Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Virginia Tech Shooter Sends Package to NBC News

Aired April 18, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, stunning new developments in the Virginia Tech massacre -- the gunman pauses to mail a frightening package of his writings and videos that shows him outfitted and armed for slaughter. New information on the fragile, psychological state of the gunman long before his rampage, stalking complaints, suicide fears, and a commitment to a mental facility -- should someone have acted on these early warning signs? And new amateur video captures the shock and chaos during the killings here on this campus. You'll see the drama unfold.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, chilling new pictures of the Virginia Tech killer -- this photo of Cho Seung-Hui, armed and apparently in the midst of his bloody rampage -- it's believed Cho sent the package Monday in that mysterious two-hour period between the first and the second round of shootings.

NBC News says it received the photos along with a video rant and some extremely disturbing writings. Also tonight court documents from December 2005 reveal that Cho was determined to be an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness.

Let's go straight to our Mary Snow, who's following all of these very disturbing developments. Mary, tell our viewers what we're learning.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are seeing chilling images and the last recorded words of the Virginia Tech gunman. NBC airing portions of the package that it received earlier today from the shooter, included in it, 29 photos of him, 11 posing with guns. One of the videotapes shows him inside a dorm room that is recording a message, making rambling statements laced with profanity. Let's take a listen at one of these excerpts.


CHO SEUNG-HUI: One hundred billion chances in ways to have avoided today, which you decided to spill my blood being forced into a corner and giving me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SNOW: Now in these recordings it appears he's making references to something that happened but there is no way to tell when these messages were word recorded. Here's just another one of them.


CHO: I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled, but now I don't no longer run. It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters the (BLEEP) I did it for them.


SNOW: There is an 1,800 word diatribe in which he rants against the wealthy. Also, NBC reporting that he mentions martyrs like Eric and Dylan. These are names of the Columbine shooters. NBC says that there was a time stamp on this envelope at 9:01 a.m. on Monday. It was sent overnight mail.

However, it had the incorrect address. And that is why NBC only received this package today. As to why the gunman sent it to NBC that is unclear. The network received it at its headquarter here in New York and has handed it over to the FBI. It's now being analyzed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Critical information according to law enforcement authorities here -- Mary, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

Our Deb Feyerick, she's here on the campus together with us. Deb, you just went over to that post office where we believe he mailed this information, these videos, the chilling statement to NBC News.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And what's interesting, based on the description of how he went, from A.J. Hall back into his own dorm, that's very short. That's maybe about 15 seconds, really to run around the building and get back into his dorm.


BLITZER: That's where the first shootings were...

FEYERICK: ... first shooting took place.

BLITZER: ... where the two young students were killed?

FEYERICK: Exactly, then if he walked over to the post office that's about a 20-minute walk. The post office is right on Main Street. It is a very, very busy street. The post office itself is very small. There are no security cameras inside the post office. It opens at about 8:30 in the morning, so according to the information that NBC was releasing, the clerk who was there received one package.

And they believe they was the package that he mailed. And so coming back, then, to Norris Hall, it would have been again about a 15-minute walk and he would have been passing a lot of people on his way to get to Norris Hall where the second shooting took place and all the people were killed.

BLITZER: And just to review the timeline, around 7:15, he went into that dormitory, killed those two students. The post office opened at around 8:30 and when it was almost 9:30 or so when he went into that rampage and killed some 30 people over at the engineering building.

FEYERICK: Exactly and they believe that he mailed it -- it was postmarked, it was stamped about 9:01, so that's when they think the package was mailed. That would have given him plenty of time to leisurely walk into Norris Hall.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk -- John Roberts is here with us. I want you to look at these haunting pictures that we're getting. You've been covering the story right from the beginning. Talk a little bit about these images, because as I see them it reminds me of Columbine and I know were you out there covering that as well.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NAT'L CORRESPONDENT: It is very so sad. He mentions the martyrs Eric and Dylan, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two masterminds and mass murderers at Columbine. It would appear that this video, we don't know for sure, but just from talking with students, the wall that you see behind you there, a concrete block wall painted sort of an off-white color, describes the inside of the dorm rooms here at Virginia Tech.

We talked with a student about that and he said his dorm room looks exactly the same, so it's quite possible this was shot inside a dorm room. Earlier today on "AMERICAN MORNING", we had Karan Grewel on. He is a quote, "suite mate" of Cho Seung-Hui. They have four rooms and then a common living area, so he would have been just across the hall potentially or just across the living area from Karan Grewel recording these videos while his suitemates were in there doing something else, sleeping, whatever.

BLITZER: Now take a look at this one. This is perhaps the most haunting, the most diabolical picture that has now been released.

ROBERTS: And this is absolute -- this is hallmark Dylan and Klebold, if will you. That touch brandishing of the guns -- he's got the Glock 19 in the right hand there. I wish I could see a little more clearly the actual size of the grip, because that would be able to tell you whether it was a 9-round magazine or a 15-hound magazine. They come in two different versions and he's got the Walther 22 in the left hand as well.

And then he's wearing of course the vest, which some people describe as you remember in early eyewitness accounts on Monday morning, looking like a Boy Scout. That's an ammunition vest, holds a number of different clips. If he shot 30 people at Norris Hall he would have had to reload at least once and make every bullet count.

But don't forget that we heard from the Montgomery Regional Medical Center that people who came in and there were more than a dozen of them, were shot at least three times. So he would have had to reload probably three or four times, which means he was carrying that many magazines.

BLITZER: As we look at this picture and refer to Columbine only because he raised it himself in this message. He was 23 years old when he killed all these people on Monday. He was a young boy when Columbine was happening, but clearly, it obviously had an impact on him.

ROBERTS: Yes, I mean he would have been what, 13 at the time, perhaps, 12, 13.


ROBERTS: So obviously -- you know for a group of people who sort of live in that area of society that did have a lot of resonance.

BLITZER: This picture over here you see him presumably trying to show what it was like when he actually went out and killed 32 people.

ROBERTS: Yes, I mean you can see him there taking a classic, what's called weaver stance with two hands on the weapon, you know gives you a very good accuracy in firing, particularly at close range. These would appear to be self-portraits I would think probably taken with a camera on a computer, which would be the same camera that he would have made those quick-time, as they were described by NBC videos...


BLITZER: I just want to remind our viewers, as we look at this picture of Cho, he bought those guns and apparently it was all legal.

ROBERTS: Yes, absolutely, because he was never found -- he was never convicted of a felony. Never found and registered as a mentally ill person, even though there is this document that Brian Todd will be talking about in just a minute that he was committed to a mental institution. There's some questions as to whether it was voluntarily or involuntarily that Brian will go through because none of those episodes were ever put into his record, he didn't show up in the federal database.

BLITZER: Deb, as you look at this and you've been covering the story now, you've been on the campus for some time. Students are going to see these pictures. And these -- this is not the way, especially with the guns pointed with the gloves, not necessarily the way he came across. We heard a lot of people say he walked around with a cap, with the brim down all the way, wearing sunglasses, even indoors, but that was a shot -- by the way, this is a shot of him inside a car that is a different look than he presented apparently to a lot of people.

FEYERICK: And the question is where's the car? And does that car have evidence, also? If he owned that car if the car was on campus, there was no indication that he left any car near the dorm. But that's probably one of the things that investigators are going to look into now. But also we spoke to a number of students and there is this psychological sense that they don't know if they're ever going to be able to go back into Norris Hall. They don't know whether in fact they're going to be able to take their final exams. How do they focus when all of this is going on?

Then you add that combined with these pictures and it creates a fuller picture of who this killer was. That here after killing two people in the dorm, he raced back into his very own dorm and so that leads one to believe that yes, if authorities had notified people sooner, could they have at least been much more on the alert, because he -- the trail to the post office, it's a very healthy walk. It's about, you know, a 15-minute walk if you're going at a very brisk clip. You mail the package and then it's 15 minutes back...

BLITZER: All right.

FEYERICK: ... to get into Norris Hall.

BLITZER: Hold on a second. John, I want to show our viewers this picture and they're about to see this killer with a hammer. Now take a look at this, and when you study it and you see that look on his face, what do you think?

ROBERTS: He was described as vicious and methodical by survivors of the shooting and I think there's a look right there with him with that hammer in his hand that is vicious, menacing, perhaps methodical as well. And they were just talking about, obviously somebody who kills people is going to be cold, but this fellow was very calculating, very determined to get to his victims.

Remember the stories of Zach Petkewicz, who was barricading that door as he was firing through the door. The story of the fellow who tied his leg in a tourniquet made out of electrical wire because as he was trying to barricade that door he was shot twice in the leg...


ROBERTS: ... one time severing an artery. So you know that picture says everything about what these students were describing.

BLITZER: You know and Deb, as I learn more and more about Cho, and I've been here now for a couple of days, but people say that in the final weeks of his life, he was working out. He was building, working with weights, trying to make himself -- he was a thin, young guy. He was trying to make himself look more menacing and more formidable.

FEYERICK: And you can see that even in his arms and the way he's holding the stance. He doesn't look meek, obviously, so if he was doing that, clearly there was a lot that was going into all of this and, again, he was walking on campus. Anybody could have seen him. Anybody could have been alerted, especially if he was wearing a vest. It depends...

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: I want to just show another picture that we're getting in. Take a look. This shows a different side of this killer. There he is. There's a little smile right there. People -- the students who saw him they would talk to him. He would never even answer their questions. He would just sort of walk by. And they say he never used to smile. He was just a mean, weird kind of guy, but there's a slight little smile there.

ROBERTS: Is that a happy smile? Is that a sinister smile? What is that? You know Karan Grewel, who was one of his suitemates said he didn't talk to him. Up until very recently thinking he was a foreign exchange student who couldn't speak English. That's how quiet he was.

But another point on what Deb was saying -- we heard from one person, security expert who said if that e-mail had gone out earlier, not only would it have notified students to what was going on, but would it have tipped off Cho that they knew that something was up and would he, then, perhaps have changed course? If he knew that they were looking for a killer, if he knew that there was a campus-wide alert would he have gone to Norris Hall?

BLITZER: Here's a question that I am sure the FBI, local, state law enforcement are asking right now. Did he take these pictures himself or did someone take these pictures of him, and if it was someone else, Deb, that people are -- law enforcement is going to want to question those individuals. I don't know if we know enough. It's certainly easy to take pictures of yourself. Everybody -- all of us know how to do that, but these pictures may or may not have been taken by himself. They may have been taken by someone else.

ROBERTS: It is particularly easy on a computer to take a photo of yourself and I would expect that these are self portraits...

BLITZER: You think they were self-made.

ROBERTS: I think they were. I think they were. I don't know.

FEYERICK: I think so too just because of the way -- you can see the way his sleeve is bunching up there on his arm and that's when you take a picture of yourself. You tend to move the camera like this, so...

ROBERTS: Yes, maybe he was holding it...

FEYERICK: Yes, exactly, holding it up like that. But also to get back to the point that you asked about, the weightlifting. We do know even 9/11, the terrorists then were all going to the gym. They were all working out. They were all trying to build themselves up, so that's part of the culture of getting ready to do some sort of act. You make sure that you're in physical shape to carry it out.

BLITZER: Obviously he was thinking long and hard about this. I want to play a little clip. He spoke in this video that he sent off to NBC, and we hear his voice now for the first time. I want to play this and then we'll talk.


CHO: You had 100 billion of chances and ways to have avoided today but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.


BLITZER: I couldn't understand everything he was saying. I don't know if you could, John.

ROBERTS: You could certainly hear it could have been avoided and spill blood. You know this guy is like Dylan Klebold and the Unabomber all wrapped into one with a computer. I mean it's just incredible the amount of calculation that he undertook, to send out this manifesto, this video manifesto, which apparently also includes text. If I read the statement from NBC correctly, there is text and then there are links to quick time videos that are interspersed throughout this text. I mean it could be done fairly quickly if you're adept to computers, but it still takes time.


ROBERTS: ... a lot of time and effort...

BLITZER: I want to play another little clip and let's see if we can understand a little bit better what he says in this excerpt. Listen to this.


CHO: I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled, but, no, I will no longer run. It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters the (BLEEP) I did it for them.


BLITZER: He did this for his brothers and sisters. I did this for them.

ROBERTS: I could have fled. I could have left but I didn't.

BLITZER: I didn't have to do this, but I -- he's boasting. He's happy he's doing this.

FEYERICK: He's definitely boasting. And not only that, the way he's done this, the sort of multimedia record of assassination. What he's done is he's given investigators absolutely no opportunity to try to question him, and, also, we were told that his sister, who had gone to Princeton, worked for a company, and somebody who was in touch with a representative or a person at the company said that the entire family is in complete shame. They are hiding out, especially in the Korean culture. This is -- how do you deal with something like this? There's nothing but shame here. Whether it was for his brothers and sisters... ROBERTS: You have to wonder, too, in all of these video vignettes, is there one where he says, this is why I'm going to do this? Right now it's sort of rambling. It's esoteric. You can't really get an idea of why it is that he's doing what he's doing. You know that he's angry at something. You know that he's upset.

He feels like he's been maligned, mistreated apparently and there are a lot of ramblings about privileged children and of course there are a lot of affluent kids who go to this college. He must have felt alienated by that, but so far we haven't heard anything that represented the triggering event. It will be interesting to see if within this body of material there is such a piece of video.

BLITZER: Brian Todd is joining us in this discussion. Brian, you've been here this week as well. You've been watching this investigation unfold. You've been looking at all of this. When you see these picture, these disturbing, haunting pictures, we hear his voice. What goes through your mind as a reporter who's been watching all of this very closely?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the first thing I think of, because I've been speaking to students here is what they must have been going through and what so many of his classmates, former classmates, people who saw him everyday on campus must be thinking when they see this tape. I mean it is incredible.

John mentioned the anger that he's going through, the calculation. Talk to the students here who are still trying to absorb a lot of this. They clearly have not absorbed a lot of it yet. What's going through their minds? Do they feel like there may be another person like this out there? Do they want to come back to campus now and of course what the families must be going through when they see this tape. NBC made it very clear that they understood the gravity of what they were doing in airing this, but watching it still just incredibly chilling and you think about the families there.

BLITZER: And I know, Brian, you prepared a report on this killer. And I want you to tell our viewers what you've come up with.

TODD: We have some startling new details tonight, Wolf, from police and from court documents about Cho Seung-Hui's legal and psychological problems.


TODD (voice-over): In those crucial minutes after the first shootings, before the second incident, Virginia Tech police pursued what now appears to be a false lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was information the officers obtained from the initial, speaking with witnesses.

TODD: One of those witnesses the roommate of Emily Hilscher, one of the first victims to die at Ambler Johnston Hall. According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by CNN from the Montgomery County Circuit Court, Hilscher's roommate, Heather Haugh, seen here on photos on her Web site, told police she'd recently shot guns at a range with Karl D. Thornhill.

On his Web site where we got these pictures, Thornhill characterizes himself as in a relationship with Emily Hilscher. Describing Thornhill's weapons, the affidavit says it is reasonable to believe that Thornhill has these guns still in his residence in Blacksburg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on that information we were following up and we were trying to explore all avenues to determine exactly what had happened.

TODD: Police interviewed Thornhill. According to the affidavit, he told them him he'd taken the guns to his parents' house in another Virginia town. While they interviewed Thornhill, police got word of a second round of shootings at Norris Hall.


TODD: Police say they never held Karl Thornhill. He's never been charged and is not a suspect. It's not clear how much time police took after the first shootings pursuing Thornhill or if they were following other leads at the same time.


TODD: We went to Karl Thornhill's residence here in Blacksburg. We also tried to call him. We also tried to call his parents as well as trying to contact Heather Haugh. None of them could be reached -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that was just a tragic, false lead. Unfortunately, nothing happened with him. There was nothing happening on that front, but there's another important development that you've been watching as well.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. Some new details tonight -- we've talked to police at the news conferences today. We've obtained some court documents from here in Blacksburg, nearby actually in Christiansburg regarding Cho Seung-Hui's legal problems, but also an incredible amount of detail now in some of his psychological issues.


TODD (voice-over): A dark picture of a mass murder that includes stalking and threats of suicide. Police say Monday's killing spree was not their first encounter with Cho Seung-Hui. November 2005, a female student calls police to complain about annoying phone calls and run-ins with Cho.

CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: The student declined to press charges and referred to Cho's contact with her as annoying.

TODD: No charges are filed. That is just the beginning.

FLINCHUM: In December of 2005, Cho instant messaged a second female student. Again no threat was made against that student. However, she made complaints to the Virginia Tech Police Department and asked that Cho have no further contact with her.

TODD: Cho's roommates say he had a history of troubling behavior with female students including repeated unwanted text messaging and phone calls, that the warning signs were there.

ANDY, CHO'S FORMER ROOMMATE: All the instances with the girls I think are the big warning signs. Like none of them ever came to like charges or anything, because I'm sure those girls weren't trying to cause trouble, but if any of them had, it may have stopped things then, but those are definite warning signs of someone that had some social problems.

TODD: The second time police were called, Cho made a threat. A threat his roommates took seriously.

ANDY: Seung became upset about that and he had 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.

TODD: Virginia Tech police say out of concern for Cho's own safety he was sent to counseling.

FLINCHUM: Based on that interaction with the counselor, a temporary detention order was obtained and Cho was taken to a mental health facility.

TODD: That court order declared Cho mentally ill and an imminent danger to himself. He was released just a few days later. Police say they never ran into Cho again until they found him dead in Norris Hall surrounded by the bodies of fellow students.

CHRIS FLYNN, VIRGINIA TECH COUNSELOR: It is very difficult to predict when what someone perceives as stalking is stalking, and then how it might translate into violence later. Clearly, if anyone had any warning about a violent incident, people would have stepped in and acted.

TODD: Despite the warning signs of a disturbed young man, police say there was nothing more they could do.


TODD: And one important note that Virginia gun laws prohibit someone from purchasing a weapon if they are quote, "ever been -- they have ever been adjudicated, mentally incapacitated or legally incompetent". Now Cho Seung-Hui did pass background checks when he bought both of those weapons according to authorities and Virginia police, Colonel Steve Flaherty said there was nothing in his record that would prohibit him from purchasing a weapon, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much -- all legal here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We're getting more pictures, new pictures coming in right now, pictures of this killer. We're going to be showing you these new pictures, very disturbing pictures, that's coming up in a moment -- also, more on the mysterious messages written on Cho Seung-Hui's arm, yes on his arm. We're investigating what it means, what it says.

Plus, it was clearly not a secret that Cho was deeply, deeply disturbed. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us into the mind of a mass killer, and we have new pictures that capture the chaos as the campus bloodbath was under way. I'll speak to two Swedish exchange students who took those pictures on this campus.

We're live here at Virginia Tech, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're getting more disturbing pictures, pictures of the killer, Cho Seung-Hui, pictures that apparently he took of himself and he mailed those pictures to NBC News.

Carol Costello has been watching. Look at this. He's got a knife pointed right to his throat. How chilling is that?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is chilling. You know what strikes me about this. Everybody I talked to said this guy wore a hat pulled low over his face all the time and never spoke much at all, but here he is you know for the camera, and I can't help but think this is exactly what he wants us all to see, him in all of his grotesque glory.

BLITZER: For whatever reason he wants to show this kind of horrid -- horrible situation. Take a look at this next picture, Carol, because it also shows an extremely haunting moment. Look at this. Look at that grimace on his face and look at that gun.

COSTELLO: Well you know a lot of people have talked about his writings and his poetry and how violent they were, and how many weapons he used to tell his stories, but it seems like he's playing out his fantasy in these pictures. I mean that's what struck me right away about this. When people read his poetry and his plays, they were frightened of him. That's how violent and macabre his writings were. And it seems that he took those words and he turned them into pictures for all the world to see.

BLITZER: Carol, stand by. We're going to get back to you. But tonight CNN has also confirmed that the Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui had a very mysterious message, "Ax Ishmael", written on his arm.

CNN's Tom Foreman is investigating what this might mean. What are you finding out, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the mystery just gets deeper and deeper on this. The return address on that package to NBC, also, appears to say "A. Ishmael or Ax Ishmael". It's not clear which. Now where does this term come from? Well the simple truth is Ishmael is a huge character in Christianity, Judaism and especially Islam where he is considered a founder. It is important, however, that as the son of Abraham is looked at that we consider that this young man, Cho's family had a relationship with the Christian church and in his message he talks about Jesus and about Christianity as he rambles on. This is the description from Genesis of the character Ishmael.

It says, he will be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand will be against him. Is this the Ishmael he's talking about here, we don't know. But we know this. There are other places he could have found out about it as an English major. Obviously the lead character in "Moby Dick," this obsessive quest story is a man named Ishmael.

There's a book about a philosophic guerrilla that's very, very popular where the character's name is Ishmael and it also appears in poetry that he may well have been exposed to. But more importantly, some of the people we've been talking to today, who are criminologists and psychologists, say this name may fall in line with all the things you've been talking about here.

He gets a haircut. He starts lifting weights. He changes what's he's wearing. He changes his appearance before the camera. Psychologists say this is fairly common among people who are going to embark on a premeditated murder spree. They have to change themselves first to do this. Think of the description of him beforehand, speaking so softly you could barely hear him, never meeting people's eyes, never being willing to speak up or be noticed. Suddenly in a single day, he's going to become the man who's controlling the campus.

Psychologists and criminologists are looking at this and looking at this name "Ax Ishmael" and saying, "Is this part of a deadly metamorphosis?" That he was in fact, changing all those things because he was breaking out from being what he had before and becoming this maniacal killer. The question remains, however, where did Ax Ishmael come from as a name, and was he acting as Ax Ishmael? And if so, what does that mean - Wolf?

BLITZER: And one footnote to all of this, Tom. There's a report that the return address on that package, he mailed to NBC News, had the words "A. Ishmael," or Ax Ishmael written as the name on the return address.

Tom, a mystery that continues, thank you.

And long before Monday's massacre, teachers and fellow students here on the campus at Virginia Tech saw signs of trouble in Cho's behavior. We turn to Carol Costello once again. A lot of people found this young man very, very disturbing in recent years.

COSTELLO: Everybody you talk to said clearly, this guy was troubled. So a lot of people are wondering, why didn't they just throw him out of the university? Keep in mind, the university didn't have any of those pictures that we just saw and didn't know about this Ishmael Ax either. It's just not that simple.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIKKI GIOVANNI, PROFESSOR, VIRGINIA TECH: I think Cho was mean, and it's the expression I use. I've talked to students I know to be a little on the crazy side. I've taught students I know to be a little disturbed emotionally or mentally, and this was a mean guy.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Chilling words now from Cho Seung-hui's creative writing prof, world-renown poet Nikki Giovanni, who said she was so intimidated by his creepy behavior. She told administrators she wanted him out.

GIOVANNI: Mr. Cho has to come out of my class, or I'm going to resign.

COSTELLO: Giovanni cited Cho's bizarre, violent poems that mimic the language he used in other creative writing classes. In a play, one of Cho's characters says, "I hate him. Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Dick must die."

But while administrators pulled Cho from Giovanni's classes, he remained at Virginia Tech, even though English department head Lucinda Roy took Cho's writing to Virginia Tech police. Administrators say they had no choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't suspend someone or put them in jail because they're weird.

COSTELLO: But some students say Cho crossed from weird behavior to scary when he stalked two female students in 2005.

WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: The student declined to press charges, and referred to Cho's contact with her as annoying.

COSTELLO: Later that month, Virginia Tech police say Cho was reported to be suicidal. He agreed to undergo counseling at a mental health facility. We've also just learned he was declared mentally ill by a special magistrate. But eventually he was back in school, able to buy a gun, able to go on his deadly shooting spree. Giovanni is devastated.

GIOVANNI: There's no adult on our campus who if we could have prevented it, we would have done it.


COSTELLO: You know, keep in mind that Mr. Cho was not charged with any crime. He wasn't convicted of any crime. He went to that mental facility voluntarily. He was released. He went back to school.

In all of 2006, Virginia Tech police say they had no trouble with him association the university allowed him to get back in to school and then you know, the horrible event happened. So the university says you know he didn't do anything to merit being kicked out.

BLITZER: Well the governor has ordered a complete after-action review, as he's calling it, to try to learn some of the lessons that can be learned from this tragedy.

COSTELLO: One of the key that university officials told me is that he didn't specifically threaten anyone with violence and that is the key. And that is why they let him back in to school.

BLITZER: You only have to be here at Virginia Tech for a moment to feel the heartache that's gripping this entire campus. While most people are grieving privately, some are finding strength in sharing memories of their loved ones.

Mike and Peggy Herbstritt are remembering their son Jeremy, along with his friend Ken Stanton. The Herbstritts are speaking publicly for the first time.


BLITZER: Peggy and Mike, I know this is very hard for you to talk about your son under these circumstances, but tell us a little bit about your wonderful, loving son.

PEGGY HERBSTRITT, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Jeremy had a lot of energy. From the time he was born and even through graduate school, I don't think he slept more than a couple of hours a day. He loved life. He did everything to the fullest. He -- he was never afraid to try anything, either. Whether he thought he would succeed or not, he just jumped right in.


MIKE HERBSTRITT, VICTIM'S FATHER: He was a great son. He was the best son in the world I ever had. You know, I have two sons. I love them both. And Jeremy was a son that -- he worked with me side by side. My son Joe does the same thing. Joe is a very beautiful son. And I have two daughters.

And Jeremy, sometimes he'd tell me, he said, "Dad, we're going to put up a fence." And to Jeremy, it wasn't just working four hours or eight hours. When he said you're going to put up a fence, you worked 12 hours. And he worked until he got that fence done, you know?

And he loved this Blacksburg area. Jeremy was a hiker. He was a biker. He ran in marathons. And he was a good kid. Everybody -- everybody that met him liked him, you know? And he was happy. And he lived his life happy.

BLITZER: What was he majoring in?

Peggy, what was he majoring in here at Virginia Tech?

He was a graduate student.

P. HERBSTRITT: A graduate student in civil engineering.

BLITZER: So he was in that engineering building at the time?

M. HERBSTRITT: Yes. Yes. BLITZER: Did -- have you learned of the circumstances of -- of what happened?

M. HERBSTRITT: All we learned...

P. HERBSTRITT: Well, we...

M. HERBSTRITT: ... is that -- that...

P. HERBSTRITT: We really don't know.

I do want to tell you this. Monday, we were in Boston at the marathon. And Jeremy, because of his energy and his -- his zeal for running, he involved all of this siblings. Jeremy has to sisters and a younger brother. And Jennifer -- she's 25 -- she ran the Boston marathon and we were there that day watching her run.

And Jeremy had called the night before...

BLITZER: Sunday night?

P. HERBSTRITT: Sunday night.


P. HERBSTRITT: Uh-huh, calling to wish her well and to hope things went well for her.

BLITZER: Was that the last time you spoke to him?


M. HERBSTRITT: And he...

P. HERBSTRITT: Yes. He loved his brothers. He loved his sisters and I hope Joe, Stef, I hope you're -- and, Jen, you're watching -- and Brad. Jeremy has a lot of friends here at Virginia Tech. He definitely left an impact on him.

They said he was a quiet young man, if you can believe that, OK?

M. HERBSTRITT: Who said that?

BLITZER: Well, one of his good friends is here.

Ken, talk a little bit about Jeremy, because he -- by all accounts, everything we've heard -- and we know the parents are loving, wonderful parents -- talk a little bit about this really, really great guy.


You know, it's kind of funny because he moved into my building the beginning of this academic year. And I saw a lot of new people moving in, so I said hey, I should get to know them. I had a party at my place, invited everyone to come down and just hang out and get to know each other. And, you know, Jeremy was one of those.

And instantly, he walked in and just started talking. And everybody got to know everybody very quickly. He's -- he is very energetic and passionate and, you know, can just talk up a storm.

And, you know, I've hung out with him nearly every weekend since that point in time. He's -- he's, you know, very -- a lot of fun to hang out with and I saw him regularly, of course, living downstairs from him.

M. HERBSTRITT: And if anybody ever asked Jeremy for some help, Jeremy was there to help them.

STANTON: That's so true.

M. STANTON: He helped everybody out.

STANTON: He helped me a lot.

M. STANTON: And -- and he had a good heart. He had a good heart.

BLITZER: What else would you like to say?

I know this is -- this must be so...

M. STANTON: He caught...

BLITZER: ... so painful...

M. STANTON: He caught...

BLITZER: ... and difficult and I know you've never really done television interviews before, but you really want to speak about your son and tell the world about this remarkable young man, Peggy, right?

M. STANTON: He caught the first West Nile mosquito in Center County, you know? He was on the West Nile virus mosquito program. It was one of his jobs. And he was a good son to both Peggy and myself. STANTON: You know...

BLITZER: So special.

STANTON: ... to put -- to put it into perspective for you, I had a couple of people come up to me at the convocation yesterday, three girls. And I hardly recognized them. I had only met them once, one night out with Jeremy. We talked to them for, maybe, collectively, two hours.

And they were just, you know, totally devastated. And I thought to myself, these are people who hardly know Jeremy. But then I realized, it doesn't take long. He's an open book. He's a -- he has a very open mind. He's very talkative and ongoing. And it just -- he overcomes, you know, you very quickly and he's very captivating. M. STANTON: He was an honest boy.


M. STANTON: A very honest boy. He told you the truth, whether you liked it or not.

STANTON: Very true.

M. STANTON: You know, he told you the truth.

BLITZER: He was -- he was so special.

Peggy, is there anything else you would like to say?

I know this is very, very hard for you to do this and -- but if there's -- if there is anything you'd like to say, you know, go ahead.

P. STANTON: It is. It will not seem real to me until I actually see his body. But I want to say to my other children, Jeremy loved you very much. I know right now you think of him as being dead, but we can keep him alive in our hearts. We will find a way to make this -- make some kind of positive out of this.

So, please, guys, stick together, OK?

BLITZER: How are the...

P. STANTON: We love him.

BLITZER: How are your other kids doing?

M. STANTON: It's tough. It's tough. They're -- they're sad.

They're missing their brother, you know?

And it's -- it's hard to lose your brother.

It's hard to lose your son, you know? And on Monday night, I was watching some of the newscasters. And I don't think the newscasters really understand how hard it is, you know, to lose your son, you know?

It's -- it's really hard. And it hits you right in your heart. You know, that's the whole thing really. But we have to go on. We've got to celebrity Jeremy's life.


M. STANTON: That's going to be the rest of our life.

BLITZER: We're trying to do that...

M. STANTON: The rest of our life is going to be to celebrate his life, to say what he did good, you know, and to say that Jeremy was a good boy, a good man and we're going to love him forever. STANTON: That's right.

M. STANTON: That's what we're going to do. We're going to love him.

BLITZER: God bless him and god bless all of you and -- and thank you for sharing his story with us.

Peggy, is there anything else you want to say?

P. STANTON: No. Just thank you to his adviser, to Dr. Dipliss (ph), to all the people in the department. Jeremy really found his niche here. This really -- this was his home and you people were his family. And he -- he loved it here. And he learned so much from you.

I just want to say I thank you for doing that for my son.

BLITZER: And we know that he was just awarded a scholarship, too, for outstanding academic achievement.


BLITZER: It was just a fitting tribute to his...

STANTON: He was so happy.

BLITZER: ... to his great -- his great academic skills.


BLITZER: What loving parents and our deepest condolences to them, the entire family. To all the families of these victims here on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Still ahead tonight, two Swedish exchange students arrive here at Virginia Tech Sunday night only to witness this event unfold Monday morning. Their extraordinary video of the chaos on campus. That's coming up.

Also what drives someone to arm themselves and pick off people one by one? Is there such a thing as a killer brain? Plus -- amidst all of this, an extremely violent day in Iraq. And the Iraqi prime minister arrests one of his own. We're going to show you what happened. All that coming up right here. Our special coverage continues in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. We are now hearing the voice of the killer, Cho Seung-Hui. He mailed out a package of himself the day he went on a shooting rampage here on the campus of Virginia Tech. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us now. Sanjay, listen to this clip of what he says. Listen to this.


CHO SEUNG-HUI, MURDERER: You had 100 billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.


BLITZER: Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off. Sanjay what, if anything, can we learn about this? The difference between someone who talks crazy, someone who goes out and actually commits mass murder?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is very difficult at times, Wolf. You're talking about sort of the difference between having objective criteria versus subjective criteria with regard to mental illness, quite frankly.

Some of the things you look for, some of the things that make it a little bit clearer, does someone have a plan? They're talking like this, do they have a plan to actually execute what they're talking about? Are they starting to do things that might lead you to believe they're not going to be around? Are they giving away prized possessions for example? Things that make you think not only about killing other people, but themselves as well. But it can be very, very hard, Wolf.

What struck me the most was that you really talked about people - there's no system in place to basically deal with someone like him. What do you if you hear this without -- if he hasn't done anything what do you do with someone like this? There's not system in place to deal with that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Could there be, Sanjay, a physical disorder involved here?

GUPTA: I was really struck by that. Yes, perhaps. It's an unlikely scenario but perhaps. One of the things I thought about a lot over the last couple of days, Wolf, is Whitman, the man who shot so many people at the University of Texas back in 1966. At autopsy, Wolf, and you may already know this, but they actually found a brain tumor that was pushing on his frontal lobes. The frontal lobes of that area of the brain that are responsible for his judgment, for his ability to actually judge things and decide whether or not he was going to act on it.

They found that afterwards. Whether or not it was absolutely responsible for what he did in 1966 is harder to say, but, yeah, there could be physical things. We don't know yet whether or not Cho Seung- hui is going to have an autopsy, but a lot of people are very interested in that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are we likely to learn more about what was going on in his brain from some forensic evidence from an autopsy?

GUPTA: I think so. I think you would learn a fair amount from an autopsy, especially an autopsy of his brain. It may be perfectly normal, you wouldn't see anything that would lead you to believe, well this is the reason why. But also keep in mind, this is a man who from what I'm hearing, Wolf, just like you, that he actually shot himself in the face, he probably damaged part of his brain. Especially the frontal lobes that are so involved with judgment and decision-making. That may be harder to tell with him in particular.

BLITZER: One final question, Sanjay. We know we had a mental illness. There are reports he was taking all sorts of medication. Could drugs, if you will, cause this kind of violent behavior?

GUPTA: Perhaps, Wolf. When you talk about antidepressants, for the most part they're going to treat depression, they're going to treat some mental illness.

In very rare situations, what can happen is if someone is severely depressed, the antidepressant can actually raise their energy level enough where they're not actually treated of their depression, but they've raised their energy enough to act out on some of the suicidal or homicidal ideations that they may have had while depressed. So possibly - very rare, but a possibility there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks very much. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, helping us better understand this.

Just ahead, new video today of the minutes when Cho Seung-hui went on the rampage. We're going to hear from the two students who took these pictures and later what police found in Cho's room after these terrible deeds were done. Much more from the campus of Virginia Tech, right after this.


BLITZER: Some dramatic new video of Monday's attacks here at Virginia Tech has emerged. It was shot by a pair of Swedish students who were on the campus for a one-week exchange.

Martin Arvebro and Carl Nordin were in a building adjacent to Norris Hall when the terrible events there began to unfold.


BLITZER: What do you think, Carl, when you -- when you saw the scurrying, the people running back and forth, what went through your mind?

CARL NORDIN, SWEDISH EXCHANGE STUDENT: We thought it was an exercise. We had no -- we heard no gunshots.

BLITZER: A training exercise, yes.

NORDIN: A training exercise, yes.

BLITZER: And so what -- what made you and Martin decide to go ahead and roll -- roll your video, your camera?

NORDIN: Well, because it was so -- the police came and it was -- they were really, really upset. And they screamed, "Get back! Get back!" And they had -- and they pushed us back into the building.

And then well, it was so very dramatic. So we had the film cameras there and thought well, let's just shoot it.

BLITZER: And then what happened?

Walk us through this process, Martin, what we're seeing now.

MARTIN ARVEBRO, SWEDISH EXCHANGE STUDENT: What we're seeing now is the ambulance made it -- made itself way up to the Norris building. At this point, there were actually students telling us to get out of McBride Building. But for some reason, call it stupid -- my mom would -- I just stayed around because I knew there was a stretcher going in. So I just wanted to see what would come out.

So -- and momentarily we will be seeing a stretcher of a girl coming out, which, from what I could see at the point, had blood stains on her knees.

BLITZER: And she was taken to this ambulance that we see there?


NORDIN: Yes. I think she was rolled out at the moment here.

BLITZER: And she was -- she was coming out of Norris, the engineering building?

You're in...

ARVEBRO: Exactly.

BLITZER: That's -- is that her?

NORDIN: That's her, yes.

ARVEBRO: Yes. And she's lifting her head, so -- right there. So that's what -- that was my indicator that she was at least -- that she was still alive.

BLITZER: Do you -- have you subsequently learned who that person was?


BLITZER: So you don't know who that was?

But she is being rolled into this ambulance and she's going to be taken to a hospital where hopefully she's eventually going to be just -- just fine.

But did you see more of this kind of situation unfold, more wounded students being brought out of that Norris engineering building?

NORDIN: No, students, but we saw a professor being brought out from the building opposite us.

BLITZER: That's Norris. You were across the street.

ARVEBRO: Exactly. Yes. OK. That's right.

BLITZER: And who was -- do you know who the professor was?

NORDIN: No, we do not know.

BLITZER: How long had both of you been here on campus?

When did you arrive at Virginia Tech?

ARVEBRO: Sunday evening.

BLITZER: Sunday evening?

You just got here Sunday night?

NORDIN: Yes. This is the first thing that happened to us.

BLITZER: The first -- the first day -- the first full day that you were on the campus, you see this horrific tragedy unfold and you had presence of mind, both of you, to get your cameras out and to roll tape.

What do you think? What was your impression, Martin, as you watched all of this?

ARVEBRO: I mean, initially it just seemed so surreal. It seemed like something you see, I mean, through American television all these years back in Sweden. So it just -- it still seems surreal, because I think since we were right in the middle of it, we still haven't been able to digest it properly.


BLITZER: Arvebro and Nordin arrived here in Blacksburg the night before the massacre. They say they have no plans to cut short their visit here.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour and we continue our coverage on this breaking news. Paula, what do you got?

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And we are going to try, Wolf, to follow the trail of a killer tonight, starting with these absolutely amazing and chilling pictures that Cho Seung-hui mailed to NBC News the morning of the Virginia Tech massacre. According to NBC, right after the first two murders happened.

We're also going to look at the warning signs including a magistrate's finding that Cho was an imminent danger to himself and others in 2005. The question tonight is, Wolf, why did this guy fall through so many cracks in the system?

BLITZER: And you're not leaving the story, you're going to stay on top of it the entire hour. All right, we'll be watching. Paula, thanks very much. We're live here in Blacksburg, Virginia, the scene of the worst shooting incident in modern U.S. history. We're going to get back to this story in just a moment. First though, Zain Verjee is monitoring some other important stories coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now - Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, insurgents struck terror across Baghdad today, killing 198 people and wounding 240 more in a series of bombings.

Most of the casualties came at the Sadriya markets in central Baghdad, where police say a parked car blew up killing 124 people and wounding more than 150. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later ordered the arrest of the Iraqi army colonel that was in charge of security there.

Thirty-five people died in a security suicide bombing near an Iraqi army checkpoint at an entrance to Sadr City. Then another car bomb exploded near a hospital and market in central Baghdad's Karrada district. Eleven people died in that attack.

And in the Musafa (ph) area of northwestern Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed four people. At least eight other were killed in two more bombings in the capital. A really bloody day, Wolf?

BLITZER: Horrible day in Iraq today, Zain, thanks for that.

Up next, what were police looking for? What did they actually find in the killer's Virginia Tech dorm room? Stay with us. More of our special coverage, right after this.


BLITZER: We're learning more about what authorities found in Cho's dorm room while carrying out a search warrant the night of the shooting. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi, what does the warrant say police were actually looking for?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it says they were looking for weapons, explosives, but also pens and paper that could have been used to communicate bomb threats.

The search warrant here for Cho's room in Harper Hall lists what police took away with them. A chain, a knife are listed. A compact computer as well amongst these 16 items. A combination lock and also tools, but also assorted books and note pads along with six sheets of green graph paper.

And an affidavit that accompanied the search warrant explains why the police were so interested in this writing materials. It said a bomb threat was found at the site of the shooting in Norris Hall. That affidavit said it's reasonable to believe that the suspect, Cho, was the author of that note.

We've put the search warrant online at so viewers can see it for themselves -- Wolf? BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. That's it for this hour. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Virginia. Up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Paula?