US college massacre: Killer was S. Korean student

FINAL TOLL: 33 DEAD

THE gunman in the deadliest mass shooting in American history has been identified as South Korean student Cho Seung Hui, 23.

Cho, a permanent resident in the United States, was an English major in his senior year at Virginia Tech University, where 33 people, including the gunman, were killed in a rampage on Monday morning.

Last night, officials said Cho was responsible for killing 30 people before turning the gun on himself. Police are still trying to determine if he was responsible for two earlier shootings on the campus.

The chilling events at the campus, nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, reverberated throughout the world, as far away as India and Israel – the home countries of two professors who were killed in the massacre.

The two were professors Liviu Librescu, 76, an engineering science and mathematics lecturer from Israel, and India-born G.V. Loganathan, 51, a lecturer at the department of civil and environmental engineering.

In South Korea, the government expressed surprise and shock after news broke that Cho had been identified as the killer.

President Roh Moo-Hyun “was shocked beyond description over the fact that the tragic incident was caused by a South Korean native who has permanent residency” in the US, his office said in a statement.

The president “reiterated his deep condolences and consolation, along with South Koreans, to victims, their families and the American people”, the statement said.

In Australia and elsewhere, condemnation of US “gun culture” flew thick and fast, while condolences came from China, Britain and other countries.

Meanwhile, criticisms that university officials did not act fast enough to warn students of an unfolding tragedy grew as details surfaced about the shootings. The massacre began at 7.15am on Monday with the killing of two people in a high-rise coed dormitory.

More than two hours later, Cho stalked Norris Hall, the engineering building a kilometre away. Wielding weapons and draped with an ammunition belt, he was described as being dressed in shorts, “almost like a Boy Scout”.

Working methodically, with clear indication of some level of planning, he chained several doors of the building before moving from classroom to classroom, calmly pumping dozens of bullets into students and teachers.

He then shot himself in the face – disfiguring himself so badly that he could not be identified immediately.

Police recovered two handguns – a .22-calibre and 9mm – at the scene. They confirmed one gun was used at both scenes.

One witness used his cellphone camera to record the sound of bullets echoing through a stone building.

Student Trey Perkins said he counted about 30 shots over a 90-second period. Amid scenes of chaos and pandemonium, some students jumped out of windows in a desperate bid to escape death.

Mr Charles Steger, the university’s president, expressed his “horror and disbelief and sorrow” at what he described as a tragedy of monumental proportions.

US President George W, Bush sent his condolences to the families of the victims and the university community. “Schools should be places of sanctuary and safety and learning,” he said.

The latest shootings took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colorado. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

The shootings are certain to re-ignite a debate on tougher gun laws. Virginia’s gun laws are among the least strict in the nation.

FACE OF A KILLER

SOUTH Korean Cho Seung Hui (above), 23, was an English major in his senior year at Virginia Tech University. Officials said he killed 30 people before turning the gun on himself.

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