|08-30-2007, 09:58 AM||#1|
Angling in the Deep
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Texas Riviera, Southern Mountains
Report Faults Virginia Tech Response in Shootings
I think that was pretty obvious. Campus police and authorities assumed they knew what had happened in the first shootings when they really didn't know.
Report faults Virginia Tech response in shootings
By Stuart Grudgings
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virginia Tech University officials should have been quicker to notify students and faculty about two killings on campus hours before the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history, according to a state report on Thursday.
Criticizing the university's response, the state panel convened by Gov. Tim Kaine said lives could have been saved if officials had issued an alert after student Seung-Hui Cho shot his first two victims in a dormitory on the morning of April 16.
Two hours later, Cho turned up on the other side of campus, where he killed 30 other students and teachers, methodically gunning them down in a classroom building.
"I think it is an extremely thorough report that gives us a blueprint for changes that we need to make in Virginia and on college campuses everywhere," Kaine said Thursday on CNN.
The report, released on the governor's Web site, said university police concluded prematurely that their initial lead in the first shootings was good. Police had pursued another suspect they believed was no longer on the campus.
"The VTPD (Virginia Tech Police Department) erred in not requesting ... a campus-wide notification that two persons had been killed and that all students and staff should be cautious and alert," said the report by the eight-member panel, which included former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
A Virginia Tech review last week said the university should step up counseling for troubled students and monitor those who may turn violent.
But the state report said Virginia Tech officials missed numerous indications of Cho's problems because they misinterpreted federal privacy laws as forbidding any exchange of a student's mental health information.
'NO ONE CONNECTED THE DOTS'
The report found campus police knew of Cho's history of bizarre behavior and his stay at a mental health facility but the information never reached university officials working with troubled students.
"No one knew all the information and no one connected the dots," the report said.
Despite what school officials believed, federal privacy laws would have allowed for the communication of some information about his problems to local, state and campus police, the report said.
"The system failed for lack of resources, incorrect interpretation of privacy laws, and passivity," it said.
Kaine said he believed the officials involved were not lawyers and feared violating the "various and complicated laws concerning sharing of information."
The report also faulted Virginia's mental health laws and a lack of resources in the state's mental health system.
It recommended the state's law be changed to clearly require information on persons such as Cho -- who have been ordered into out-patient treatment but not committed to an institution -- be entered into a federal database for background checks on would-be gun purchasers.
Although Cho's motives remained unclear, he had fantasies about the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in which two students killed 13 people.
The report said the university and the state initially fell short in helping families and others because of inadequate leadership and coordination among the service providers.
But Kaine said Virginia Tech has been highly responsive to victims' relatives, students and parents.
"This is not a situation where you're dealing with a university that's been insensitive," he said. "There is intense pain on this campus that remains five months later and it will remain for a long time."
(Additional reporting by Vicki Allen in Washington)