Guests: Bill Galvin, Jack Thompson, Karan Grewal, Bernadine Healey, Lindsay Hughes
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tonight, I talk to a student who shared a dormitory suite with the Virginia Tech shooter.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
Tonight, shocking new information about the student who murdered 32 people in a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. He sent a package to NBC News that we believe was mailed between the first and second shootings of Monday. The package includes images and a disturbing, rambling, multi-page statement. NBC News immediately turned the material over to authorities.
We also learned today that Cho Seung-Hui did have a history of scaring other students, and the school new it. In a moment, we‘ll talk to Cho‘s suitemate, as well as a friend of one of the victims. But first, here‘s the statement from NBC News.
“NBC received a communication from Cho Seung-Hui, the man identified by police as the Virginia Tech shooter, via the U.S. mail this morning and immediately turned it over to the authorities. The package included images, videos and writings and appears to have been mailed between the two shootings on Monday. We are cooperating fully with the authorities.”
Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI profiler. Clint, help us. This is your specialty. Why would a person distraught after killing some people, about to kill many more, go and mail a package to NBC News?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER, MSNBC ANALYST: I think what we‘re going to find, Chris, is if this information is as suggested, it‘s going to give us the most important behavioral clues to a killer probably since the Unabomber‘s manifesto. It‘s going to give us a look inside this guy‘s head.
And Chris, again, it was a phrase I‘ve used earlier. This is a way to make a statement after the grave. This is a way to plan to carry out this horrific act, as you know, the greatest mass murder with a firearm in the history of the United States, take his own life and deny us the ability to question and ask, and then get his own story out both in pictures and apparently in words, also.
MATTHEWS: Is this against the backdrop of the suicide killings all over the Middle East?
VAN ZANDT: This is going to be an interesting connection, Chris. Very seldom do you find, you know, someone like this guy operating in a vacuum. He is going to be aware of what‘s going on around the world for news, like most college students are. The question is, how much did he adopt into his own psyche? How much planning went into this?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—we‘re going to—you haven‘t seen it yet because no one has, but we just had an interview we‘re going to air in just a couple of minutes of his suitemate. This fellow seems like a very regular student to me, although I have to say more tolerant than perhaps you or I would have been back in the old days. His suitemate, Cho Seung-Hui, never talked, period, never talked, never showed emotion, never showed interest, never acted the way a normal social human being acts, and certainly at that age. What do you make of that?
VAN ZANDT: Well, Chris, there are a lot of people that pull themselves into a cave that they dig by themselves. You know, if, in fact, you‘re not able to relate to those around you, if who you are, people reject—we know that, for example, a year-and-a-half ago or more, poetry that he wrote was so vile that when it was read in the classroom, students refused to come back to the class while he was there. We know that the instructor said he could no longer come to the class, that he would be tutored, but he couldn‘t be a student in that class. He said, You can‘t do that to me, and yet he went along with it.
Chris, we‘re going to find that all of these animosities, this anger, this frustration, this rage, the sense of isolation has built in this guy to the point where he has chosen this way to finally carry it out, to finally blame everybody else—in this case, this university and the lifeblood of it, its students and faculty and take their lives. This is the way, I think, he finally, finally gets back.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he was hiding within his foreign background, the fact that his parents came to this country, and people dismissed some of his behavior? In fact, I think after you hear this conversation, you‘ll think of all of it as the loneliness of a foreign student, someone from another culture you can‘t quite decipher, and they were sort of chalking up his absolute silence to perhaps a language barrier, perhaps a cultural barrier.
VAN ZANDT: Well, Chris, there are well over 2,000 international students on this campus. Again, Virginia Tech has students from 36 different foreign countries, so there are active foreign student organizations, and I‘m sure many, many Koreans that he could have related to. And realize, this guy went to high school in the United States and he‘s in his fourth year here, so his sense of English is probably pretty good and his ability to relate to others. So you know, I don‘t want to give him that chip, per se.
But you and I know that, you know, when you get to certain cultures, there‘s this tremendous sense of face, there is this sense...
VAN ZANDT: ... of self-esteem, and if someone takes that away from you, they‘ve taken away your very essence of who you are.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about the dichotomy here. Here‘s this student that never talked to his suitemates all the way going way back to August—and we‘re going to hear that interview in just a moment. Yet at the time of the greatest crisis of his life, when he knows his life is probably ending, he mails a package. I mean, it‘s hard to mail something. You got to get stamps. You got to take it somewhere. You got to wrap it up. You got to put something in there of importance. He did all that between these two sets of killings this Monday. Does that make sense?
VAN ZANDT: Well, there‘s a lot here, Chris, that continues to suggest premeditation. How did he have the correct address to send something—I know maybe he just send it to NBC News, New York City, New York. But you know—you know, that‘s all still to be determined.
But when you look back when he bought the guns, you know, over a month ago, when he carried the chains with him, when he secured the doors of that building to keep authorities out as he methodically moved from classroom to classroom, killing the innocents that were—that had nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide, this is all suggestion of premeditation. He could have had this package addressed, Chris, and known exactly what he was going to do as he methodically carried out this killing day that this campus saw on Monday.
MATTHEWS: You know, all the people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge always jump off the inner side. It‘s as if they‘re looking for an audience, even in their demise. What is this about, the suicide, the suicide murderer, that makes him or her, I suppose, want an audience of a national network, NBC in this case?
VAN ZANDT: Well, what makes this so horrific, Chris, is not necessarily his psychological background, not necessarily the aberrant behavior and not the writings or anything else. What has made this an international story is his ability to massacre so many people. You know, had he shot and wounded one person and then shot himself in the head, this would have been a blip on the radar. But he was able to insert himself into that classroom environment and then—you know, by my count, he had to have shot 75 to 100 rounds to kill and wound that many people.
I mean, hopefully, these documents are going to give us some evidence of the planning and they‘re not simply the psychotic ramblings of a twisted, lost mind.
MATTHEWS: And usually, the ability to reload with deliberation again and again and again, as he did with those clips, suggests something beyond impulse.
VAN ZANDT: Well, again, this is planning. This is something—
Chris, you know, some individuals who are psychologically challenged, they‘re very good at mechanical things. And one student described as how he quickly reloaded those magazines, jammed them back in the base of the semi-automatic pistol, racked it and started shooting again. Whether he had time within the last month to practice this or whether he was just so focused, he did it, but it seems like everything he did—even though it makes no sense to you and I, everything he did, Chris, he knew what he was doing. He had a reason for it.
And what we‘re going to try to do now is through his writings, through his picture, is to understand the understandable. And I‘m afraid at the end of the day, Chris, once we‘ve seen everything, you and I are going to say it still doesn‘t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: Clint, stay with us. For more on the package that Cho, the shooter, sent to NBC News, we‘re joined now by NBC‘s Jonathan Dienst. Jonathan, tell us how you learned about this amazing discovery.
JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC-TV: Well, we started hearing about this mid-afternoon from law enforcement officials, who informed us that FBI agents and NYPD detectives were en route to Rockefeller Plaza here to pick up a package that was sent from the killer to NBC News. We were then in contact with the news division and with law enforcement authorities to find out what was inside that package. And we learned that inside that package was a manifesto, a long, rambling manifesto, where the killer apparently outlines and voices some of the anger and issues that he had with fellow students and others, which may provide some sort of explanation as to why he did this.
It also apparently includes a CD-ROM, a video where he reads that manifesto to the camera. And in addition to that, it also apparently has several photographs of which I am not aware of what the contents of those photos are. NBC News is working on it. They were able to make copies of some of those materials, and they will be airing those at 6:30 tonight on “NBC Nightly News.”
But needless to say, the key point of this package that was sent to NBC is this apparent timestamp, when this package was mailed. And law enforcement officials tell us that it appears to have been mailed between the time that first shooting took place in the dorm and two hours later, when that mass slaughter happened in the academic building.
And this may provide the window or some answers to where was the gunman, what was he doing in that two-hour gap. And he may have been packing and/or mailing this package. We do not yet know. I do not have the stamp of where this was mailed from, whether it was mailed from on campus or off campus. But we certainly now know one of the things he was doing was sending a package to NBC News.
MATTHEWS: Do we know he made the mailing or someone else did? We just assume, I suppose, that he did it himself.
DIENST: That is a very good point. We do not know who mailed that. I think the leading theory at this point is that he did mail it himself, based on the timestamp, based on that gap. And if authorities can confirm that—and obviously, they‘re now obviously going to be going to post offices, checking surveillance cameras, seeing if anything comes up and indicates and shows him carrying this box en route to a postal facility to mail it. So obviously, that is something investigators are hard at work with at this hour.
MATTHEWS: So at the very time he was trying to get cover and hide from authorities who were looking for the shooter in the original rampage, the original set of shootings, he had the brass to go out and mail a package in broad daylight.
DIENST: That is the leading theory at this time. That package is now in the hands of FBI agents here in New York and the NYPD and is en route, will be sent back to the Virginia authorities who are leading this investigation. We know that NBC News has copies of what was in that package, and there will be much more about what was inside coming up on “NBC Nightly News.”
MATTHEWS: A couple of questions. It was definitely U.S. mail, it was not Fedex, right?
DIENST: That is my best understanding, yes.
MATTHEWS: It was a box or it was a large envelope?
DIENST: My understanding is that it is a box. Steve Capus from the NBC network would be able to tell more. I did not see this. I was just briefed by law enforcement officials and some of my colleagues at the network about what was inside that box. That is my best understanding. I was not down on the 3rd floor, where this package arrived earlier today.
MATTHEWS: And Jonathan, it was received today?
DIENST: Yes. That is our understanding.
MATTHEWS: So it‘s a two day mailing from Blacksburg, Virginia, up to Rockefeller Center. A two-day mailing sounds about right.
MATTHEWS: We got it today and we turned it over—we being NBC News
turned it over to the police immediately, the FBI? Who did we turn it over to, do you know?
DIENST: I know FBI agents and NYPD. Now, here in New York, out of the FBI headquarters, there are task forces, there are teams of joint FBI/NYPD task forces. Also ATF sits on those task forces. I don‘t know which squad sent them, but both FBI agents and NYPD detectives were here at 30 Rockefeller Plaza this afternoon around 3:00 o‘clock, we are told, 3:30.
MATTHEWS: Being a reporter here, did it identify the addressee? Was it Steve Capus, the president of NBC News?
DIENST: That I do not know.
MATTHEWS: Did it say NBC News on the envelope?
DIENST: That is my understanding, on the package that was sent. I‘m told it‘s a box, a package.
MATTHEWS: And we can assume it had the right address or it couldn‘t have gotten to NBC at Rockefeller Plaza without an address.
DIENST: And I think a key point to point out is that as soon as this package arrived, we‘re told that NBC officials immediately called law enforcement authorities. And obviously, there were negotiations and talks about how best to handle this.
MATTHEWS: Who opened it? Did they open it before or after the authorities arrived?
DIENST: I believe it was probably opened because I don‘t think they knew who it was from until they opened it and saw the contents and saw what was in there. That is my best understanding. Really, the network folks who received that package would know better. Again, we are on different floors. We‘re up here on the 7th floor, they are down on the 3rd floor. And our first word, actually, here in the local newsroom came from law enforcement, when they were apparently contacted to come pick it up. And then we called down to the news division, and there was a lot of talk and discussion, as you can imagine it, how do you handle this as a reporter, how do you handle this as a good citizen, how do you...
MATTHEWS: Will we see this on the “Nightly News” tonight? Will we see these tapes, this CD-ROM?
DIENST: Yes. My understanding is you‘re going to see a lot, you know, of what was inside that box, that during the—you know, with the meetings with law enforcement here today, NBC has been allowed to use and keep and obviously...
MATTHEWS: So there‘s no restraint on that by the police, about showing these—playing these CD-ROMs and the other materials, the electronic materials and the apparently the still photographs tonight on “Nightly” at 6:30.
DIENST: My understanding is that, of course, law enforcement has the originals, but that NBC was able to work with law enforcement...
MATTHEWS: Right. Well...
DIENST: ... on this and retain some copies.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, this will go down in your record book when you‘re giving speeches in your 60s about the amazing story you broke on this arrival of a package in the building where you work. Thank you very much. WNBC, that‘s the New York affiliate, the flagship of NBC News in New York.
Jonathan Dienst, thank you, sir.
DIENST: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go now to NBC‘s Don Teague, who‘s back down there in Blacksburg, Virginia. This is an amazing story, Don. Amazing story.
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘ll tell you, Chris, it was a surprise to all of us. I was sitting in the news conference, waiting to hear the latest on the investigation from the police. Of course, I work for NBC. We had no hint here that this was coming.
I do have some information, though, that I haven‘t heard you report. I‘ve spoken with a senior producer for “NBC Nightly News,” who told me that this envelope or this package was addressed simply to NBC, not necessarily to NBC News, and also that it arrived at some point this morning in the first mail, we assume, this morning, so early part of the day and to NBC. I didn‘t know anything about where the postmark was from, if Cho‘s name was on the return address part of the package or not. But for what that‘s worth, there‘s a little bit more information for you.
MATTHEWS: Well, Don, that‘s a stunning moment when someone in the mailroom looks down and sees a generally addressed package, which is kind of boring because we get a lot of that mail here in Washington, as well, and then sees the name of the shooter on the back of the box.
TEAGUE: It‘s really surprising, actually, that this would happen so fast. I can‘t imagine how many pieces of mail NBC gets in a day. It must be thousands, if not tens of thousands, particularly if it‘s only addressed to NBC and sent to 30 Rock in New York. So the fact that in this short a time, it would actually be discovered, looked at, someone would realize, obviously, that there‘s important news value, but more importantly, a value to the investigation and police and start this ball in motion really fascinates me.
MATTHEWS: What fascinates me is here‘s a young man, a disturbed young man, angry, violent, turns out, young man, who for all the way from August of last year, beginning in the fall session all through the spring session, didn‘t speak a word to his suitemates, was completely isolated in speech and in manner, without affect, without a social life, apparently, and all that time never felt the need to communicate a word to his roommates and suitemates, now we find out has orchestrated this postmortem address complete with visual aids to the world.
TEAGUE: And perhaps we‘ll find what set him off. We seem to think that there‘s some sort of timeline, the fall of 2005 being pretty pivotal in his life. That‘s when the two separate women students here both filed not charges against him but made complaints that he had been stalking them. That rose to the level of police in one case and ultimately ended in him having a psychological evaluation at a mental health facility off campus here.
We know about the professor who was concerned about his writings. We know about classmates concerned about his writings. That was all happening in the fall of 2005, November and December, and then after those mental health evaluations, he was returned here as a student, and then nothing. Is that when he stopped talking? We don‘t know for sure, but maybe we‘ll have some clues in this package.
MATTHEWS: Well, the suitemates were never told they were rooming with a ticking bomb. Anyway, thank you very much, NBC‘s Don Teague.
Bill Gavin‘s a former assistant director of the FBI. He‘s stationed in New York. He‘s up in New York right now. Bill, what do you make of this case, this combination of absolute silence by this student—and we‘re going to be hearing the interview in a few moments from his suitemate, who says he never spoke for months and months and months, and now this elaborate decision on his part to send a package of materials with all kinds of explanation about his impending rampage of murder and suicide?
BILL GALVIN, FMR. ASST. DIR. TOP FBI IN NEW YORK: Chris, it‘s just a continuation of the bizarre. This young man was a cauldron that was just boiling and cooking without anybody seeing it, when he finally just spilled everything off, and what we were left with was just nothing but hatred and insanity, he went and did what he did.
This is going to be very interesting. What NBC has right now is going to be very interesting to see what‘s in that package. Who knows? Did he take a picture of the first killings with his camera phone and put them in this package? He had to have brought it someplace, if it has—you know, if it‘s got a date stamp on it coming from the university. This is just absolutely bizarre and just a continuation of the horrendous act he committed on campus. And he knows darn right well what he is doing right now from the grave is a continuation of what he did in real life to the very end.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s almost a nightclub comedic gimmick to talk about the guy who commits these mass murders but was always, when interviewed by the neighbors, Oh, he was quiet, he never hurt a flea. Is this the normal MO or rather profile of a mass killer, that they‘re this innocuous in appearance?
GALVIN: Chris, I think it probably has something to do with the person himself, of course. You know, whatever this turns out to be, whatever comes out of these—out of this package, whatever he has to say on that CD, standing there reading a manifesto to everybody, the bottom line is it makes sense to him. It will never make sense to any of the rest of us. It made sense to him to do all of this in the sequence, to remain almost in a catatonic state most of the time he was in college, yet to talk to the world from the grave on this CD. It is absolutely bizarre.
MATTHEWS: Bill, like you and I and millions of other Americans—in fact, I think all 300 million of us—who have looked into the blank, affectless stare of Mohamed Atta, a face that has no expression, no life in it, love, no hate, nothing, just a vacant look, this young man Cho has been described as having had a vacant look for months now.
Is this a sign of person who has given up on any kind of connection to fellow humanity?
GAVIN: It—sometimes, it can be, Chris. Other times, it can be just sheer non-contact with reality. Other times, it‘s just he has totally given up. He has locked everything inside of him. And the external manifestations are never there.
He is seething. He‘s boiling. He‘s hating on the inside. And, on the outside, he appears just to be a weirdo. This is...
MATTHEWS: But that‘s all he was to his suite mates.
And, as I said, we are going to hear more from his suite mate in a few moments.
But, because this news keeps breaking, we haven‘t been able to get to it. But we just interviewed him this late this afternoon. And these kids had no real problem with him.
I must tell you, wait until you hear this interview. Maybe the—I think they‘re just being tolerant to a guy they considered a weirdo, as you put it. In fact, they said he was weird. But they never felt they had reason for complaint. They never felt, I got to go to the administrator of this school. We have got a strange guy living in our room that might be causing trouble some day.
They acted like, OK, he‘s an exchange student. He has limited English, they thought. He may come from a different culture. We‘re just going to live with this guy and make no complaint about it. In fact, they had no complaint.
What do you make of that?
GAVIN: They had no complaint because, like the—like the kids that I have seen on that campus, I am so impressed with the—with all the kids that have been interviewed down there, young adults. I call them kids, but that is not true anymore. They‘re young adults.
And what they were trying to do, everybody that had anything to say about him in the very beginning always tried to bring him out of the shell, tried to sit down and have lunch with him, tried to joke with him, tried to do things with him.
And this kid would just wear sunglasses, so there would be not a lot of eye contact with anybody.
GAVIN: It was awful, just tremendously weird.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe the intolerance of my youth wouldn‘t have put up with it. But these kids today are really trying to understand people who come from different backgrounds.
And, as I said, it‘s fascinating that they—they had this roommate who they never felt was a problem. And I mean that. And maybe they, I think—without passing too severe of a judgment—the authorities of this school should have told those kids that the police had interviewed this kid, that they had basically brought him to the attention of psychiatric experts, that he had been restrained from stalking from a couple of women, lots of evidence that this guy may be a ticking time bomb.
And they never even told the suite mates. Maybe that‘s under some sort of code at Virginia Tech. We are going to know more about that later.
Bill Gavin, thank you very much for joining us bringing your—us your FBI experience.
Let‘s go now to Jack Thompson. He‘s the attorney—and this goes back a bit. He represented the families of the girls shot at a different school. Remember the one at Paducah, Kentucky, back in ‘97? Well, Mr. Thompson is a strong opponent of violent commuter—computer games.
Jack Thompson, thank you, sir, for joining us.
JACK THOMPSON, REPRESENTED PADUCAH SHOOTING VICTIMS‘ FAMILIES: Hey, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I asked the suite mate—and, again, it will come up in a moment here, this interview we just did.
He said there was some—the kids are like most kids at that campus at Virginia Tech. They are basically into basketball, into other sports. There‘s not a strong subculture of violent video games. And they had no real evidence that the shooter—and that‘s what we can call him now—
Cho Seung-Hui, was one of these kids involved with that sort of game.
THOMPSON: Well, they are inconsistent in their comments, Chris.
They said that they didn‘t have much to do with him, but yet they know what he was doing?
MATTHEWS: Well, they didn‘t see any evidence of that.
THOMPSON: Well, in fact, “The Washington Post” today, as you know, reported that his high school friends or his associates said he was immersed incredibly in the—in the video game, the computer-based game “Counter-Strike.”
MATTHEWS: Tell me about “Counter-Strike,” because it‘s a strong theory of yours. What is it?
THOMPSON: Well, it‘s not a theory.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s a theory that it had something to do with this case.
THOMPSON: That‘s right.
Until Monday, the worst school shooting in world history was in Erfurt, Germany, at the hands of Robert Steinhaeuser. He killed 16 and then himself. And he was immersed in the game “Counter-Strike.” It‘s a very violent Internet-based game in which you kill as many people as possible with all sorts of weapons.
That event changed the chancellor‘s race in Germany. It changed the
laws in Germany. And here we have now Mr. Cho, who was involved in this
same game, according to his high school classmates. His own suite mates at
in Blacksburg said that he was on the computer all the time. He wasn‘t downloading music. He was playing this game.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have—that‘s not what we just heard.
MATTHEWS: Wait. We just talked to his—one of his suite mates, who said...
THOMPSON: He doesn‘t know.
MATTHEWS: ... when he looked on the screen, he said he just saw him writing linear English, just writing...
MATTHEWS: ... apparently essays or...
MATTHEWS: ... plays or something.
THOMPSON: When he looked on the screen.
But the fact is—and here‘s is what significant. Cho was able to go room to room very calmly, efficiently, coolly killing people.
In Red Lake, Minnesota, Jeffrey Weise killed 10 people. And they found that he trained on a video game to do it.
Chris, you can‘t do something this well the first time you do it. And the fact is, it wasn‘t the first time. He was in a hyper-reality situation, in virtual reality. Almost every school shooter the FBI and Secret Service has found is immersed in violent entertainment.
MATTHEWS: OK. Explain...
THOMPSON: And the...
MATTHEWS: ... to the civilian out here...
MATTHEWS: ... the person who doesn‘t know about “Counter-Strike.”
How does the game prepare or drill him in the execution of 32 people?
THOMPSON: It drills you and gives you scenarios on how to kill them.
It gets you to kill with your heart rate lower.
In fact, the FBI agent in Red Lake said that we could tell by the surveillance videos that Weise‘s heart rate was not above 60. That‘s impossible to do unless you have done it before.
And, so, the video games—it‘s the reason, Chris, why the military uses these same type games to train soldiers how to kill, and also to have the willingness to kill. And the...
MATTHEWS: What‘s your most recent—I need to get a...
MATTHEWS: I know it is a theory. And it is a theory in this case.
When was the most recent testimony, and when is it applied to, that he was involved with “Counter-Strike,” the video game, that Cho was?
THOMPSON: Cho? His high school friends. And, typically, when...
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, he is a fourth-year student at Virginia Tech.
THOMPSON: Chris—Chris, I have been on college campuses. In fact, I was in—at Virginia Tech debating this issue a number of years ago.
And the fact is almost, I would say 80 percent of the male students in colleges are spending their spare time playing these games. And for this suite mate to say that, A, he didn‘t have much to do with his suite mate, and, yet, he knows what he was doing, the fact that...
MATTHEWS: Do you know what he was doing?
THOMPSON: We know...
MATTHEWS: Do you know whether Cho, the shooter...
THOMPSON: No. We don‘t know, but I will tell you...
MATTHEWS: ... was involved with “Counter-Strike” at Virginia Tech the last four years?
THOMPSON: Chris, we know in two regards.
We know from his high school friends that he was into this. You don‘t drop it when you go to college, typically. Secondly, the FBI, the Secret Service have found that the one common denominator among school shooters is the immersion in violent entertainment.
And the significance of what happened today, with NBC getting this, is that this—the sending to NBC of this to extend beyond the grave this media event, this is an extension of what this guy was into.
Don‘t you understand? The video games are art imitating life. And then you get a bleed-over of life imitating the art that he was into. This was all a game for this guy. It was a body count game. This was...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know that, though.
THOMPSON: I know it from what other school shooters have done. I represented the parents in Paducah.
MATTHEWS: Right. But you are projecting other cases onto this case. You‘re projecting what he was doing four or five years ago onto what he was doing this weekend.
THOMPSON: Chris, the forensic fact is that he—the coolness with which he was able to pull this off—quote—“the first time he did it” indicates he rehearsed it.
I‘m sorry. That‘s simply the way it works. That‘s what the FBI has found, the Secret Service. That‘s what we have in the school shooters.
For example, the Montreal Dawson College shooter of last year, he trained on “Super Columbine Massacre,” an Internet-based program...
MATTHEWS: OK. Well...
THOMPSON: ... and also “Postal 2.” So, the common denominator...
MATTHEWS: We will find out.
THOMPSON: Yes, we will.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not against any theories until they are proven or disproven. Let‘s see if this bears to be true here.
Thank you very much, Jack Thompson...
THOMPSON: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... for coming on HARDBALL.
When we return, my interview—I have been pushing this. Wait until you see this. This is a suite mate of the Virginia Tech shooter. This guy has been living with this guy since August.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, NBC News announced—in fact, just recently—that it received a package from the Virginia Tech gunman himself, Cho Seung-Hui.
The package contained photographs, writings, and a video of himself. There‘s going to be much more on this development tonight on “NBC Nightly News.” East Coast, by—East Coast time, by the way, is 6:30.
What an opening that is going to be, because we—Brian is going to be showing the actual visual materials, including a CD-ROM, play that as well, that came from the shooter that was mailed—this package was mailed, incredibly, in the—at the time between the two sets of killings on Monday down at Blacksburg.
It arrived at NBC News today. It is just the latest bizarre twist involving Cho Seung-Hui. Today, we also learned that police, fellow students, and even a professor of Cho‘s were deeply concerned about his behavior for years.
HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, at Virginia Tech, investigators confirmed that, ever since Cho Seung-Hui arrived on campus, he had been waving a series of red flags that administration officials largely ignored.
At a news conference, campus police said that Cho was stalking a female student two years ago and scaring her over the phone, prompting law enforcement to get involved.
WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE CHIEF: The student declined to press—declined to press charges and referred to Cho‘s contact with her as annoying. However, the investigating officer referred Cho to the university disciplinary system.
SHUSTER: Two months later, officials said Cho sent harassing instant messages to another female student. That event led to another visit by police, concerns that Cho was suicidal, and a visit with a counselor.
FLINCHUM: Based on that interaction with the counselor, a temporary detention order was obtained, and Cho was taken to a mental health facility.
SHUSTER: Later that fall, and back in class, Cho was refusing to communicate with anybody or even identify himself. In one English class, after taking pictures of students and then writing about murdering people, several students were so scared, they refused to come back to the class.
Following that episode and a series of violent essays Cho had written as part of an English assignment, the department chair tried to intervene. She begged Cho to seek psychiatric help, and she urged administration officials to intervene.
LUCINDA ROY, PROFESSOR, VIRGINIA TECH: I have been teaching 22 years. And there have only been a couple of times when I have thought, this is a really, really worrying thing. And this was one of them.
SHUSTER: The administration, however, decided not to follow up. School officials did not canvass Cho‘s other professors or even talk to Cho‘s roommates.
This week, after being asked by reporters, Cho‘s roommates said they had been concerned about Cho for a long time, because he refused to have conversations with him ever, and would spend hours at a time in the room they shared staring at nothing.
According to experts in campus counseling, the signs of depression and psychotic behavior were all there, if administration officials had taken a look.
JILL STELFOX, SCHOOL SAFETY ANALYST: It‘s the thing that is probably the most frustrating about this situation. It is absolutely outrageous that we don‘t provide a better way of knowing what‘s happening with our children.
SHUSTER: Virginia Tech officials say they do not have a formal system that can integrate mental health information about a student from multiple sources or a way to interview people who see that student every day.
Some universities, though, alarmed by the rise in on-campus suicides and violence in recent years, have aggressively created integrated information systems to make sure no students fall through the cracks.
But it‘s too late for Virginia Tech and the families of 32 people gunned down. And now their families are plagued by the question: What if?
Eighteen-year-old Reema Samaha was a freshman, teaching dance.
KRISTEN FIELDS, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: She was really good at belly dancing.
FIELDS: And she was a really good teacher.
SHUSTER: Ryan Clark, known as Stack, was a resident adviser and a member of the marching band.
BRYAN CLARK, BROTHER OF RYAN CLARK: He was a fun-loving, outgoing individual, loved to be around people, and loved to share his passion for music and education.
SHUSTER: Now it‘s university administrators who are getting a lesson on the dangers when a student‘s troubling behavior is noticed, but dismissed.
And, for the entire community at Virginia Tech, the almost unbearable grieving continues.
I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: David Shuster.
Let‘s go now to the shooter‘s roommate, Karan Grewal.
Karan, what was it like roommating with Cho Seung-Hui?
KARAN GREWAL, SUITE MATE OF CHO SEUNG-HUI: He was really quiet every time. So, most of the times, I just left him alone, let him be, let him do his work.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever ask to be transferred? Did you ever ask for a new roommate?
GREWAL: Well, I wasn‘t in—I was not in the same room as him. But I did share a common area and a bathroom with him with six other people.
MATTHEWS: So, you were a group. How was it arranged? Was he in his own room to sleep in?
GREWAL: Pretty much.
There‘s three rooms in the suite, where we all share a common area and a bathroom. The roommates are randomly assigned. There‘s two per room. I was right now next door to him, about 12 feet away from his door.
MATTHEWS: Did he seem dangerous to you?
GREWAL: Not at all. All the time, I just thought he was really shy and reserved. I left him alone after the first week. I tried talking to him when we first moved in August.
But, most times, when I said hi, he would just look down or look away or pretend that he didn‘t hear me. So, after the first few weeks, I just let him be.
MATTHEWS: I never heard of a kid like that. Did you? Have you ever heard of a person like that, that wouldn‘t communicate at college? I mean, in college, you try to get along with people. It‘s part of the experience, to be social, to some extent.
Have you ever heard of a kid who wouldn‘t talk to you?
GREWAL: I found it pretty weird in the first month or so that he wouldn‘t talk to any of us, or he never had any visitors, or I never saw him talking on the phone, even with his parents, or even talking on I.M. with somebody on his computer.
I thought it was pretty weird. But, in our dorm room, we‘re all upperclassmen. And there‘s very few freshmen. So, at first, I just assumed he had another group of friends that he hung out with, and I never saw them.
MATTHEWS: Did he keep regular hours?
GREWAL: Pretty—pretty much.
He got up pretty early in the morning. And, late at night, I used to either see him typing on his computer or watching TV in the lounge.
MATTHEWS: How long were you in the same suite with—with Cho Seung-Hui?
GREWAL: We all moved into the suite in August. None of us lived in the same suite before. So, we—the suite was new to all of us.
MATTHEWS: So, if you had been interviewed the day before the horror, say, a couple of days ago, and the police had come to you or some psychiatrist had come to you, and said, do we have any reason to fear any violence from your suite mate, you would have said what?
GREWAL: I would have said no. He did not seem aggressive or the kind of person who would pick a fight with anybody. He was not big in any way or aggressive in nature or angry.
Most of the time, he had no expression on his face, never a smile, a frown, an angry expression, never. He just had one look all the time. If you have seen his picture, that‘s how he looked every day, all the time.
MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, Karan—Karan, I have never heard of anybody like this in my life.
You mean he walked around without aspect, like a zombie, and you guys didn‘t talk about him? You never told anybody about him? You never thought this was really weird? You said weird. I think really weird. You never thought it was really weird that a guy was completely incommunicado with his own suite mates?
GREWAL: Like I said, in the beginning, I talked about it with my roommates, because my roommate tried to communicate with him also, but we were never informed about his past problems, seeing the counselor or having suicide thoughts. If I was told about this, I would probably be more cautious or try a little harder to be his friend, but I had no information about his past.
MATTHEWS: So the school administration never told you or your other suite mates that your suite mate was having psychological problems, that he was stalking a couple of fellow students, that he had these problems that at one point required that he be brought in for a while. We don‘t know for how long, but you didn‘t know about any of this?
GREWAL: No, not at all. The university officials never told us, ever, and he pretty much never conversed with any one of us. I pretty much did not know what his major was until yesterday. Talking to his roommate before that, I thought he was a business major. But I found out yesterday that he was an English major, which was weird, because when he didn‘t talk, one of the things I assumed that maybe he did not know how to converse in English too much.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought that might explain to you fellows why he didn‘t talk, but you did believe he spoke English well enough to communicate?
GREWAL: In the beginning I believed that he did not know English too well.
MATTHEWS: So that‘s how you explained to yourselves that he wasn‘t talking to anybody?
GREWAL: That was one of the ways, yes.
MATTHEWS: And then you find out the other day he‘s an English major.
GREWAL: Yes, it was really surprising that he wrote all those plays and was pretty fluent. I was surprised to find out that he moved to the United States in ‘92. I was assuming that he maybe came in the year that he moved into our suite, last year.
MATTHEWS: Unbelievable. Let me ask you about the usual things that college kids talk to each other about. Did he ever have girl troubles? Did he ever come back looking especially miserable because he had been shot down by a girl, or anything like that occur to you?
GREWAL: No, most of the times he stayed in. Like I said, I either saw him sitting down working on his laptop, writing something, or sitting down watching TV in the lounge. If I came out late at night, he would be sitting down next to the entrance, just watching TV.
MATTHEWS: What did he watch?
GREWAL: On Friday nights he used to watched wrestling pretty regularly, and other times I saw him watch Spike TV, game shows.
MATTHEWS: Let me get into this video game thing. Do you know anything about Counter Strike as a video game?
MATTHEWS: Was he into it?
GREWAL: I never saw him play any video games on his computer. Most of the times, like I said, he just wrote on his computer. He had a word document over open and he just kept on typing away. Sometimes I would see him typing at 10:00 in the morning and I would come back at 12:00 and he would still be there?
MATTHEWS: And he was writing in English?
MATTHEWS: So you did believe he was conversant in English, he just wasn‘t a good speaker of English, you thought?
GREWAL: Well, once I saw him typing in English, I thought maybe he just does not want to talk to any of us, because he never—when I said hi, he never showed as if he did not want to talk to me or disgust on his face or, you know, anger. He just did not have any expression. He looked away.
So that just showed me that he was really shy, not dangerous in any way at all.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a very tolerant young man. I would have said that if I had a roommate or suite mate in college who was that weird, as you put it, who never communicated, you‘d say let‘s go out for dinner tonight or let‘s go to a movie or let‘s go to this social thing or let‘s go a club. You guys were never inclined to say that to him because you assumed he would always say nothing, right?
GREWAL: We just knew he would say nothing, since he never even told us his name, really. The only way I knew his name was his name posted on his door by the RA.
MATTHEWS: Do you guys have any choice in your roommates at Virginia Tech? I mean, it seems like he would be the last guy drawn on the list.
GREWAL: Well, we can choose our roommates who live in the room with us, but if you don‘t choose one it‘s random assignments. You can not pick your suite mates, so most of us in the suite, we were there by random choice. We didn‘t pick our roommates.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever wonder why you got him?
GREWAL: As a suite mate, not really. I just—in a suite, you have much more privacy than regular dormitories, where you have just one hallway with doors. So that kind of explained to me why he might choose a suite, rather than a regular dormitory.
MATTHEWS: If you had to be a psychiatrist right now, how would you explain what happened here?
GREWAL: I‘m totally in disbelief that he was capable of doing this. He just seemed very lonely most of the times. I didn‘t think he wasn‘t capable of anything violent at all. I saw him starting to go to the gym recently, so I guess he was trying to take care of himself more, but he did not seem like a guy who had a death wish.
MATTHEWS: Did he seem like he was trying to get more buff to be more appealing to girls? Did you see that, or did you see any thing like that, a romantic frustration in him or something about, you know, being disappointed in love, the things that always happen in college? You didn‘t see any of that with him?
GREWAL: No, I just assumed—I did assume that he was going to the gym to get a little bit buff. He was pretty skinny. I heard reports on TV that he was 6 feet tall. But he wasn‘t really. I think he was more like 5‘ 8 or 5‘ 9, a little bit shorter than me.
MATTHEWS: You think he was trying to get in shape?
GREWAL: That‘s what I assumed, because I always saw him in the weight room at the gym.
MATTHEWS: But you don‘t know why he was driven to that?
GREWAL: No. I just assumed he was trying to get buff, you know, look better.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me ask you about is there any culture at Virginia tech about video games, anything the guys talk about, like video games, like this Counter Strike game?
GREWAL: Well, there‘s a lot of tournaments that people do by themselves, but there is no formal club.
MATTHEWS: What about the informal. Is there a subculture around video games?
GREWAL: Not really. People are—some people are interested in it. Some are not. There‘s no big culture about any kind of violent games or anything, no.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—
GREWAL: Mostly sports, I would think.
MATTHEWS: Mostly sports. So mostly, if you would talk about stuff, you would talk about basketball and stuff like that?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the way the police treated you the day of the horror, on Monday, when they came into your room that night at 7:30, what did they do? How many police were there and what did they do to you?
GREWAL: When the police first showed up, they knocked on our door, but I was really hesitant to open the door, because I was scared what happened that day, so I kept my door closed for ten minutes until I was really sure it was the police. When I opened the door, when they were banging on the door really hard, they had guns drawn and a person was screaming, put your hands up and they rushed us outside, handcuffed us, separated all of the suite mates into different rooms and kept us there until somebody came to interview us.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that was justified?
GREWAL: I guess, I do understand why they did that. I guess they weren‘t sure if any of us were affiliated with him at all, but once they found out none of us ever had a conversation with him or never really hung out with him on a personal level, they were pretty calm later on, and explained to us what had happened.
MATTHEWS: Were you shocked to know that—I don‘t want to do a leading question here, but were you surprised to know that he was carrying in his possession, in his suite that you shared with him, two semi-automatic pistols?
GREWAL: I was really shocked that he had the guns in his room. And I heard the police talk about that he was filing off serial numbers, because last week—the whole last week I was in my room and I never heard anything strange coming from his room or any kind of strange smells or anything at all.
MATTHEWS: That is so strange, because—I agree with you completely, because it seems to me that why did he file off the serial numbers if he kept the receipt in his room of the purchase of the gun and the ammo clip, and he used a credit card to buy the gun with. He must have not been a very smart criminal, if you will, to do all that and leave all that kind of trail.
GREWAL: Yes, definitely. When I talked to Joseph about how the room looked when Joseph came back that afternoon, his—Joseph is the person who lived in the same room as him. He told me his laptop was still on his table, his books were still on his table. It didn‘t seem like he was leaving to go anywhere. It seemed like he was just coming—he would come back from class tonight. We all assumed when he wasn‘t there that he must be in one of the residence halls not allowed by the police to get out.
MATTHEWS: You know, I have to tell you, as much as I am in disbelief that a person could be your roommate, you guys are very tolerant. I don‘t know whether it is diversity or something, but today in school you‘re much nicer to classmates and roommates than we ever were. If we had a roommate that never talked at all to any of us, I think people would be asking for changes of roommates, but I must say, it also seems so similar to what you hear about the killers, mass killers included, that they are so quiet and they are so hard to find, and hard to notice.
What you‘ve been through does sound like what happens so often, the quiet guy, who never hurt a flea, all of a sudden goes on a rampage and you don‘t know what‘s coming. And god, I feel for you, buddy and thank you very much for giving us this insight into this horror that nobody else can give us except a suite mate. I appreciate you coming on the program tonight.
GREWAL: You‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.
NBC News president Steve Capus gave an interview with MSNBC.com about the package Cho, that‘s the shooter, sent NBC. The package contained a video in which Capus said Cho said, quote, this didn‘t have to happen. This didn‘t have to happen. And Capus says Cho continued to ramble in a profanity-laced statement, filled with hatred. More on that tonight on NBC Nightly News tonight and on HARDBALL at 7:00 eastern. We will have a second edition tonight.
When we return right now, how officials missed the warning signs. We are going to talk to Dr. Bernadine Healey and a Virginia Tech student who was friends with one of the victims. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
There‘s a photo for the package. There you got it, “Killer Speaks.” You can‘t be more dramatic than that. It does remind me, in a perverse way, of the suicide killers in the Middle East, a guy who‘s posing on a picture like this, so the people will know as he passes away into history who this guy was, the man who never spoke to his suite mates and now is looking at us and saying, I‘m the killer that speaks.
Strange, horrible, bizarre. More on this when we come right back.
MATTHEWS: We can now show you the picture of the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung Hui, what a ghastly picture. That was in the package, by the way. That picture you‘re looking at right now is the first shot that he have gotten of it. It was mailed in those two between the two shootings on Monday down at Virginia Tech.
Here is a kid—and we learned from his roommate just now, didn‘t speak for months and months and months to his roommates, never talked to anybody. And here is what he posed for in his own solitude, in his own strange lost world.
We are joined by Lindsey Hughes, a Virginia Tech senior who was friends with the shooting victim, Ryan Clark, and Dr. Bernadine Healey, the former director of the National Institutes of Health. I have to go to the professional here. I know you‘re not a psychiatrist, but here is a silent person, maybe a victim to life for all we know, whatever the reasons that drove this person to killing all these people, look at this exhibition here of—Who is he trying to be here?
BERNADINE HEALEY, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Chris, I think you are not looking at a depressed kid. What you are looking at is someone we would call criminally insane. This is almost a paranoid schizophrenic kind of behavior, a manic behavior. This is a psychotic individual and that does not mean that they can‘t be calculating, they can‘t be very precise.
MATTHEWS: Did you see “The Matrix?”
MATTHEWS: Keanu Reeves, that kind of pose with no guns firing. I mean, this is an image, an iconic image from the movie. Let‘s not kid ourselves here. I don‘t know if he‘s a copy cat or what he is, but that kid is acting like people do in cinematic violent movies.
HEALEY: And it is very calculated. I mean, look at the garb, the dress.
MATTHEWS: The flack jacket, the ammo vest, the black, the band around the head, the sort of the suicide band, the black glows with the fingers exposed. See the fingers coming through the glove, so he could use the gun more effectively.
I can‘t see it all, but I think he has something else, maybe more ammo clips in his belt. He looks like—you have to ask where did he pose? Where was this? It looks like a vacant back drop, maybe the suite when the other roommates were away.
We have another classmate here, let me ask—who‘s coming on right now. Lindsay Hughes—Lindsay, come on and tell us—I don‘t know if you can see this picture. We‘re looking at a picture right out of the movies of a real violent movie, and here is this late gunman who looks like he is sending a message. He sent this to NBC in the hours between the two sets of killings on Monday on your campus. What do you make of this exhibition here?
LINDSAY HUGHES, FRIEND OF VICTIM: I‘m not sure other than this was his way of reaching out to so many people after staying inside of his own head for so long. I have heard, by all accounts, that he was a loner and didn‘t speak with anybody, and maybe this was his way of finally reaching out to someone. Unfortunately, it was obviously too late.
MATTHEWS: Well, as quiet as he was, and we just talked to one of his suite mates who said he was very quiet, he wasn‘t without emotion that is pretty clear.
HUGHES: Right, it was obviously very calculating.
MATTHEWS: Yes. This get up wasn‘t just thrown together out of the closet. This is the get up of a person who wants to equip themselves for action of some violent sort, Doctor?
HEALEY: Absolutely, and, in fact, if you look at many of the things that we are hearing about, his rage, his offensive behavior with other students, scaring other students, stalking students—again, this is not just a picture of a depressed student. This is someone who is showing a psychological profile of violent behavior.
MATTHEWS: And we know that, Lindsey, that he went out a month or so ago and bought the ammunition. He bought the ammo clip. He bought the nine millimeter semi-automatic the pistol. We know that he was getting ready to do something. And now we know that he was equipping himself in almost a uniform of a killer here, as we see it here with the two guns, two semi-automatics, the fingers exposed for better action on the trigger, the ammo jacket, the vest. It looks like ammo in the belt and the black band around his head, which I suggest probably has something to do with suicide and the black shirt. He looks like a guy who wants to be a movie bad guy, Lindsey.
HUGHES: Well, what I wonder is if there is anyway in the future—I know that there are all kinds of health regulations, HIPA regulations, all that kind of thing, but if someone has gone through psychological profiling, and there is obviously a warning sign, why was that person able to purchase the weapons in the first place. And I feel like perhaps there should be some sort of link between the people who are selling the guns and the people who are doing psychological evaluations on someone who is trying to purchase ammo.
MATTHEWS: Good thought. That would be a good link up, Lindsay. Lindsay Hughes, by the way, thank you for coming on. And most importantly, I‘m sorry about your loss. You‘re friend Ryan Clark sounds like he was a wonderful, wonderful young man.
HUGHES: He was. He was absolutely selfless. You‘re welcome. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you Dr. Bernadine Healey, as always. Much more on the contents of Cho‘s package tonight on NBC Nightly News. What a broadcast that‘s going to be at 6:30 Eastern. And we‘ll be back a half hour after that with all of the stuff you may have missed on Nightly. We‘re going to have it in spades tonight. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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