Virginia Tech: Gunman was a student from S. Korea

The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead was identified Tuesday as a senior English major from South Korea. But police and university officials offered no clue to his motive.

"He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him," school spokesman Larry Hincker said, a day after the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

The rampage consisted of two attacks, more than two hours apart -- first at a dormitory, where two people were killed, then inside a classroom building, where 31 people, including the gunman, died after being locked inside, Virginia State Police said. The gunman committed suicide.

Police identified the gunman in the classroom attack as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui (pronounced Choh Suhng-whee). Cho held a green card -- meaning he was a legal, permanent U.S. resident -- and had been in the United States since 1992, federal officials said. Officials said he graduated from a public high school in Chantilly, Va., in 2003.

His family lives in Centreville, Va., a Washington suburb, but he was living on campus, in a different dorm from the one where the bloodbath began, the university said.

One law enforcement official said Cho's backpack contained a receipt for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol. As a permanent legal resident of the United States, Cho was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

Investigators stopped short of saying Cho carried out both attacks. But ballistics tests show one gun was used in both, Virginia State Police said.

And two law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced, said Cho's fingerprints were found on the two guns used in the rampage. The serial numbers on the two weapons had been filed off, the officials said.

Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said it was reasonable to assume that Cho was the shooter in both attacks but that the link was not yet definitive. "There's no evidence of any accomplice at either event, but we're exploring the possibility," he said.

The gunman's family lived in an off-white, two-story town house in Centreville.

"He was very quiet, always by himself," neighbor Abdul Shash said of the gunman. Shash said the gunman spent a lot of his free time playing basketball, and wouldn't respond if someone greeted him. He described the family as quiet.

Marshall Main, who lives across the street, said the family had lived in the townhouse for several years.

According to court records, Virginia Tech Police issued a speeding ticket to Cho on April 7 for going 44 mph in a 25 mph zone, and he had a court date set for May 23.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry expressed its condolences, and said South Korea hoped that the tragedy would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."

"We are in shock beyond description," said Cho Byung-se, a ministry official handling North American affairs. "We convey deep condolences to victims, families and the American people."

A memorial service was planned for the victims Tuesday afternoon at the university, and President Bush planned to attend, the White House said. Gov. Tim Kaine was flying back to Virginia from Tokyo for the gathering.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the week.

Many students were leaving town quickly, lugging pillows, sleeping bags and backpacks down the sidewalks.

Jessie Ferguson, 19, a freshman from Arlington, left Newman Hall and headed for her car with tears streaming down her red cheeks.

"I'm still kind of shaky," she said. "I had to pump myself up just to kind of come out of the building. I was going to come out, but it took a little bit of 'OK, it's going to be all right. There's lots of cops around."'

Although she wanted to be with friends, she wanted her family more. "I just don't want to be on campus," she said.

Will Nachlas, 19, a freshman from Hershey, Pa., sat on a bench, waiting for a ride.

"The majority of people are leaving campus, trying to get away," he said. "Lots of people are going home, and lots of people's parents took them home. They don't even know when they'll come back."

The first deadly attack was at the dormitory around 7:15 a.m., but some students said they didn't get their first warning about a danger on campus until two hours later, in an e-mail at 9:26 a.m. By then the second attack had begun.

Two students told NBC's "Today" show they were unaware of the dorm shooting when they walked into Norris Hall for a German class where the gunman later opened fire.

The victims in Norris Hall were found in four different classrooms and a stairwell, Flaherty said. Cho was found dead in one of those classrooms, he said.

Derek O'Dell, his arm in a cast after being shot, described a shooter who fired away in "eerily silence" with "no specific target -- just taking out anybody he could."

After the gunman left the room, students could hear him shooting other people down the hall. O'Dell said he and other students barricaded the door so the shooter couldn't get back in -- though he later tried.

"After he couldn't get the door open he tried shooting it open ... but the gunshots were blunted by the door," O'Dell said.

The slayings left people of this mountain town and the university at its heart praying for the victims and struggling to find order in a tragedy of such unspeakable horror it defies reason.

"For Ryan and Emily and for those whose names we do not know," one woman pleaded in a church service Monday night.

Another mourner added: "For parents near and far who wonder at a time like this, 'Is my child safe?"'

University President Charles Steger emphasized that the university closed off the dorm after the first attack and decided to rely on e-mail and other electronic means to spread the word.

He said that before the e-mail was sent, the university began telephoning resident advisers in the dorms and sent people to knock on doors. Students were warned to stay inside and away from the windows.

"We can only make decisions based on the information you had at the time. You don't have hours to reflect on it," Steger said.

Until Monday, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard plowed his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.

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Associated Press Writer Justin Pope in Blacksburg contributed to this report.

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