IMAGE: Tom Ridge, Gerald Massengill
Steve Helber  /  AP
Chairman of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, former Virginia State Police Superintendent Gerald Massengill, right, speaks Thursday during opening remarks in the panel's first meeting, in Richmond, Va. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge sits to his right.
updated 5/10/2007 2:35:59 PM ET 2007-05-10T18:35:59

The panel studying the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech held its first public meeting Thursday, with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine asking for details about the gunman, how the events unfolded, and how the state and other agencies responded.

The eight-member commission, appointed by Kaine and headed by retired State Police Superintendent W. Gerald Massengill, will examine issues surrounding the April 16 shootings, in which 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on campus before committing suicide in a classroom building.

“We owe it to the victims,” Kaine said, to find out everything about what happened that day to help shape policies to prevent another such tragedy.

Three areas of concern
Kaine asked the review panel to develop a detailed factual analysis of the slayings, focusing on three areas:

  • Find out more about Cho, including how he obtained the guns used in the slayings, his mental health treatment history and his interactions with the mental health system.
  • Plot the timeline of events from the first two shootings at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a dormitory, to the rest of the shootings inside Norris Hall, “including efforts to stop events at Norris,” Kaine said.
  • Study the response of state, university and local agencies to the tragedy, including medical care for those who were injured, medical examination of those killed, counseling for university students and employees, and services for victims’ families.

Kaine hopes the panel can complete its factual review before the start of the academic year in August. The group was to hearing a presentation on state gun laws during the public hearing Thursday and could hear some public testimony about the shooting.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said his school is cooperating with the review panel, and is doing its own reviews of safety, telecommunication and information-exchange protocols. Virginia Tech expects to complete those studies by late-August, he said.

“Each one of us and each sector of our society that has been touched by this tragedy must welcome the inspection, introspection and the scrutiny of a thorough analysis,” Steger said.

Kaine’s administration has described the panel’s main task as an “incident-specific after-action review” to improve future responses and procedures, as opposed to an investigative fact-finding effort.

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