Thursday, November 4, 2010

Northern Neck News

I was interviewed by the Northern Neck News on October 28th. Below is the article that appeared on November 2, 2010, based on that interview.


Burgess man is a voice of accountability

By Dianne Saison

The tragic murder of a family member was crippling, but the subsequent lies and cover-up are what forced a Burgess man into action.

David Cariens, Jr., a retired CIA officer with 31 years of experience in criminal and political analysis, had once looked forward to spending his retirement surrounded by family at his Northumberland home. However, on one cold winter morning, everything changed.

“We had heard about a shooting at the Appalachian School of Law and we were worried, but we never thought it would be our Angie,” Cariens said.

What followed would bring Cariens out of retirement and into the spotlight of victim’s rights advocacy.

Angela Dales, a student at the school, was the mother of Cariens’ eldest grandchild and a much-loved family member. She had recently made plans for both she and her daughter to move in with the Cariens while she interned in Richmond.

“Angela was a wonderful human being. She was pretty and vivacious and had the type of personality that was magnetic,” Cariens said. “She epitomized all that life should be.”

On Jan. 16, 2002, Dales was studying at the school lounge when the unthinkable unfolded.

Peter Odighizuwa, a native of Nigeria, had a history of mental health issues. His tenure as a student at the School of Law was riddled with numerous altercations involving both students and faculty.

In the weeks preceding the shooting, numerous media outlets reported that faculty members had voiced concerns to school administrators about Odighizuwa. Citing fears for their safety, the faculty requested that security measures be taken, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

On Jan. 15, after failing the semester, Odighizuwa was dismissed from the school.

The following morning, Odighizuwa arrived at the campus and engaged in an altercation with Professor Dale Rubin over his recent dismissal. Despite Odighizuwa’s erratic behavior during the exchange, Rubin failed to report the incident to either the police or school staff, instead leaving campus to go to lunch.

Within hours of the incident, Odighizuwa returned to the campus with a loaded .380 semiautomatic pistol. He proceeded to the administration building where he shot, execution style, Dean Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell. Odighizuwa then ventured downstairs to the student lounge, walked up to Dales and fired three rounds into her at point blank range. After shooting three more female students, Odighizuwa was taken down by fellow students and apprehended by the police.

In the ensuing chaos, Dales was left unattended. Despite the close proximity of the school to the local hospital, she went without medical attention for nearly an hour while medical professionals mistakenly assumed she had been mortally wounded.

According to Cariens, the lack of immediate medical attention contributed to Dales’ death.

“She was shot in the neck, shoulder and chest,” Cariens said. “When the doctor arrived he had wrongly assumed she had been hit in the carotid artery and that nothing could be done. While she bled to death, they helped the less injured.”

Cariens added that had the doctors or police followed the basic rules of triage, Dales would have had a good shot at surviving the shooting.

“We wanted to know why Angie wasn’t evacuated immediately,” Cariens said.

He added that the lack of accountability extended from medical personnel to the highest offices at the college.

""The school ignored the warning signs and the result was the death of innocent people,” Cariens said, adding that Odighizuwa’s behavior had been ignored or excused for many years.

In the months fol lowing the shooting, the Dales and Cariens families looked to the school for answers as to why a known, mentally unstable individual had been allowed on campus and why, after the first shooting, an emergency evacuation of the school had not been ordered.

According to Cariens, their grief was met by evasiveness and deception, which culminated in a meeting where police stonewalled the families after they asked about Odighizuwa’s prior criminal history and recent email threats that Dales had received.

“I left that meeting furious. Did they think we were stupid?” Cariens asked. “Having been lied to and yelled at was the turning point.”

Following the meeting, Cariens began writing his recent book, “A Question of Accountability: The Murder of Angela Dales.” The book details the shooting and the alleged cover up that followed.

According to Cariens, while Angela’s death nearly paralyzed him with grief, writing the book nearly killed him.

“I was [physically] sick almost every day that I was writing it and I subsequently came down with cancer,” he said. “My wife said that I had to stop, but I couldn’t. It took over two years to complete.”

Cariens said he was not the only one suffering from illness. After the shooting, Dales’ father was diagnosed with stressinduced spinal meningitis, an illness he continues to struggle with today.

“These are the stories no one hears about, what happens after [a tragedy],” Cariens said.

While helping the Dales family pursue a lawsuit against the school, Cariens began advocating for better regulations in Virginia’s mental health system and regulations regarding the purchase of guns.

“I think it is a given that we could absolutely reduce crime if we could put more money into mental health,” Cariens said, adding that the recent $1.5 billion found in VDOT accounts could be used for things more important than infrastructure repair.

“I would rather the toilets [at highway rest stops] remain closed and spend the money on mental health [programs]. To not do so would be poor judgment,” he said.

Cariens’ advocacy also has brought him into the spectrum of victims’ families from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, many of whom he now works closely with.

Cariens, who has actively criticized the events following the initial shooting at Virginia Tech, claims the school violated the Cleary Act, which requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

“The critical issue at Virginia Tech is what happened after the first homicides,” Cariens said. “You have bloody footprints leading away from a crime and two or three hours later 30 people are dead. What was law enforcement doing in that critical timeframe?”

On Nov. 12, Cariens will act as chairman and give opening remarks at the first International Summit and Student Symposium on Violence Prevention and Conflict Resolution at the Virginia Tech campus.

Cariens also has traveled the world, teaching intelligence and criminal analysis to various governmental agencies from Canada to Singapore. He has incorporated his book and his experiences at both Appalachia and with Virginia Tech into his lectures. His next book, “Critical Thinking Through Writing: Intelligence and Crime Analysis,” includes a case study of what he believes to be a major cover-up in the former Gov. Tim Kaine’s Review Panel Report on the Virginia Tech massacre.

“If you want to see classic use of passive voice to cover up a crime, read that report,” Cariens said.

While he holds the administrators of Appalachia and Virginia Tech personally responsible for the tragedies, he said the issues of school safety remain societal. He hopes that students and government officials will understand that change needs to occur if Virginia wants to protect its students.

“No matter what people’s political leanings are, we should all work in tandem to bring greater security to our schools,” he said. “Both shootings were inevitable because of bureaucratic incompetence. Until we hold people accountable for school shootings, they will not stop.”

The proceeds of Cariens book are split between his granddaughter and charities on the Northern Neck. He has not made any money from either the book or his advocacy. For more information, visit www.aquestionofaccount .

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