, putting on their vests, arming themselves. What were they responding to? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a university employee tells us, Tony, that they were responding to a bomb scare. We're standing here in the heart of the Virginia Tech campus. This is called the drill field. And behind me is Burruss Hall.
This is the hall that is home to the president's office, the admission's office, and it's actually right next to Norris Hall, of course, where the second shooting took place on Monday. And as you said, Virginia Tech, as well as state police, showed up wearing flak jackets. They had automatic rifles.
They told everyone who was standing around to get back. And students told CNN it was as if this was all happening all over again -- Tony.
HARRIS: Wow. OK. And the all-clear has been given on that situation is what we understand, correct, Brianna?
KEILAR: That's right. It's been resolved at this point, and we're also hoping in this news conference to get more information about exactly what happened here.
HARRIS: And if I could, Brianna, let me turn you to the events of last night.
We understand there was a vigil on campus. And if you would, talk to us about that experience, what it was like to be there on campus for that vigil. We had heard estimates of up to 40,000 people. I don't know if it grew to that size, but talk us through that vigil last night.
KEILAR: You know what, Tony? I can't really talk you through that vigil because I was actually covering the press conference and the larger investigation at a different site on campus, but I can tell you I did speak with a student ahead of time, and he told me that he was expecting many more of his friends to attend that vigil, more going to the vigil than the convocation that happened earlier in the day where President Bush attended.
HARRIS: OK. Brianna Keilar keeping an eye on events on campus this morning as we await a news conference coming up in just minutes from the campus of Virginia Tech.
Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.
And turning briefly now from the massacre at Virginia Tech to breaking news out of Iraq, several deadly bombings to tell you about in Baghdad. The death toll so far, 66 and climbing.
Live now to CNN's Arwa Damon in the Iraqi capital.
Arwa, if you would, bring our viewers up to date, please.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, it's been another utterly devastating day in the Iraqi capital. As you just mentioned, at least 66 people killed, and that death toll expected to climb in a matter of mere hours.
Now, the deadliest attack happened just outside of Sadr City. That is the sprawling Shia slum in the northeastern portion of Baghdad.
This attack taking place at one of the checkpoints that was actually set up under the current Baghdad security plan meant to be screening vehicles for explosives, intending to keep that neighborhood safe. That attack killed at least 28 Iraqis and wounded dozens others.
Just hours later, another car bombing in another marketplace. This is a marketplace in the central part of the capital, one that has been hit before.
Today's attack claimed at least 20 Iraqis' lives. And again, wounding dozens more. Emergency workers rushing to the scenes of both explosions, trying to save whichever lives they possibly can.
All of this coming at a time when the U.S. and the Iraqi militaries are trying to crack down in the capital, Baghdad, trying to reassure the Iraqi people that they and the current Iraqi government is capable of keeping them safe. But attacks, the death toll that we are seeing today, is what is going to really be resonating with the Iraqi people -- Tony.
HARRIS: Arwa, just to be clear on this, in the one attack that you've described for us, this appears to you to be a direct attack on the security plan that's been put in place and its apparatus?
DAMON: Well, Tony, the attack did take place, according to an official with Iraq's Ministry of Interior, at a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi army just outside of Sadr City. We heard from the Ministry of Interior and from residents there that this is a new checkpoint that has been set up under the current security plan.
Now, remember, at these checkpoints that we are seeing throughout the city, we're also seeing a backup of traffic, which also makes them a very appealing target for the insurgency. And that was, in fact, one of the main concerns moving forward with the security plan.
Yes, at these checkpoints, the Iraqis and the Americans are able to search vehicles for explosives, for illegal weapons, and perhaps find these at these checkpoints. But at the same time, it does create more targets for the insurgents -- Tony.
HARRIS: Again, the changing tactics of the attackers in Baghdad and surrounding neighborhoods.
Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad.
Heidi, back to you.
COLLINS: Back down to the situation here, Tony, at Virginia Tech. And we are awaiting -- I just want to remind everyone -- a news conference from Virginia Tech. police and officials here. Going to be touching on several different topics and giving us a little bit more information about the incident that happened earlier today, a scare that has been defused. We want to be clear about that, but possibly some more information there.
HARRIS: And this in the NEWSROOM: living with a killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I heard that she had had a -- it was the boyfriend, I was kind of thinking it wasn't Seung, because I'd never seen him with a girl, or anyone else for that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Cho Seung-Hui's strange behavior. His former roommates speaking out, only on CNN, ahead in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Two hours of uncertainty, a shooter on the loose. On his way to yet another target. Students unaware.
A closer look coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: This is a scene that you can see in several different spots across the campus of Virginia Tech, flowers and candles, and certainly after the candlelight vigil last night that was so emotional and so profound, some of the pictures coming out of there. We have a guest coming up a little bit later who was at the candlelight vigil who can tell us a little bit about it. But lots of hugging still, even as some of the -- I believe most now, it would be fair to say, as I look around me, students have decided to depart the campus here and go home and be with their families in the comfort of their own homes now that classes, of course, have been canceled for the week.
I want to remind you we are awaiting the next news conference coming our way any moment now. It's happening right across from where we are sitting inside that building, the alumni center. And I can tell you, I just went in there a little while ago and it is completely packed.
We have heard this before. There is actually no more room inside that building, but we, of course, have our cameras in there and we will bring it to you just as soon as it happens to learn more about the latest in the case of Virginia Tech -- Tony.
HARRIS: And we'll get answers in that news conference to so many questions.
Questions linger -- what happened in the two-hour gap between the shootings, and why didn't police shut down the campus sooner?
CNN's David Mattingly takes a look. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 7:15 a.m., an hour of the morning many students are just waking up, a 911 call brings police to a Virginia Tech dorm. Inside, two students are dead of gunshots and evidence that the scene is handled by the book.
MIKE BROOKS, SECURITY ANALYST: Are there any shell casings? Is there blood spatter? Is there still a threat on the scene? Once they find out there's no threat and the victims are taken care of, then they can start concentrating on the investigation.
MATTINGLY: And police quickly decide it's an isolated incident. The school doesn't notify the students. Police have no reason yet to suspect Korean-born student 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, who lives in a dorm just 30 seconds away from the crime scene.
(on camera): It was such a cold and windy morning that it's possible no one paid any attention to a student running or walking quickly through this courtyard. By the time police were alerted to the 911 call, Cho could have easily been inside that building and inside his dorm room.
(voice over): In the meantime, the campus remained open, students weren't alerted. Locking down the facility was deemed unnecessary, thinking students would be safer in their classrooms than milling about.
KEN TRUMP, SCHOOL SECURITY ANALYST: Communication is often the weakest link in any school emergency response and should be the strongest point of any school crisis plan.
MATTINGLY: 8:25 a.m., an hour and 10 minutes after the 911 call, university officials decided to tell students of the two murders by e- mail, but the e-mail doesn't go out right away. By this time, Cho could have been on the move, ready to put his deadly plans into action.
(on camera): If Cho walked across campus, it was a trip that took maybe 15 minutes. And he likely chosed crossed through this enormous open area. It's called the drill field, and hundreds of students cross through here every hour. Cho could have easily been just a face in the crowd. And without a lockdown, there would have been no reason to stop it.
9:26 a.m., now two full hours after the first 911 call, students get their first e-mail telling them of the two killings, urging them to be cautious and report anything suspicious. But by this time, Cho could have already been inside the classroom building preparing to chain the doors.
TRUMP: Parents and students are going to want instant information. They have it in their hands, and school officials, along with police, have to develop mechanisms to get out accurate information quickly on their end as well. MATTINGLY: 9:45, police are questioning a person of interest when the next 911 call comes through. Cho's murderous rampage is under way, taking life after life.
Five minutes later, there's an e-mail warning everyone to stay put, "A gunman is loose on campus," and "Stay away from the windows." Many students don't get it right away. Word of mouth takes over.
JACKIE PETERS, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Two girls from the floor above me came down and were asking me, like, "Have you heard about it?" And I asked them about the e-mail, went in and checked mine. As I went to tell my mom about it, the second e-mail came through telling everyone to stay put.
MATTINGLY: 10:16 a.m., another e-mail. This time entrances to the campus are closed.
Then, 10:52, the grim news -- a multiple shooting with multiple victims. By the time many students find out, the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history is over.
KARINA PORUSHKEVICH, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: We didn't know what was going on. At least if they would have warned us of what was going on, you know, they could -- this happened at 7:15 in the morning and they did a lockdown at, like, 9:00 something.
MATTINGLY: Thirty-two innocent victims dead and a million questions left behind.
David Mattingly, CNN, Blacksburg, Virginia.
COLLINS: And you know, Tony, just to provide a little bit of perspective from here on campus, because we've had had an opportunity, of course, to talk with students, and there really is sort of a divide, if you will, between certainly a large group of students that says, you know what? This is not the time for the questions. We need to all come together.
"This campus is so incredibly close." We've heard that before. "It's a really special place. We love our police department. We feel safe here."
And then just yesterday, perhaps the first people that I spoke with in the past two days of being here did say to me, "You know what? I felt it was my right to know that there had been a shooting that occurred earlier in the morning."
COLLINS: "I was walking across the campus," walking from what we know to be the residential side on the northern part of that drill field to the academic side, the southern part of the drill field, because that's what separates the two, and "I completely could have been in jeopardy. It is my right to know that that went on." HARRIS: Yes.
COLLINS: And then still another group saying, "If I did know, what could have been done?" How do you shut down a campus like this so large, with so many entrances, and how do you really keep people safe?
HARRIS: Absolutely. And...
COLLINS: We're going to hear an awful lot more about that in the days to come.
HARRIS: And Heidi, we've heard this in the days that we've been reporting on this. You've heard that being on the campus. I remember talking to Tina Harrison yesterday and her expressing her anger at not being notified of the first shooting.
And then there -- if you go back to Monday, when we were both here in Atlanta, there was the football player that we spoke to who talked about there were people leaving the area of the dormitory, heading -- running into the direction of Norris Hall, where the second shooting took place. So clearly that's a situation where...
COLLINS: We actually...
HARRIS: You remember that?
COLLINS: Yes. Well, we actually found two people that were exactly in that situation.
COLLINS: In fact, one of them was walking out of the residence hall and one of the people down on the first floor, sort of an administration person said, "Where are you going in this panic?" And he said, "What do you mean? I'm going to class."
And she said, "I would advise against that. Go back to your room. There's been a terrible shooting."
And so he went back inside.
Another person quickly told me that what's fascinating here at Virginia Tech, this incredibly fine reputation here for the academia, and the type of degrees that are offered here, the engineering, the sciences, the amount of Ph.D.s, one person said to us, you know, "We have all of these brilliant people here, and yet we don't have a notification system in place that will allow us all to know as quickly as possible when something tragic like this is going on."
HARRIS: And I think in the final analysis we know, and you certainly know being on the campus, that moving forward there will be a change in the notification system, and there will be some kind of improvements in that area so that something like this, should it ever, god forbid, happen again, there will be a better way of notifying students as to what is going on their campus. And we know that's going to be the case moving forward from this horrible episode.
COLLINS: Yes. In fact, already, already I have heard four different ideas from these students that have come up to me...
HARRIS: There you go.
COLLINS: ... and said, "Why don't we have a scroll like an Amber Alert system?" "Why don't we have a P.A. system installed in every single building?" "Why don't we have people coming out and telling us, point people in each one of the buildings, to tell us what's going on?"
But as we say, we're going to hear a lot more about this as the days go on here.
And I am now hearing, Tony, that this news conference we have been awaiting from right across the parking lot from where we are for the very latest information here is now going to come our way at 10:00 Eastern Time.
COLLINS: So we, of course, are going to be following that and bring it to everybody just as soon as it happens.
HARRIS: OK, Heidi. And as we wait for that, we want to update everyone on some breaking news coming out of Baghdad.
Bombers in Baghdad in what appears to be a coordinated, organized series of attacks, have killed 100 -- listen to this -- 127 people. Ninety-four wounded in multiple bombings, 82 killed in a strike at the Sadaria (ph) market. And then earlier, a bomb in Baghdad's Shiite stronghold of Sadr City killed 30 people.
We're getting totals of at least five car bombs having exploded in Baghdad today. But, again, when we talked to Arwa Damon a short while ago, we had a death toll at 66 and in just minutes, maybe 10 minutes, the death toll now stands at 127. We will continue to gather information as you see some of the first pictures coming into CNN of the devastation in Baghdad and some of the surrounding neighborhoods, certainly in Sadr City at one heavily populated market area Sambria (ph). We will continue to update this story as we get more information here in the CNN NEWSROOM. But still ahead, leaving Virginia Tech, students go home for solace and answers. Stay with us. You're in the NEWSROOM.
And once again, new information that the press conference that was scheduled for 9:00 pushed to 9:15, will now take place at 10:00 a.m. That update from the officials there at Virginia Tech coming up at the top of the hour. We will bring that to you live right here in the NEWSROOM. But first a break.
HARRIS: OK, as we get the business day started, the Dow starts the day at 12,773, great to hear that bell to start the business day. The Dow starting the day 12,773, as I mentioned just a moment ago after closing up 52 points yesterday. Susan Lisovicz is keeping an eye on business news for us, including concerns at the Internet phone service provider Vonage, that the company's mounting legal troubles may push it into bankruptcy. The Dow down six points. OK, let's call it flat as we begin the day. We'll check in with Susan a little later this morning in the NEWSROOM.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Let's get you up to speed now on the campus massacre here at Virginia Tech. Here's what we know right now. New details coming out about the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui. Two former roommates describe him as a sullen loner who had an imaginary girlfriend and stalked other co-eds. Faculty members and fellow students say they were alarmed by Cho's writings described it as graphic, violent, and disturbing and according to some reports, Cho was becoming increasingly violent and erratic.
We have with us today Josh Eldridge, who's a student here at Virginia Tech, a freshman, in fact. And just you being a freshman, Josh, to me has got to be a really tough thing right now given the way that this whole year, your college experience began with the other shootings that took place on this campus, very different ones, indeed. But as we learn more about the people, the victims and the things that went on inside that building, specifically Norris Hall, we come to you because a very good friend of yours really showed some incredible courage. Kevin is his name.
JOSH ELDRIDGE, FRESHMAN, VIRGINIA TECH: Right.
COLLINS: Tell us his story and tell us what happened that you know of.
ELDRIDGE: He was in Norris Hall in German class and he said that the gunman entered the room and looked around and walked back out and then three to four minutes later, he re-entered and opened fire on the classroom. Kevin was struck twice in his right thigh. The second bullet punctured an artery and he was losing a lot of blood. He's also a Boy Scout so he was able to take electrical cord and tie his leg up so he didn't lose any more blood.
COLLINS: We have heard this story, and I don't think that we can fully grasp what must have gone on in his mind in this incredible mode and determination to survive. We're talking about the femoral artery, which, that's the main artery that goes up and supplies blood to the heart, to the brain. This was a deadly situation for him.
COLLINS: You've been able to speak with him. I know you've been to the hospital. You plan to go there after we get done talking. How is he doing?
ELDRIDGE: He was actually in pretty good spirits whenever I saw him after he came out of surgery. He's always been a jokester, so he was trying to play it off like it wasn't as big but you could tell that he was in a lot of pain and he was really tired from the medicine and the entire situation. He seems to be doing well though. COLLINS: What does it feel like to walk into a hospital room like that and see your friend in this condition knowing what has gone on here over the past couple of days?
ELDRIDGE: It was one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had. Whenever we couldn't find Kevin, we all began to panic because we knew he had class in Norris. And actually we were more thankful than anything that he was able to make it through.
COLLINS: How old are you, Josh?
ELDRIDGE: I'm 19.
COLLINS: You're 19. What are you going to do next? How are you going to move on? I know that we've been reporting even as early as yesterday that there are quite a few students that are going home, that need to be with their families. Their families want them, you know, to be back home. You're still here, why?
ELDRIDGE: Well, I respect the people that went home. They obviously needed to be with their family right now but I feel that the situation happened and now what we need to do is come together as a community so we can get through it together.
COLLINS: Did you go to the candlelight vigil last night?
COLLINS: What happened there? What was that like?
ELDRIDGE: It was a very solemn experience. Everyone was on the drill field holding up their candles and then towards the end of it, just the great chants of Hokie pride started and they started playing the fight song. It was just so nice to see everyone come together and actually have a little bit of happiness.
COLLINS: Is Kevin a type of hero to you?
ELDRIDGE: Definitely. We've always respected Kevin. He's always done everything he could to help his friends. He's a great guy and this proves further that he is a hero.
COLLINS: We were just looking at some pictures from the candlelight vigil from last night and there were cheers and there was all of this Hokie pride that you talk about. Do you learn about that right off the bat when you come to a place like Virginia Tech as a freshman?
ELDRIDGE: Most definitely. One of the greatest experiences was going to the first football game of your freshman year and just seeing the brotherhood that forms and really the Hokie lifestyle is just that -- it's a lifestyle. It's not just a college to us. It's everything.
COLLINS: I'm sure that you plan on graduating from Virginia Tech.
COLLINS: What is this degree going to mean to you?
ELDRIDGE: Well, it's always been a goal of mine to come to Virginia Tech and once I got here, it meant even more and this degree coming from Virginia Tech, I think now means more than it did whenever I came here. We're just all very happy to be Hokies and we're very sad about the incident, but we're happy that it's over and that we're going to be able to get through it together.
ELDRIDGE: I'm sure there's also a very big part of you that's been thinking of Kevin throughout all of this. And I imagine that you feel pretty darned lucky to have your friend.
ELDRIDGE: Absolutely. I mean, we thought the worst whenever we couldn't find him and then we got the experience of finding him and it was the most -- I don't even know how to put it into words. It was the best feeling ever. And I just feel really bad for all of the friends and family members that didn't have that experience.
COLLINS: How are you doing?
ELDRIDGE: I'm holding up well. Not much sleep in the last couple of days but --
COLLINS: You look tired.
ELDRIDGE: Very much so. But I'm doing the best I can. We're trying to keep the listeners at our radio station up to date.
COLLINS: You work with the campus radio station.
ELDRIDGE: Right. WUVT.
ELDRIDGE: We've pulled an all-nighter there the last two nights just to keep all of our information up to date, to talk to our listeners about it and making as much time for our families and friends as we can.
COLLINS: And I know how important it is to you, too, to get the story out about Kevin and all of the things that went on in that building by way of courage and determination and I think you've done a great time. We appreciate your time, Josh Eldridge, a freshman here at Virginia Tech. We want to hear a little bit more now I think Tony about the news conference. Are we getting more word on that?
HARRIS: Yeah. Just another reminder, that's all, Heidi, that we are standing by for that news conference originally scheduled for 9:00 a.m., pushed back to 9:15. It is scheduled now to begin at 10:00 a.m. and at that time, we expect to get the latest information on the investigation, perhaps the names of more of the victims, maybe future plans for the campus. We expect to hear from the president of the campus there of Virginia Tech, President Steger and Wendell Flinchum (ph), the chief of police for Virginia Tech. Just another reminder, we are also expected to get an update on the conditions of those being treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital. That briefing scheduled for the 10:00 hour as well Eastern time and we plan to bring both events to you live right here in the NEWSROOM.
In the meantime, many students at Virginia Tech leaving campus, looking for relief and answers, totally understandable. CNN's John Roberts has that story.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost the second after Virginia Tech canceled the rest of the school week, Susan Quinn was in her car picking up one twin daughter at JMU, the other here in Blacksburg.
SUSAN QUINN, STUDENT'S MOTHER: You want your children to be in a place where they can get the best hugs and we think that's with us.
ROBERTS: It was like that at all the residences, students packing up, moving out, heading home to escape the grief and anxiety. (INAUDIBLE) lives in West AJ, the hall where the carnage began. She and Sarah Ford (ph) were heading back to Winchester, Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to get my mind off everything that's happened. Like yesterday was pretty much the longest day I think I've ever experienced.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it will be nice to be with our family and stuff. They're all really worried about us, just to get away from here a little bit.
ROBERTS: But it will take more than a few days away for these students to get past what happened here Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The popping noises, pretty distinct popping noises, like a pop, pop, pop.
ROBERTS: Andrew Wang was only a few yards away from Norris Hall when Cho Seung-Hui began executing his victims. He took us back there today. Just looking at the building makes him uneasy.
ANDREW WANG: It's not something, the feeling that I like - the feeling that I've been trying to get out of my head for the past couple - past two days is just not -- it's coming back just by being in the presence of the building.
ROBERTS: And there's another emotion just below the surface, anger. Where does that come from?
WANG: Honestly the slow response from the police and the fact that they allowed us to walk around campus when they knew there was a first shooting and they still let us go to class.
ROBERTS: Wang checked his e-mail at 8:30 Monday, an hour and a half after the first killings at West AJ Hall, but it wouldn't be for another hour that the school would issue its first warning to students. The e-mail that went out at 9:26, if it had gone out at 7:30, do you think it would have saved lives?
WANG: I honestly do believe it would have saved lives because I checked my e-mail at 8:30 and there was nothing there.
ROBERTS: Like so many of his fellow students, Wang went home for the rest of the week. This is just not where they or their parents want them to be, not here, not now. John Roberts, CNN, Blacksburg, Virginia.
HARRIS: As we continue to follow the developments on the campus of Virginia Tech, we have to tell you that particularly this morning there is major violence unfolding in Iraq and that people are losing their lives in unbelievable numbers in Baghdad today. Bombers in Baghdad have killed 127 people in a series of attacks including 82 in a strike, a single strike at the Sadriyah (ph) market, 94 others were wounded in Baghdad's Sadr City. At least 28 people were killed, 44 others were wounded in an attack near an Iraqi army checkpoint and one of the entrances there to Sadr city. In all, once again, 127 killed in a series of attacks in Baghdad. We will continue to bring you the very latest on this story. In the meantime, we are standing by waiting for the news conference to begin on the campus of Virginia Tech. Originally scheduled for 9:00, then moved to 9:15 and now scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. We will bring that to you right here live in the NEWSROOM. Heidi?
COLLINS: And living with a killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
When I heard that she had had a -- it was the boyfriend, I was kind of thinking it wasn't Seung-Hui because I hadn't seen him with a girl or anyone else for that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Cho Seung-Hui's strange behavior, his former roommates speaking out only on CNN. It is a remarkable story coming up next in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Who was Cho Seung-Hui? Strange stories, odd behavior. CNN's Gary Tuckman had an opportunity to sit down with two of his roommates, a compelling interview you will see only on CNN. Both asked us to use only their first names.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wasn't friendly by any means, he was just quiet.
GARY TUCKMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Was he mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Sometimes I guess he would be rude, the way you would try to carry on a conversation with him and you couldn't get any feedback from him or like talking to a brick wall.
TUCKMAN: And did you think that was strange initially?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. I did but I used to be pretty shy, too, when I came to Tech and I thought maybe something's happened. I don't know. Just trying to be so quiet and not want to talk to people.
TUCKMAN: And then did you feel the same way when you first met him, just a real quiet guy? Did you think he was kind of weird?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought he was just really quiet and shy. I didn't think he was weird initially. Just some people are shyer than others.
TUCKMAN: OK. So when did you start noticing, Andy, that perhaps it was a little more than just being a shy, nice guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried to hang out with him at first, took him and introduced him to our friends and stuff. Weeks of this and he never opened up, just never talked to us and went about his day by himself. Never saw anyone come visit him.
TUCKMAN: Did you ever sit down and have a conversation with him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never more than a couple words. Other than the one time when we went out to a party and he opened up and said he had an imaginary girlfriend.
TUCKMAN: He told you he had an imaginary girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TUCKMAN: And what prompted him to say that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had been drinking so I guess he just decided to open up.
TUCKMAN: So he had a few beers and he opened up. What did he say about an imaginary girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He called her Jelly and she called him Spanky.
TUCKMAN: Spanky and Jelly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that was that.
TUCKMAN: And what did he say about this imaginary girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a supermodel, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
TUCKMAN: Were you guys amused by this or weirded out by it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More amused. You know, you think this guy is pretty crazy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strange, strange guy.
TUCKMAN: But then something happened that you say he started harassing women at school here, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
TUCKMAN: Tell me about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walked back to my room one night and there was a policeman in there and apparently what had happened was he'd gone up -- or he started talking to her online first. He found where she lived, started talking to her on AIM and then he went over there using the name question mark. Said, hey, I'm question mark and that really freaked the girl out.
TUCKMAN: So he was stalking?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. He found out everything about her first.
TUCKMAN: And like he told this girl all the things he learned about her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if he told her that, but he thought they were playing some kind of game or something.
TUCKMAN: Did you know the girl?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
TUCKMAN: Was she freaked out about it, did you hear later?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freaked out enough about it to call the police.
TUCKMAN: Did this happen with any other girls?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were two other incidences that we know of. One was one of our friends he started following, bothering her, and another was down the hall.
TUCKMAN: And what happened in those cases?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one down the hall, I got the girl's screen name and kind of told her, I IM'd her and told her this guy, you know, he's messing around with you. Here's his name and you should kind of ignore him and just stay away from him and the other time the cops responded again and Seung-Hui became upset about that and told me that he might as well kill himself. And so I told the cops that and they took him away to the counseling center for a night or two.
TUCKMAN: And when he told you that he might kill himself, did you think he might be serious? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was more out of I could kind of see him doing it. It was before a break is what I remember and he never went home, so he would have been there over break by himself if he was serious about it.
COLLINS: It is some of the most compelling television I think I have ever seen, Cho's chilling behavior. More of our exclusive interview with his former roommates just ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Solidarity and sorrow, colleges and universities around the country showing support for Virginia Tech. The University of Texas in Austin is darkening its tower through tomorrow in memory of the Virginia shooting victims. A vigil is planned for Monday when the tower will be darkened again. As you may recall, UT was the scene of a similar tragedy back in 1966. Gunman Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and shot 16 people to death before he was killed by authorities.
A tribute to the massacre victims by a major league baseball team. This was nice. The Washington Nationals wore Virginia Tech caps during last night's game against the Atlanta Braves. They had a few different versions of the caps. Some players autographing them to be sent to Virginia Tech. Washington is about four hours if you're driving about four hours from the campus.
COLLINS: Wow, I hadn't seen that, Tony. That's a phenomenal tribute to them. Once again, just to remind everyone we are awaiting that news conference happening here at Virginia Tech right across the parking lot from me at the alumni center which I understand is absolutely packed. We've had some events on campus today that have frightened some people. We've learned that the situation has been resolved. There were some issues with security around the president's office, the situation has been defused. We'll have more information on that out of this news conference coming up right here on CNN NEWSROOM.
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