Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The following article appeared in two Virginia newspapers ten days after the Virginia Tech tragedy:

The Rappahanock Record
April 26, 2007

Virginia Tech: Let the Cover-up Begin

By David Cariens, Jr.

The sad truth is that the terrible loss of life at Virginia Tech could have been prevented if state and school officials in Blacksburg would have learned the lessons from the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law on January 16, 2002. The parallels between the two tragedies are staggering.

Angela Dales, the mother of our granddaughter, was the student killed at the law school. In the five years since that tragedy we have repeatedly sought answers. But we have been met with disingenuous expressions of sympathy followed by outright refusal to answer our questions. The same will happen to the families of those lost at Virginia Tech.

Students, staff, and faculty warned law school officials that the murderer, Peter Odighizuwa, was a threat and they feared for their safety. The same is true at Virginia Tech—there were warnings about Cho Seung Hui.

Five years ago, no alarm was sounded on the second floor of the law school building after the initial shootings—an alarm that might have saved Angela Dales life and prevented the wounding of three other students. At Virginia Tech, over two hours lapsed between the first shootings and the second. And, no alarms were sounded!

Court documents indicate that several weeks before the law school shooting, female staff and faculty members—citing Odighizuwa—expressed concern for their safety. The President of the Appalachian School is said to have responded, “Oh you women and your hormones, nothing will happen.” The President of Virginia Tech knew of the first shooting and did nothing to immediately close or alert the campus. Both men should be fired.

Both Peter Odighizuwa and Cho Seung Hui had harassed fellow students and the schools knew about it.

Both Peter Odighizuwa and Cho Seung Hui had been referred to mental facilities or were seeking psychiatric care, and the schools knew about it.

The office of former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore refused to help us get access to the investigation report of a threatening e-mail Angela Dales received prior to the shooting. The same will happen to Virginia Tech families when they turn to state officials for help.

The Virginia Tech families will learn the bitter truth that in dealing with these tragedies, all elected officials want to do is plant a tree, put up a plaque, or adopt a bill commemorating the shooting. None of them, Republican or Democrat, have the will or backbone to really investigate the causes of the tragedy and propose laws, or enact regulations, that will begin to deal with the prevention of these atrocities.

Since the horrible events on April 16th the phrase, “Let the healing begin” has been repeated over and over again. What would be closer to reality is, “Let the cover up begin.”

The sad truth is that when put to the test, numerous elected officials and far too many members of the legal and law enforcement professions show that our beliefs and values mean little or nothing to them. Values such as honesty, courage, integrity—and justice—frequently disappear in a fog of deceit, treachery, and bureaucratic incompetence.

In our case, when the words of law enforcement as well as law school and elected officials took on a pejorative, even a disparaging tone—our pain deepened. When we turned to these individuals to find answers, to find “justice”—we found intellectual fraud and deceit. The same will likely happen to the families who lost loved ones at Virginia Tech.

What could have been done to prevent the tragedy of April 16th? A great deal!

First, the Virginia legislature should adopt a law stating that if a faculty or staff member identifies a student as mentally unbalanced and potentially violent, the student must be referred to mental health authorities for evaluation. At the same time an alert should be issued to all gun stores banning the sale of weapons and ammunition to that individual. Any person selling a gun to someone for whom a warning has been issued should serve a mandatory, long jail sentence.

Second—and by law—all educational facilities in Virginia, both public and private, should have in place a mandatory emergency plan. All students and faculty should be aware of the plan, and that plan should be periodically rehearsed as are fire drills.

Third, in the event of any shooting on school grounds, the school should immediately be closed. Police should be called and posted around the facility until it is clear that the shooter has been captured—not just a suspect as was the case at Virginia Tech.

No comments: