Most of my information comes from wikipedia under VA Tech Massacre.

So many things were wrong in the Cho case that I am surprised something like the VA Tech Massacre doesn’t happen monthly.

In the first place,  Cho was disturbed when he lived in Fairfax County and went to Westfield  High School.    He was diagnosed with selective mutism and major depressive disorder.  He was treated for these illnesses and he received special ed services for at least 2 years of high school.

Tech was never told about this.  Apparently it violates a student’s privacy to pass this information along to a receiving school.  This law needs to change.  A receiving school should have every right to know this about a student.  He graduated in 2003.

In the second place, Cho was refused instruction in 2005 from Professor Nikki Giovanni because he refused to change the sinister content of his poems in her class.  He advised her she couldn’t throw him out of class.  He received private instruction from another instructor Lucinda Roy once Giovanni refused to teach him.  Both Giovanni and Roy reported him to Division of Student Affairs, the Cook Counseling Center, the Schiffert Health Center, the Virginia Tech police and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.[7]

In the third place, Cho had a problem with annoying women.  He had several report him for inappropriate texting etc.  He was told to stay away from one woman by the campus police.  At one point he texted his roommate threatening suicide.   The parents were contacted as well as the campus police by Cho’s roommate.

According to WikI:

Tuesday, December 13, 200

  • Virginia Tech campus police took Cho off campus to a voluntary counseling evaluation at New River Community Services,[10] where he was examined by Kathy Goodbey. Goodbey determined that he was “mentally ill and in need of hospitalization.”[15]

  • Cho’s paperwork, declaring Cho “an imminent danger to self or others,” was sent to court.

  • Cho was transported to Carilion St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital where psychologist Roy Crouse determined that Cho “presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness.”

Wednesday, December 14

  • Cho’s paperwork was sent to special Justice Paul M. Barnett, who certified the finding and ordered follow-up treatment.[17][18]
  • Neither the court, the university nor community services officials followed up on the judge’s order, according to dozens of interviews. Cho never got the treatment, according to authorities who have seen his medical files.[15]

The above  encounter with mental health facilities illustrates how unconnected the dots are for people in emotional crisis.  The kid was declared an imminent danger to himself or others and was released?  No follow up?  This negligence is bordering on criminal.  He needed to be hospitalized.  That never happened.

Cho also bought one of his murder weapon guns off the Internet.


Friday, February 2

Friday, February 9

He practiced at the range.  Range employees reported seeing a young man videotaping himself in the parking lot at the range.  This didn’t send up red flags to someone?

There are many other incidents that given hind-sight, might alert anyone to what a troubled young man Cho was.  However, the above accounting certainly shows where weak laws, both dealing with mental health and follow up and gun/ammo laws just aren’t there for public safety.  The case of Cho and consequently, the VA Tech Massacre are pictures of total systemic failure in the way things are supposed to work.

When we are more worried about the rights of gun hobbyists and mentally ill people than we are about the safety of the rest of the human race, something is terribly, terribly wrong.

It isn’t just about guns. However, I see gun groups striving much harder to protect real and imaginary “rights” than I see them protecting public safety.  The rest of us shouldn’t have to dive on grenades in the form of these sick F***’s who would kill us all while on a rampage.

Something is going to change.  Americans aren’t going to indulge the shoot em up crowd any longer.  They are going to need to rein in their desire to have whatever weapon is out there.  Common sense and public safety are going to win the day.  Carpe Diem.


Why is a pawn shop the place to pick up an Internet gun? 

Why is ammo a hot ticket ebay item?

Why was Cho turned loose 24 hours after being picked up for psych eval?  He was declared mentally ill.  Why was he not hospitalized?  Why was there no follow up?

Why wasn’t he sent home from tech until he got the all clear that he was stable?

Why didn’t the Giovanni incident send up red flags to someone?  It was reported. 









26 Thoughts to “Cho: A study in what’s wrong”

  1. Roanoke Times

    After the 2007 mass shootings at Virginia Tech, an expert panel appointed by then-Gov. Tim Kaine recommended legislation that would require background checks for all firearms transactions, including private sales. But bills that would expand background checks to private sales at gun shows have failed in the 2008 General Assembly session and every session since.

  2. This thread is about a holistic approach to making things safer. Odd. No one posts here.

  3. Clinton S. Long

    First, I agree totally with keeping guns from people who pose a danger to themselves and others. The trick is, as I have said before, not as easy as people would want to be. These peoples have rights through other laws especially to privacy and I think many people question a determination that to an outsider looks like conjecture on the part of the evaluator. Maybe it is because most of us don’t understand the science of mental health enough to trust fully the judgement of the mental health professional. I am not saying that they can’t do it, rather I am saying that ordinary people don’t believe they can. And a person’s rights are so highly regarded in our heritage to make the bar very high when removing the right from a person.

    Having said all that, I can only surmise that the pawn shop was a federally licensed gun dealer. So, one has to go further than wondering about the pawn shop and why it was sent there. The law requires that guns be transferred from out of state through a Federally licensed gun dealer. So the question is one of whether the pawn shop did its legal responsibilities and if not, then you have a cause. But I would suspect they did do what was required, which means that Cho was not listed in the database which is the bigger systemic issue. Why not in the database? Probably because of privacy issues or maybe just that nobody added it (not sure if required or not).

    Maybe we should adopt a method used in other instances. In some cases, people seeking driver’s licenses and other items may need to provide a doctor’s report of whether they can physically discharge their responsibilities. Maybe there should be a flag in the system for certain individuals that requires a mental health professional to certify competency.

    Again, the devil is in the details because one must make sure that some mental health issues are exempt from further certification like many forms of depression which are pretty widespread. We should define specifically what kind of behaviors that would be subject to further scrutiny so that the high bar of protecting rights are ensured. Obviously I have not enough knowledge to talk about specifics but to an outsider it seems to me that mental health professionals may not be able to define it other than “I will know it when I see it.” I hope that isn’t the case and I am mistaken.

    1. Maybe the more we know about the law and what does and doesn’t happen is a good thing, Clinton. Maybe we can change the privacy laws to be more protective of society. I think we have gone way too far in some ways. I think we need to look at mental illness as an illness but we also need to make sure those with that illness don’t have access to tools they can use to harm society.

      With Cho, all the signs were there…and yet nothing could be done. That is really sad and sounds like society/govt has abrogated its responsibilities.

  4. From what I remember, Cho was actually adjudicated at one point. But because he was adjudicated only to be a danger to himself and ruled for outpatient treatment, he was not in the database. I remember that the judge was criticized for not involuntarily admitting Cho after other people had testified about him being a danger. Apparently, if you do that, all sorts of legal actions start happening…pressure from the ACLU, etc.

    In Lougner’s case…similar irresponsibility on the side of the Sherriff’s office that knew Loughner and did not arrest him on many occasions because “he was just troubled.” AND I think his family had connections.

    1. Cho was supposed to be hospitalized. There was no follow up.

  5. Clinton S. Long

    I think I may be too much of a pessimist about how we pass laws. I think we sometimes use only anecdotal evidence in forming the basis of a new law. For example, there may have been some instances when a a mentally ill patient had their rights mangled. Then someone takes up the cause and says things like, “this is awful and we can’t let this happen again.” Then we pass a law to do just that but sometimes it is done without a great deal of knowledge and research but to satisfy some emotional response.

    But caught in that same net are others that maybe shouldn’t “skirt by.” So then when the pendulum swings, we look for solutions to problems we created the first time with the law. But the second action takes far more time than the first so we continue to get victimized by our own laws until there is enough outcry to change it.

    So we make an error in haste and overturn the error at a snail’s pace.

  6. Steve Thomas

    Why is a pawn shop the place to pick up an Internet gun?

    Because the Pawn Shop Owner is a licensed firearms dealer, and unless the purchaser has a Federal Firearms License (FFL), the purchaser of a gun off the internet must pick it up from a licensed dealer, and a background check conducted by this dealer at the time of transfer. So, no violation of the law here.

    Why is ammo a hot ticket ebay item?

    Because all of the normal commercial sources, such as Walmart and online distributors are out of stock. Smart folks, private individuals who buy in bulk to lower the per-round purchase cost are selling off some of their stocks to make some money. Ammo is a commodity, like gold, silver or anything else. If I purchased 10,000 rounds at $.09 per round 3 years ago, I paid $900 for it. Now, due to high demand and low supply, I can get $.80 per round. So I sell 2000 rounds, of my 10,000 round supply, for a sale price of $1600. I’ve recouped my initial investment, and netted a $700 profit. Why is this a controversial concept?

    Why was Cho turned loose 24 hours after being picked up for psych eval? He was declared mentally ill. Why was he not hospitalized? Why was there no follow up?

    Sadly, because our society attaches such a stigma on mental illness, and the push to “community-based treatment”, which began in the late 70’s and early 80’s, courts are reluctant to commit people who are clearly ill. Due to “community-based treatment” strategies, manypublic mental institutions were closed. Public hospitals are structured for short-term immediate intervention, and private bedspace for long-term treatment is at a premium.

    Why wasn’t he sent home from tech until he got the all clear that he was stable?

    In addition to the above, I’d say someone didn’t understand the threat.

    Why didn’t the Giovanni incident send up red flags to someone? It was reported
    Someone dropped the ball.

    Had the judicial system, mental health system, school administration done their jobs, and had Cho adjudicated “mentally deficient”, as he clearly was, and the commitment and follow-up treatment been “involuntary” instead of “voluntary”, Cho would not have been able to pass the background check, which was obviously conducted, and would not have been able to pick up his guns from the FFL dealer. Furthermore, a record of his attempted purchase would have been flagged for law-enforcement follow-up. I submit: this wasn’t a failure of the laws surrounding firearms purchases. This was clearly a failure of the mental health system, mental health laws, and VA Tech administration policy. So why should my rights purchase and own firearms be restricted as a result?

  7. @Clinton S. Long
    Well said.

    I call that the “MUST DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!” disease. In should be the “Must be SEEN doing something! ANYTHING!” disease.

  8. @Steve Thomas
    Guns are such a hot commodity, magazines are being sold at 3x and 4x prices. A Mosin Nagant….a weapon invented in Russia in 1898, bolt action, used in WWII, once sold by the pound….. was seen going for $800. Now…only a total fool would buy that…but the saying goes…a fool and his money….

  9. @Steve Thomas

    While most of the gun violence in America is committed by the clinically sane, the most horrific massacres are often the work of deranged people whose problems had come to the attention of family, neighbors or work associates.

    Strangely, America has regressed in its treatment of the mentally ill. In the 19th century, most of the nation’s disturbed were either on the street or in jail. In an effort to provide humane treatment, state institutions popped up across the country, confining most of the nation’s severely deranged. Yet by the 1960s, controversy erupted as stories of mistreatment and poor conditions (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, anyone?) became rampant. Deinstitutionalization followed, in a movement that received strong bipartisan support. Liberals championed the fall of state psychiatric hospitals on the grounds of compassion and freedom; conservatives saw it as a way to save money and as a blow against the intrusive nanny state.

    State institutions closed down in droves; of the one public psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans in 1955, only one for 7,000 remained in 2012. Community treatment centers (nursing homes, care homes, etc.) moved in as substitutes, but they received little funding and resources. A series of federal laws were then passed to make it nearly impossible to confine or treat someone against their will. Individuals had to be shown to pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. In America, you have a right to be mad.

    Overall, available treatment not only became scarcer, but far more expensive. The mentally ill were either forced to live with their families, who weren’t prepared to deal with their condition, or were abandoned altogether.


    1. Or put in group homes and hated by the neighbors who felt like they were in an unsafe situation.

      The lawds need to be re-written.

  10. Steve Thomas

    Cargosquid :@Steve Thomas Guns are such a hot commodity, magazines are being sold at 3x and 4x prices. A Mosin Nagant….a weapon invented in Russia in 1898, bolt action, used in WWII, once sold by the pound….. was seen going for $800. Now…only a total fool would buy that…but the saying goes…a fool and his money….

    Mosin Nagants were going for $115.00 6 months ago.

  11. Steve Thomas


    Cheaper to send them home, and hope they take their meds. And before someone chimes in with “see what conservatives have done” This wasn’t conservatives pushing this. I know this from experience with a close family member, in Massachusetts

  12. @Steve Thomas

    I think it is your defense mechanism that kicked in that makes dialogue so difficult. It isn’t just one thing. It is everything!

    You took the time to answer each question, which I just slung out there for response. I appreciate that.

    To answer your question, you aren’t insane. Cho was insane. Right now, we don’t have the mechanism in place to tell the difference between you and Cho when it comes to gun purchase.

    We have to get that mechanism in place before you are free to own whatever you want.

    Steve, I wouldn’t care if you owned a surface to air missile. I think you would be a responsible owner of that weapon. But I know you. Therein lies the difference.

    We have done nothing to fix the mental health component of this question. In fact, we have drawn even more resources away from treatment and have put no legislation in that would reform how the mentally ill are treated.

    We must distinguish between people having acute emotional difficulties vs people who have chronic, life altering delibilating mental illnesses.

    I am all for institutionalizing those with chronic problems.

  13. “Cho was insane. Right now, we don’t have the mechanism in place to tell the difference between you and Cho when it comes to gun purchase.”

    But we did. And he was determined to be sick. It was the Judge that failed to do what needed to be done.

    But you are right…we need more resources going back to mental health.

    1. I don’t think you are correct. Did or did the judge not sign off on him? Are judges supposed to personally escort someone to the nut ward? Additionally, he bought his guns several years later. Allow me to play devil’s advocate.

      Is everyone declared mentally ill permanently declared off limits for a weapon? How does one get off the list? What kinds of mental illness or behaviors would make you ineligible to purchase a weapon? How long would that decree last?

      I am going back to my original statement and say that we don’t have the mechanism in place to tell the difference between Steve Thomas and Cho.

    2. @CArgo, more on Cho…

      The prevailing attitude that nothing can be done because ” he hasn’t done anything” had to be changed. There is the problem…right there. If nothing can be done until someone “does something” we are always going to be chasing tragic news. Federal laws, in particular, privacy laws must change. it isn’t a matter of enforcement, its a matter of MUST BR CHANGED.

      Every faculty member who had Cho saw the warning signs. Lucinda Roy had a duress code worked out with her assistant. Nikki Giovanni refused to teach him. Only her star status allowed her to pull rank. Other faculty members reported, urged him to get councelling, reported him to various departments around campus, including student affairs, deans and cops.

      The buck has to stop somewhere before you have to step over a pile of dead bodies. The mechanism is not in place…face to face, everyone knew Cho was insane…however, speaking from a records keeping point of view…not so much. He also passed muster when he bought the glock locally.

      Law enforcement and mental health experts must put their heads together….after throwing the “lo the poor mentally ill” types out of the room, and come up with something that doesn’t brand people for life but acts as a filter for those who really shouldn’t have access to weapons. Law enforcement and mental health must share vocabulary and behavioral descri[ptions for this to work.

  14. Lady Emma

    “We must distinguish between people having acute emotional difficulties vs people who have chronic, life altering delibilating mental illnesses.”

    Bingo! But even some of the best insurance plans will run people around blind getting mental health care, and the copay is always higher and the number of sessions limited. The pool of providers is usually tiny and limited to foreign-educated providers, in many cases. That’s not always bad, but there can be cultural differences in how people think and feel that can get in the way of effective therapeutic communication. You have to be really bad off to get hospitalized, and even then it’s just a bandaid until you blow up again.

    I was just having this conversation with my husband–remembering how celebrities used to be hospitalized for “exhaustion” and how hard it is for anyone now to be hospitalized for mental health issues. Where do they go now?

    His answer: “Elementary schools, apparently.”

    1. Ouch, but I can’t argue with Lord Emma who was being quick on his feet.

      Don’t people have to be cut loose after 72 hours?

      We have gone so far in the wrong direction as a society….

      You are right about insurance. Limited, not everyone even takes insurance and any kind of councelling is very expensive.

  15. @Moon-howler
    Exactly. I completely agree with you.

  16. @Moon-howler
    The judge had a chance to institutionalize him based on third party warnings, but did not. That is what I meant about the Judge having a chance and failing.

    1. Can you document that?

      If Cho was to be institutionalized, it should have been done on the basis of that psych evaluation.

      I am having a hard time finding the words for what I want to say. I need to see the account of what you are basing your assessment on.

      Since it was a year and a half before the shootings, I am not so sure we can blame it all on a judge. In the first place, he wouldnt have stayed in jail very long. The fact that hospitalization was ordered and declined should have put him on the list for do not sell to.

  17. @Moon-howler
    To get on the list, you must be adjudicated a danger to others.

    That’s how we tell the difference.

    1. @Cargo 634

      That is so inadequate. Being a danger to yourself should also do it. “Adjudicated” is one of those words that really lacks precise meaning.

      What you are saying suggests that anyone not on the list is a “good guy.” I refuse to buy that. There is no real way to tell.

  18. @Moon-howler
    I agree. The system needs reform while protecting the rights of those that are not dangerous.

    Adjudicated has a specific meaning. A court has to put you into the institution.

    The list doesn’t list good or bad guys. It lists those that are prohibited from owning a firearm.

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