The Virginia Tech school administration, following the massacre, repeatedly tried to pose as an innocent victim of Cho’s violent behavior. Well, let’s continue looking at the warning signs—signs former school President Charles Steger and former school Police Chief Wendell Flinchum were oblivious to, or turned their backs on.
Cho’s behavior abnormalities were becoming apparent in other venues and came to the attention of the Virginia Tech Police Department (VTPD)—specifically, his unwanted attention toward female students.
On November 27, 2005, the VTPD received a complaint from a female student on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall about Cho. He had sent disturbing text messages to the female student, and at one point went to her room wearing sunglasses and a hat pulled down over his face. He apparently told her, “I am the question mark.” According to the police incident report, Cho was warned not to bother the young woman anymore and was told the incident would be turned over to Judicial Affairs. But still university officials remained passive.
Frances Keene, Judicial Affairs director, who was already aware of Cho’s aberrant behavior in Giovanni’s class, indicated that she received no communications from the female students who had complained about Cho. The assistant director for Judicial Affairs, Rohsaan Settle, received an email on December 6th advising her of Cho’s “odd behavior” and “stalking.” The Addendum does not indicate who sent this email.
The policy of Keene’s office is to contact students who have been threatened and advise them of their rights. But, one of the complaining female students told the Review Panel that she was never contacted and there is no record the others were contacted. I could not help but wonder if having a policy and acting on that policy are worlds apart at Virginia Tech.
By the fall of 2005, Cho had moved back on campus and into a dormitory. It did not take long for his fellow students to notice his odd behavior. Before long, one of Cho’s roommates and another suitemate found a large knife in Cho’s desk and threw it out. Cho, according to the Resident Advisor, “… was strange, and got stranger.” The warning signs were becoming more and more apparent.
Three days after the West Ambler Johnston incident on November 27th, Cho apparently took Professor Roy’s advice. He phoned the Cook Counseling Center at 9:45 a.m. on November 30th. He spoke with Maisha Smith, a licensed professional counselor.
Smith conducted a telephone triage with Cho, gathering pertinent information. Ms. Smith has no recollection of her conversation with Cho and her notes, part of Cho’s medical records, were lost for more than two years.
Cho requested an appointment with Cathye Betzel, a licensed clinical psychologist. Betzel had been recommended by Roy. An appointment was set for 2:00 p.m. on December 12th, but Cho failed to appear. He phoned the counseling center at 4:00 p.m. and was triaged over the phone. According to the Center’s record, Cho was triaged a second time that day at 4:45 p.m. by Betzel. Betzel, however, told the Review Panel she has no memory of the brief triage. Written documentation of the triage went missing with Cho’s medical records and was only belatedly discovered in the summer of 2009—more than two years after the shooting. Once again pertinent documents disappeared.
The Review Panel report indicates that the ticket completed to indicate the type of contact made with a client shows a telephone appointment was kept and that no diagnosis was made. No referral was made for follow-up services. The Review Panel report does not indicate who filled out the ticket.
Betzel does remember that she had a conversation with Professor Roy about a student whose name she does not recall, but believes it was Cho. The date of that conversation is not known and any written record of the conversation, which should have been part of Cho’s file, is missing.
As with so much of the bookkeeping at the Cook Counseling Center, their paper work seems to come and go.
I do not accuse anyone at the Cook Counseling Center of destroying documents or attempting to hide information, but what is the explanation for all the missing records? We now know that the former head of the Cook Counseling Center “accidently” took Cho’s records home with him. By the time those records were discovered, the families were on the verge of settling with the school and The Review Panel Report was essentially done. The Governor’s blue ribbon panel never tackled the problem of the missing documents—other than noting their absence.
Cho’s threatening behavior continued through 2005. On December 12th, the Virginia Tech Police Department received another complaint from a female student. This time it was from a resident at East Campbell Hall. The young woman knew Cho through one of his suitemates.
On one occasion, when Cho was in the young woman’s room, he pulled out a knife and stabbed the carpet. The student no longer saw Cho, but she received instant messages that she believed were from him. The messages were not threatening, but were self-deprecating. She replied asking if the messages were from Cho and the answer she got back was, “I do not know who I am.”
At one point she found a note with a quote from Romeo and Juliet on the erase board outside her room door reading:
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am
My name, dear saint is hateful to myself
Because it is an enemy to thee
Had I written, I would tear the word
Concerned, the young woman talked to her father, saying she believed Cho was behind the message. Her father, equally concerned, talked to the local Christiansburg police (Christiansburg is adjacent to Blacksburg) who advised that campus police be informed. (To be continued)