Virginia Tech rampage lasted just nine minutes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seung-Hui Cho took just nine minutes to fire more than 170 rounds of ammunition as he gunned down dozens of his fellow students and staff at Virginia Tech last week, police said on Wednesday.

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Police provided new details about how Cho killed 30 other people at Norris Hall on April 16, the deadliest such massacre in modern U.S. history, before killing himself as police raced up the stairs of the classroom building.

“Cho’s shooting rampage inside Norris Hall lasted approximately nine minutes,” Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum told a campus news conference aired on television.

Police still have no motive for the massacre and nothing to link Cho specifically to any victims at Norris Hall or at West Ambler Johnston, the residence hall where two people were shot two hours earlier.

“It took the officers about 3 minutes to arrive in the area of Norris Hall from the first 911 call,” Flinchum said. “Five minutes later, the ... officers had breached the doors, breached the chains and made it to the second floor.”

Three entrance doors to the building were chained from within and police could hear shooting when they arrived.

“As the officers were going up to the second floor, they heard the last gunshot,” as Cho shot himself, Flinchum said.

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Fifty people were also injured at Norris Hall, many shot, but others were hurt jumping from windows to escape Cho. He had fired more than 170 rounds and there was live ammunition left at the scene, Virginia state police chief Steven Flaherty said.

University and local police have been criticized for taking too long to issue a warning after the first shootings.

Flinchum said officers had arrived at West Ambler Johnston within two minutes after being alerted to violence there, and were questioning a suspect who had left the campus as emergency operators received the first call about Norris Hall.

Police have been piecing together Cho’s preparations. He bought one gun in February in Blacksburg, the rural Virginia town where Virginia Tech is located, from a dealer who obtained it from a supplier in Wisconsin, Flaherty said.

The second gun was bought in March from a dealer in nearby Roanoke, Virginia, and Cho practiced shooting at “a couple of” local firing ranges, he said.

Cho also made videotapes he sent to NBC News before April 16, police said. He mailed them between the two campus shootings but filmed himself some time beforehand.

A ceremony mourning the Virginia Tech victims was held in Seoul on Wednesday. Pastors prayed in front of the U.S. embassy to South Korea and participants in the ceremony also delivered condolence messages written by South Koreans. Cho was an immigrant from South Korea.

The Virginia Tech shootings have prompted jitters across the United States. A New York 17-year-old was charged on Wednesday with writing a letter saying people attending his high school’s senior dance would face a fate similar to the victims at the university. He said it was a joke.