In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho carried out one of the worst mass murders in recent history in the United States. He and his family came to the country from South Korea when Cho was about eight years old. They eventually settled in Centreville, Virginia, and ran a dry-cleaning business. He was known as a shy child who liked basketball and did well in math. But according to an article in Newsweek magazine, Cho was also bullied by other children, including wealthy members of his church.
In high school, Cho was described as sullen and aloof. After graduating in 2003, he went on to study at Virginia Tech University. Located in Blacksburg, Virginia, the school has an extensive campus with more than 26,000 students residing there. Cho stood out as a near-silent loner who wrote gruesome poems, stories, and plays. He sometimes referred to himself as “Question Mark.”
One professor, poet Nikki Giovanni, had him removed from her class for disturbing the other students. She told Time magazine that “there was something mean about this boy.” She said that he was “a bully” and always came to class wearing sunglasses and a hat, which she would always ask him to remove. Cho was also photographing the legs and knees of female students in the class. Other members of the English department faculty were concerned about him as well. Lucinda Roy, the co-director of the school’s creative writing program, took him out of class and tutored him individually. She also encouraged Cho to get counseling.
In addition to his odd behavior and dark writings, Cho exhibited other potential warning signs. He was twice accused of stalking female students in 2005, but neither victim filed charges. A suicidal statement by Cho to a suitemate led to him being taken to a psychiatric hospital in December of that year. He was soon released with orders to receive therapy as an outpatient. Documents released in June 2007 indicate that he did attend at least one court-ordered counseling session at the Cook Counseling Center.
On April 16, Cho began his rampage by killing two students in a dormitory after 7 a.m. He later went to a classroom building and began shooting students and faculty members, killing 30 people and injuring numerous others around 9:45 a.m. The spree only ended when Cho turned one of his guns on himself; he shot himself in the head. The entire nation was shocked and horrified by the events at Virginia Tech. Up until that point, the largest campus shooting had been in 1966 when Charles Whitman killed 15 people on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
In between the two sets of attacks, Cho went to the post office to mail a package to NBC News in New York. Received two days after the murders, it contained video clips, photographs of Cho posing with his weapons, and a rambling document. In one of the video clips he rails against rich “brats” and talks about being bullied and picked on; he also attacks Christianity and positioned himself as some type of avenger for the weak and defenseless. Cho even referenced the notorious Columbine school shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.