Virginia: Virginia’s governor has named an independent panel to investigate a university massacre by a mentally ill student, as the grieving town held the first funeral for one of the dead.
Governor Tim Kaine’s announcement came as Virginia Tech university officials faced questions over whether the killer, a student with a history of mental problems and stalking women, should have been allowed to remain in school.
Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a Virginia Tech senior, went on the rampage on 16 April, mowing down 32 teachers and students with two recently bought handguns. It later emerged he had been identified as mentally ill.
In a video diatribe sent to a US television network, a clearly unbalanced Cho brandished the murder weapons, painted himself as a long-suffering martyr and compared himself to Jesus Christ.
Kaine said the panel would seek to discover “everything we know” about Cho, including his dealings with the mental health system and the type of treatment he received. It will include former high-ranking police, security officials,a psychiatrist and state education official and will aim to answer the questions: “What were the warning signs? Who was warned? What was done?” he said.
The panel will investigate the two-and-half-hour gap between the first shooting in which two people were killed, and Cho’s rampage in a classroom building where he killed 30 other people.
It will also delve into the police and emergency medical responses to the shootings. The panel will be headed by Gerald Massengill, a former Virginia police chief, and will include Tom Ridge, a former head of the US Department of Homeland Security, plus a veteran Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official.
Criticism over disturbing TV visuals
There is mounting criticism over the television network’s editorial judgement in choosing to air disturbing images from 27 short videos, 43 photographs and an 1,800-word document.
Suhail Samaha, cousin of Reema Samaha, one of the victims, said he “would have rather not seen it.” “It did not serve any purpose except to make me angry,” he said. NBC defended its decision to release the video. Along with other networks including CNN, it later pledged to reduce the amount of air time devoted to the footage.
They maintain their stance that :“We covered this story, and our unique role in it with extreme sensitivity, underscored by our devoted efforts to remember and honour the victims and heroes of this tragic incident.”