BLACKSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) - The gunman who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech university paused during the bloodbath to mail a package with photos of himself brandishing weapons and a video of a hateful, rambling manifesto.
Cho Seung-Hui railed against wealth and debauchery, portrayed himself as a defender of the weak, and voiced admiration for the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in messages laced with rage showed by NBC News on Wednesday.
“You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option,” Cho, who killed himself after the shooting rampage on Monday, said in the video portion of the package that NBC received on Wednesday and turned over to the FBI.
“Thanks to you I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people,” Cho said, adding that, “When the time came, I did it. I had to.”
The video showed the 23-year-old student speaking against several backgrounds with a menacing expression on his face, while photographs showed him brandishing the two handguns he apparently used in the shooting spree, the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
Other photos showed Cho, clad in a dark vest in which he carried the ammunition he used to shoot his victims, in threatening poses with a hammer and a knife and with a gun pointed at his own head.
“Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off,” Cho said without making clear to whom his remarks were directed.
The bizarre new twist added to an already chilling portrait of Cho from roommates and teachers who described him as a disturbed loner who was mentally ill.
It came after university police said that Cho had been accused of stalking women students and was taken to a psychiatric hospital in 2005 because of worries he was suicidal. A Virginia court order issued at the time declared him “mentally ill” and said he presented “an imminent danger to self or others,” ABC News reported.
NBC said the package received at its New York headquarters bore a time stamp that showed it was mailed between Cho’s killing of two people in a dormitory and his attack two hours later on classrooms where he cut down 30 more people.
“This may be a very new, critical component of this investigation,” said Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of Virginia State Police. But he gave no details.
In the video, Cho mixes religious references with disgust at what he calls the hedonism surrounding him.
“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats? Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs? Your trust fund wasn’t enough? ... Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs? You had everything.”
An 1,800-word written diatribe in the package was laced with profanity and expressed a desire to get even, the network said. It mentioned “martyrs like Eric and Dylan,” an apparent reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot dead 12 students and a teacher at Columbine school in Colorado and then killed themselves.
NBC News President Steve Capus was quoted as saying while the package did not include any images of the shootings themselves, it did contain “vague references.”
Still grieving for the victims, both students and teachers had described a sullen loner whose creative writings for his English literature degree were so laced with violence and venom that they alarmed some people around him.
University Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said his officers confronted Cho in late 2005 after two women complained separately that he had harassed them in person, through phone calls and with instant messages.
“I’m not saying they were threats; I’m saying they were annoying,” Flinchum told a news conference at the campus.
After the second incident in December 2005, Cho’s roommate warned police he might be suicidal, prompting them to issue a “temporary detention order” and send him to a nearby mental health facility for evaluation, Flinchum said.
The women declined to file charges against Cho. Neither was among his victims on Monday, police said.
Despite encounters with the law and his past psychiatric treatment, Cho was able to legally purchase the two handguns he used in the attack. The shooting has rekindled debate over U.S. gun laws, the most lenient in the Western world.
News of Cho’s past contacts with police and mental health specialists raised further questions whether anyone could have picked up warning signs. Cho immigrated from South Korea to the United States with his family in 1992 and was raised in Virginia outside Washington, D.C.
In an interview with South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper, a man identified as Cho’s 81-year-old grandfather said the Cho’s were hard-working immigrants who had doted on their children.
“My son-in-law would do anything for his children. That child he raised like a gem now does this, so I don’t think they will want to live anymore.”