The Virginia Tech tragedies in Blacksburg, Virginia (VA) were terrible and shocking. The lives of many bright young people were violently cut short. There is no doubt that the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of gunman Cho Seung-Hui, but could the university have saved lives with a quicker response? Sadly, this seems to be the case. The U.S. Department of Education issued a lengthy final determination report Thursday, finding that Tech officials failed "to issue adequate warnings in a timely manner in response to the tragic events of April 16, 2007," reports The Virginian Pilot.
The report states that when the warnings were finally issued, they "Were not prepared or disseminated in a manner to give clear and timely notice of the threat to the health and safety of campus community members." Additionally, Tech "Did not follow its own policy for the issuance of timely warnings as published in its annual campus security reports," the report stated.
According to a state panel report on the incident, high ranking university officials knew by 8 a.m. on April 16 that one student had been shot to death and another was critically wounded in West Ambler Johnston Hall, and that a shooter was on the loose.
We don't know if the university was trying to keep the incident quiet, hoping that police would catch the shooter quickly, or if they just weren't prepared enough to get out a mass warning, as the law requires. But, we do know the first e-mail notification of a shooting went out to the campus at 9:26 a.m. At about 9:40 a.m., shooter Seung-Hui Cho opened fire in Norris Hall. That left students only 13 minutes to react. Since Cho chained the doors shut before firing it was probably even less time than that for those who lost their lives.
So what was Virginia Tech doing for nearly 90 minutes before the warning was issued, why the long delay? This is the question that the parents of slain students Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde are asking. This new ruling may affect two $10 million wrongful death suits they filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.