Sometime after he killed two people in a Virginia Tech University dormitory but before he slaughtered 30 more in a classroom building Monday morning, Cho Seung-Hui sent NBC News a long and rambling communication and videos about his grievances Monday morning.
NBC News president Steve Capus discussed receiving the package and bringing the killer's message to the public on "Hardball."
You can read the transcript of the interview below.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Stay with us right now. We have joining us on the telephone, NBC News President Steve Capus. Give us a sense, give us the report on how you learned about this package coming to 30 Rockefeller and how you dealt with it.
STEVE CAPUS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENT: The package, when it arrived at NBC headquarters was originally flagged by the letter carrier. Who pointed out to NBC security that it had a return address from Blacksburg, and so it was immediately brought to the attention of security, even before anybody opened it.
MATTHEWS: Did it have a return address? Did it have the name Cho on it in any way?
CAPUS: It had a different name on it. Not Cho.
CAPUS: That’s correct.
MATTHEWS: Is that from “Moby Dick,” do you think?
CAPUS: Honestly, I don’t know. But the key is when it came in here, NBC security opened it and handled it appropriately and everybody who touched it wore gloves to keep everything intact. And we immediately contacted authorities and that set forward the chain of events. And we worked with the authorities this afternoon to make sure that they knew everything that we did. And they requested that we not release some of the information until they had a chance to take a look at it. And we honored that request. And that was the right thing to do.
MATTHEWS: How long did you hold it?
CAPUS: For a matter of hours. I saw a copy around 12:00 noon. And I guess by the first word that went out was at the same time that the Virginia authorities had the news briefing this afternoon at 4:30.
MATTHEWS: What were the items in the package?
CAPUS: There were two things. One was a printout of a PDF type of document. Multi-paged, 23 pages, I believe, of a combination of text and photographs combined in the documents. With the photos embedded in the document. There would be a few lines of text. This kind of rambling manifesto type of statement. And then there would be a series of photographs. And then the other thing that was in the package was a DVD, a video that was carved into snippets of videotape in quick time files.
MATTHEWS: And so that was the more recent production, apparently.
CAPUS: It is hard to tell, Chris. I don’t really know what the timeline is on when those things were prepared or when they were done.
Because the investigators are going to have to make a determination of what it, what each of these words means. And I know, you’ve been in touch with Virginia State Police. I know that they’ve looked at the writings, the videotape we’ve sent some chunks of the video to them and I know that the FBI is in turn, getting them the full videotape.
MATTHEWS: How much more is there of the videotape than what you put on nightly tonight?
CAPUS: I would say there is roughly 10 minutes or so, in total.
But that’s the guess, Chris. I haven’t added it all up.
MATTHEWS: Is it all consistent message of saddness and anger and all the other emotions that were in that short byte?
CAPUS: Very angry. Very, at certain points, agitated. The one thing that becomes clear, because some people were saying, who shot the videotape? As the picture that you’re showing right now, it is typical. It is him talking to camera. And somebody might say, who shot the videotape? On the videotape itself, you can see him lean forward and shut the camera off between the segments.
MATTHEWS: And also, a very steady camera. It looks like he placed on it a shelf or something.
CAPUS: And the still picks, Chris, that are within the PDF file all appear to be grabbed from the videotape.
MATTHEWS: When you look at the picture we’re looking at, and I believe you can see the TV picture as well. You see the guy with the outfit he has on. Let me just ask you, when you look at that outfit with the ammo vest and the ammo belt and the fingers exposed with the gloves, the black shirt, the black head ban, all that getup. It does suggest some planning went into this horror.
CAPUS: I’ll tell you, Chris, it gives you chills to look at these photographs. There is a photograph where he has a gun pointed at his own head. He has a knife at his own neck. He has photographs of hollow tipped bullets lined up on a table or something like that. It is horrifying and chilling.
MATTHEWS: What is impressive to us here after interviewing his suite mate who said that he never spoke a word, really, in the months since August when they were all put together in the same suite. They even thought he couldn’t speak English very well. And then to hear his very articulate voice in this horrible tape, to hear him use a rich language. Clearly, he knew how the speak with great fluency. For him to not speak at all in those months before, and now to give this legacy to NBC. It is a stark departure.
CAPUS: You know, I think this is inside the mind of a murderer. And I don’t know, that’s the way I would characterize it. The authorities need to look at this and really dissect it and pick it apart. You look at the some of the writings and these are just long, ramblings. That honestly, are very hard to follow, Chris. And there is an extreme amount of anger. It is laced with profanity all the way through it. And I, it is very hard to follow. It really is.
MATTHEWS: His suite-mates said his roommate, a fellow name Joseph said when they would look at his room, at his screen and watch him work, perhaps, they would see him relentlessly, not playing video games but writing text. English text. Legnthy narratives of some kind. And maybe they were watching him maybe begin to develop this self-biography, this autobiography. This horror here. Did you wait, reporting facts here. Did you await the authorities before opening the package?
CAPUS: No. The package was opened by NBC security. And as I say, they handled it in the appropriate manner. And all the people who work at NBC security are former law enforcement. And we took frankly, their guidance on how this should be handled and we were in touch with law enforcement immediately.
MATTHEWS: It was a box. It wasn’t an envelope. Is that right?
CAPUS: It was a large oversized envelope. I have not seen the original of the documents and thing like that. Everything I’ve seen is copies that were made. So they didn’t, it is not as though they were pushing around the originals around here. We saw some, the documents. And I asked for the originals to be turned over to the authorities as quickly as we could.
MATTHEWS: We’re talking now with the President of NBC News, Steve Capus who received this frightening package today. Was there any concern by the security people at NBC that it might be a dangerous package?
CAPUS: I don’t know, Chris. They didn’t tell me that. And I know ever since the anthrax incident, everything of a larger size gets checked when it comes into the building. And as I said, the letter carrier who brought it into the building, flagged us to the retrun address. And so they were already on heightened alert because of the return address.
MATTHEWS: Last question, in terms of the context, the fact that the killer here, we can call him that, referenced Eric and Dillian, the killers of Columbine. Does that lead us in the direction this story will take? That this is, if not a copycat case, certainly a related case to the horror that happened in Oklahoma?
CAPUS: I’m not in any position to make that determination. He does in this note, make reference to Eric and Dillan but I don’t know beyond that how to interpret this. I’ll leave it to the investigators and I have to say, the Virginia State Police, which is taking the lead on this, has done an outstanding job with us today. And we very much appreciate their efforts. And we wanted to work with them every step of the way.
MATTHEWS: And no understanding yet, except perhaps, its prominence, why he would choose NBC.
CAPUS: No indication in the letter, Chris, of why NBC.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Steve Capus, President of the News Division here at NBC News. He is the President of NBC News.
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