There is always room and need for a book that pays tribute to the men and women who are first responders to tragedies; the men and women who make up our police forces, our fire fighters, and our emergency medics. “Shooter Down” by John Giduck, however, is not that book. Sadly, Giduck’s book cherry picks the evidence, engages in hyperbole, resorts to name-calling, fantasizes about what was going on in the mind of Cho Seung Hui, and contains factual errors.
I am going to examine his book in greater detail in at least two blog entries. The first deals with what I consider to be one of the book’s major shortcomings—the failure to compare the two school shooting here in Virginia.
From a personal standpoint, Giduck’s passing reference to the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law is not only disheartening, but adds to the grief we feel over our loss. The mother of my oldest grandchild, Angela Dales, was killed at that shooting. Since then I have researched and written about that tragedy in numerous articles and in my book, “A Question of Accountability: The Murder of Angela Dales.” Giduck’s willingness to perpetuate the lie that after killing three and wounding three others, the gunman, Peter Odighizuwa, was stopped and captured by two armed students is not only poor scholarship; it is unconscionable. The fact is that unarmed students subdued Odighizuwa before the armed students returned from their cars with their weapons.
The parallels between the law school and Virginia Tech shootings are staggering, but Giduck never touches on them. Why Giduck chose to practically ignore the first school shooting in Virginia is a mystery. The following are some of the parallels:
1. Both Peter Odighizuwa and Cho Seung Hui had harassed students and the schools knew about it.
2. Both Peter Odighizuwa and Cho Seung Hui had been referred to mental facilities or were seeking psychiatric care and both schools knew about it.
3. Both men alarmed faculty members so much that they either wanted increased security or as in the case of Tech, threatened to resign.
4. The police failed to cooperate either with the families of the victims or the investigations. (The Governor’s Review Panel Report states that the police refused to turn over documents to the investigating panel. At the law school, the police refused to allow the student victim’s family to look at investigative reports--including a timeline of events. Officer Don Lambert did promise to retrieve the report, call me, and answer my questions. He made that promise in January 2003. I am still waiting for the phone call.)
5. At both shootings, the police made bad judgments. At Virginia Tech, for example, the police locked down Ambler West Johnston Hall after the double homicide. But despite the lockdown, the police allowed two students (Henry Lee and Rachel Hill) to leave the dormitory. Both were murdered at Norris Hall. At the law school, the police violated the basic rules of triage. Angela Dales was the most seriously wounded, but she was the last to be evacuated. The hospital is less than 10 minutes from the campus. Had the police made the right decision, she might be alive today.
It does no one any good to ignore or gloss over the horrific mistakes that good people make. The final sentence of Giduck’s conclusion reads: “For the families of the dead, and the families of all those who have died in school shootings in America, including the families of those students who have perpetrated such atrocities, their grief may never end.”