April 17, 2007 / 2:58 PM / 13 years ago

U.S. university gunman left violent writings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The South Korean-born gunman responsible for the massacre at Virginia Tech University kept a low profile but left a trail of violent writings before killing 32 people and then committing suicide.

Police enter Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, April 17, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Chicago Tribune interviewed a neighbour who described 23-year-old student Cho Seung-Hui as a loner. A former classmate, writing on an AOL news blog, said Cho was obsessed with violence.

Cho left a note lashing out at “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus, the Tribune said on Tuesday. A citizen of South Korea, Cho spent the last 14 years in the United States.

Ian MacFarlane, who shared a writing class with Cho at the university and now works at Time Warner Inc.’s AOL news division, wrote in the blog he was not surprised when he learned the gunman’s identity.

“Looking back, he fit the exact stereotype of what one would typically think of as a ‘school shooter’ — a loner, obsessed with violence, and serious personal problems,” MacFarlane wrote.

AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein confirmed MacFarlane’s identity as a former classmate to Reuters. The blog included links to two plays MacFarlane said were written by Cho, an English literature student.

The plays were profanity-laced dramas that cast authority figures in an unflattering light. Characters talk of paedophilia and attack each other with chainsaws.

Lucinda Roy, a professor of English at Virginia Tech, told CNN that she became deeply concerned about Cho’s emotional state because of the nature of his creative writing.

“There were several of us in English who became concerned when we had him in class,” she said.

ONE-ON-ONE

She said Cho’s creative writing professor came to her because Cho had written some disturbing passages. Roy took those passages to university officials, who said nothing could be done. She then taught him one-on-one for a semester.

During that time he never opened up, she said. Roy urged him to seek counselling, which he did, she said.

Police said Cho appeared to have chained doors shut to prevent people from escaping while he fired at them. Survivors recounted how he went silently from room to room, calmly firing dozens of rounds at students and staff.

Cho was carrying a backpack with a receipt for a Glock 9mm pistol he bought in March, several media outlets reported. His other weapon was a .22-caliber pistol.

He moved to the United States with his parents in September 1992, said Chris Bentley, a spokesman with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As a resident alien, commonly known as a “green card” holder, Cho could live and work indefinitely in the United States, although he would not be able to vote or get a U.S. passport.

Investigators searched the Cho home in Centreville, Virginia, but the family was not there, according to media reports. Relatives could not be reached by telephone.

Many children of Korean immigrants grow up acutely aware of money and are under intense pressure to succeed, said Sang Lee, a 38-year-old Korean-American law student who grew up in Alexandria, 30 miles (48 km) from Centreville.

Cho’s pursuit of a degree in English, rather than the engineering or pre-medicine courses encouraged by many Korean parents, could have caused strains, Lee said.

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