Guests: Steve Capus, Gregg McCrary, Susan Lipkins
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The tragic becomes the unbelievable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO SEUNG-HUI: When the time came, I did it. I had to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now we know what Cho Seung-hui was doing in the two-hour span before his first two murders at Virginia Tech and his final 30 murders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earlier today NBC News in New York received correspondence that we believe to have been from Cho Seung-hui, the gunman responsible for the fatal shootings in Norris Hall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The timestamp on the package showing it was mailed at 9:01 Monday morning after Cho killed two students in a dormitory before he moved to his murderous rage in an engineering building, possibly by somebody else, most likely by him, in it, a multipage manifesto and a DVD of him reading his disturbing, angry, profanity-laced message to cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correspondence included multiple photographs, video, and writings. Upon receipt of this correspondence, NBC News immediately notified authorities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tonight, what we can tell you about, what we can show you of the package with the multimedia manifesto from Cho Seung-hui. Pete Williams with the details, former FBI profiler Cliff Van Zandt with what the fact of the package could mean. Lisa Myers on the new timeline of warning signs missed. Mike Taibbi profiling more of his victims. Matt Lauer with the stories of the heroes.
And also with us tonight, Steve Capus, the president of NBC News.
And the extraordinary new facts, a mass murderer who sought not just death, but also publicity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: I didn‘t have to do this. I could have left, I could have fled.
But no, I will no longer run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Cho Seung-hui, not just a mass murderer who killed 32 people, including his classmates, at Virginia Tech University, but a mass murderer who paused in the middle of the carnage to send out a press release.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, on a day when we learned that 16 months ago, a Virginia court had declared Cho an imminent danger to himself, comes this most remarkable and unexpected of developments, what is aptly described as a multimedia manifesto contained in a mailed package, a package timestamped by a U.S. Post Office in Blacksburg, Virginia, at 9:01 a.m. Monday morning, roughly an hour and three-quarters after the murders at the West Ambler-Johnston dormitory, roughly half an hour before the 30 killings at the Norris Hall engineering building.
They arrived early today at NBC headquarters at Rockefeller Center in New York. In it, photographs and a 10-minute-long DVD containing 27 Quicktime video files showing Cho reading parts of a manifesto to cameras, plus a written version of that manifesto, a manifesto of nearly two dozen pages‘ length, in which he railed against the affluent and insisted this didn‘t have to happen.
Unless a heretofore unknown accomplice handled the shipping, Cho Seung-hui had to have done it himself. And incidentally, whoever sent it got the address and ZIP code wrong, delaying its arrival by as much as a day.
NBC News turned over the entire contents to the FBI and has cooperated fully with the authorities.
And as our Brian Williams pointed out earlier tonight, we know we are airing the words of a murderer. After great debate, we think this story so transcends our experience as people that reporting this part of that story is necessary.
Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams, joins us now from New York with more of the dark details.
Pete, good evening.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening to you.
After reading all of this, I can understand why the investigators have said for the last couple of days that Cho Seung-hui reminds them very much of the two students who fired on their classmates at Columbine High School, that it‘s those sorts of rants and raves, an attitude of me against the world.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): Just minutes after firing two fatal shots at the Virginia Tech dormitory on Monday, Cho Seung-hui returned to his own dorm room and made the final preparations to mail what appears to be a video confession.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: When the time came, I did it. I had to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In a separate written document, he includes 29 photos he apparently took of himself. He looks like a normal, smiling college student in only the first two. In the rest, he presents the stern face and strikes the pose that was very likely what his victims saw later on Monday.
In 11 of the pictures, he aims handguns at the camera, likely the very ones he bought in the past two months.
In his 1,800-word diatribe, he expresses rage, resentment, and a desire to get even—with exactly whom, he never says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Much of it is incoherent, laced with profanity. He rails against hedonism and Christianity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You just loved crucifying me, you loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart, and ripping my soul all this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Though he tried to cover his tracks by filing down the serial numbers on his guns, he obviously wanted the world to know who was responsible for the worst mass shooting in America. He began working on these materials at least six days beforehand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: I didn‘t have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run. It‘s not for me, for my children, for my brothers and sisters (expletive deleted). I did it for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Now, Keith, in all of this, it‘s never clear who he‘s addressing, who the “you” is, “You did it to me.” There‘s no address in any of this written material, “Dear So-and-so.” It just appears to be, you know, To whom it may concern, almost.
Investigators, we‘re told, have talked to the clerk at the post office who received this package, and surprisingly—and I don‘t know why, none of us can figure out why—this package seems to be sent only to NBC here in New York.
OLBERMANN: From that post office, is there any certainty in Virginia that Cho mailed it himself? Is there a prospect of an accomplice?
WILLIAMS: There‘s no suggestion of an accomplice that I‘ve heard from. And I think it‘s fair to conclude that from having talked—the investigators talking to the postal clerk, that they would have shown him a photograph, and I think they have concluded that he thinks it‘s—it was likely him.
One other thing that occurs to me, Keith, is, looking at these pictures just now, here‘s one of the pictures that he includes in here.
He‘s wearing a vest in it, you‘ll see. And I think this is what they were
investigators were talking about to us in the last couple of days. I don‘t know if we can get it up or not. But we were told that when he went in to do the shootings -- Oh, there it is—in the classroom building, he was wearing a vest.
And this is a—sort of like a fisherman‘s vest or a photographer‘s vest that has all of those little pockets in it. And apparently that‘s where he put the extra clips of ammunition.
OLBERMANN: Is anybody making anything out of that return address on this, A or Ax Ishmael, the—our correspondent in the Middle East, Richard Engel, has sent a note from Baghdad saying the video looks all too much like the Middle Eastern suicide videos he is so unfortunately accustomed to seeing.
Ishmael could be from the Koran, could be from the Bible, could be from “Moby-Dick.” Is that return, is that name on that return address going to be, perhaps, the most important thing that the investigators seek in this?
WILLIAMS: I don‘t think so. You know, that—we knew that that was in the stuff that they found in his dorm room. That had come out in the last couple of days. I haven‘t talked to anyone who knows what it means. There‘s a lot of odd sym, sym, sym, symbols in this thing, symbology in it. He at one point says that the—this—I‘m looking for it here, if I can find it.
This is a symbol that occurs in some of the writings here. It‘s a heart with this sort of cross, and what looks like little two little eyeballs on it. I haven‘t the slightest idea -- This part here. I don‘t know what that means. But he has symbols like that in these writings.
I mean, let‘s face it, this is a very disturbed young man that wrote this.
OLBERMANN: Indeed it was.
Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams. Thanks for staying late with us, Pete.
WILLIAMS: OK, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It was NBC News president Steve Capus who called the FBI when the package reached his desk this morning. He joins us now.
Thanks for your time, Steve.
STEVE CAPUS, PRESIDENT, NBC NEWS (on phone): Hi, Keith, how are you?
OLBERMANN: All right, before we get to any specifics, take me back through the decision-making process. I mean, theoretically, any news organization has two sets of choices to make here, A, notify authorities, or don‘t notify authorities, and, B, run this, don‘t run this. Were there any doubts about the answers to either of these questions?
CAPUS: Oh, I think, you know, that whole process is long and complicated, and it was—it went on all day today. I mean, our first reaction was to immediately cooperate with authorities and get these documents into their hands, so that they could figure out what we had.
And with Pete‘s help, we expedited that process and got it into the hands immediately of the FBI. And we started speaking with the lead investigators, with the Virginia state police, all the way through. And they made what I thought was a reasonable request, to not release any of this information until they could see what it meant to the investigation.
And we also had a lot of conversations here about the sensitivity of all this and whether it would be appropriate to release it. And, you know, we sat on this for hours while we had all those conversations all day long.
OLBERMANN: Did the investigators have any reluctance about putting this on the air, both in the sense of fulfilling this murderer‘s wishes, and the prospect that obviously has to be considered of perhaps inspiring copycats?
CAPUS: Well, we had a conversation with the Virginia State Police about that, and their cautionary words were to be mindful of that. And—but they also said, you know, that they looked at this, and they said they understood that it was—you know, their words were, It‘s OK to release this. It‘s not going to jeopardize the investigation.
They said just be mindful of how much you use, because they did not want to get into a situation like, you know, that you described.
OLBERMANN: Something personal. The viewer sees this at a distance.
I‘m seeing this at a distance. You saw all of these materials firsthand. Is that experience as startling, as disturbing, as the rest of us would imagine?
CAPUS: It is. It kind of took the wind out of me, Keith. You know, I kind of recoiled. You know, these are—there‘s despicable amount of hatred, and it just comes through in every page of these documents. It‘s 23 pages of ramblings. It‘s very—it‘s a dense document, it‘s very hard to get through it. But the photographs are quite disturbing. And as I said, it took the wind out of me when I saw it.
OLBERMANN: And there are, and I—and a—Pete Williams referenced this. There are allusions to Columbine in here as well?
CAPUS: Yes, there‘s a couple of references to what he—what this guy refers to as Eric and Dylan. And, you know, that‘s—that jumps out at you as you page through this.
There‘s no indications why he decided to send this to NBC. There‘s a lot of anger, very strong anger. It‘s laced with profanity. You know, it talks about, you know, that he wasn‘t going to be ignored anymore, and, you know, one line that I‘m looking at now, “You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and torched my conscious again and again.” You know, it just goes on and on and on with that just kind of ugly hatred all the way through. And it‘s incredibly disturbing.
OLBERMANN: Last question is about logistics, Steve. Is there more material—obviously there is, but is there more material that we—than we have aired on NBC and MSNBC that will or might be aired at a later date? And is there more material about which final decisions have been made that we‘re not running this?
CAPUS: Well, there‘s definitely some things that I don‘t think are appropriate to see the light of day. And we‘re holding off on some of that. And we‘re making determinations about what more can and should be released.
And, you know, look, my feeling is about that that the immediate question that all of us had after this happened was, Why? And how in the world could this happen? Why would they target—why would he target so many people? And this is as close as I think we‘re going to get to getting into his mind and trying to get to some of those answers.
And I do think that that—there is a responsibility to get that out, as wrenching as it is to hear and see his hateful words.
OLBERMANN: Steve Capus, president of NBC News, who got the public thanks of the Virginia State Police today, and who gets ours here tonight. Thanks, Steve.
CAPUS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Chilling images, enraged, often incomprehensible words,
reference to the killers at Columbine. And that ethical question, should
this have been suppressed, perhaps, rather than broadcast?
We‘ll analyze this cascade of data tonight with former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, these latest images only amplify the horror of what happened on Monday.
Continuing our coverage of the breaking news of a multimedia presentation mailed to NBC News by the Virginia Tech killer while he was unleashing his nightmare on the campus Monday morning, literally pausing between the two murderous episodes to go to a nearby off-campus post office and mail a package of preproduced videos, photographs, and written material describing what would become the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Is there any positive to all this? It might at least answer the most puzzling question of what this man was thinking.
Our analyst, Clint Van Zandt, is a former FBI profiler who‘s been covering the investigation in Blacksburg.
Clint, good evening.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Does this thing resemble anything you‘ve seen in more than 25 years with the FBI and in your time since?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I‘ve seen individuals who have committed murders, Keith, and they‘ve sent letters explaining. I‘ve seen suicidal individuals who will send letters and hold other people responsible for their suicide. But, you know, as you just suggested, not, you know, a mass murderer of this degree.
But what‘s consistent with this, Keith, is an individual who apparently has some significant psychological challenges holding other people responsible, railing and flailing his emotional and psychological arms to hold you and I and everybody else in society responsible for his own failures.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything, from the cursory glance that you‘ve been able to have at this, from what we‘re told is inside it, that will be of value, or does this become, to some degree, purely voyeuristic on the rest of our parts?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I think voyeuristic is a good word. You know, if I could, I‘d put a cone of silence over the top of this. But the reality is, you know, the integrity that NBC has shown on this, if you and NBC sat on this, it would come to the school, or somebody else would get their hands on it, and it would appear in a tabloid. So, you know, I guess that said and done, we may as well do it in an honest way.
But we also have to realize, there is that vicarious aspect to it. And, you know, we don‘t need to know every word. We don‘t need to see every word published. I think the public may want to know, How could somebody be so beastly? How could they do something like this?
But what I hate, Keith, what I absolutely hate is this guy‘s ability to reach out of the grave, grab us by the throat, and rub our nose in his words, without the ability to say, Wait a minute, that‘s wrong. Think about this. He denied us that. And I‘m upset with a dead man, Keith, right now.
OLBERMANN: Yes, with good cause, Clint.
But this—I raised this question with Pete Williams. The return address, the name he used in this, A Ishmael or Ax Ishmael, is there anything to be found in that? That‘s obviously a biblical reference. Perhaps—I mean, there‘s also a—there‘s an Ishmael in the Koran. It could be from Herman Melville, it could be from “Moby-Dick.” Is that a starting point? Does that give you a perception of who this guy thought he was, what kind of victim or chosen victim he thought he was?
VAN ZANDT: It may be, Keith. But, see, you and I are trying to give rational—we‘re trying to find something rational in what this guy has done, which is totally irrational. We‘re trying to give a human spin to it, where what he has said and what he has done is so off the board.
But I guarantee you, everything he says, as rambling as it is, as stupid as it is, as wrong as it is, he believed it. It meant something to him, and he believed it. And he went to his grave believing he was right and we were wrong.
OLBERMANN: He invoked the Columbine shooters, raising this entire dreaded gray area of copycatting, wish fulfillment, and this awful legacy from Littleton, Colorado. Is this—is there a, is there a, is there a stopping point? Is there a way to stop that copycatting process? Or is this just going to reverberate down the decades from here?
VAN ZANDT: Well, we‘ve seen it happen the last two days, Keith. As you‘re well aware, we‘ve had these bomb threats in colleges and universities across 10 different states already. You know, that doesn‘t just happen as a fluke. You‘ve got people copying what this guy is suggested to have done, make these same type of bomb threats.
So, you know, as long as that information is out there in society, there are people that are going to try to live through it.
OLBERMANN: Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler, MSNBC analyst.
Great thanks, Clint.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The killer‘s package to NBC, the newest clue in the disturbing investigation into the shootings, but hardly the first clue. Sixteen months ago a court branded him an imminent danger to himself. Why, then, was he even at large Monday morning?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Continuing our coverage of tonight‘s breaking news, unless there is an accomplice, and at this hour there is still no suggestion of that seriously, it now appears clear what Cho Seung-hui was doing in the two hours between the murders at West Ambler-Johnston Hall and the murders at Norris Hall at Virginia Tech University on Monday morning.
He was compiling and mailing a package to NBC. In it, a multimedia manifesto, which he started putting together at least six days before the shootings. Includes videos in which he rambles, sometimes incoherently, about his need to get even, and a written document with 43 photos embedded within, 11 of them showing him with guns striking terrifying poses, none of the terrifying images apparently seen by anyone, or mailed to anyone other than to NBC.
But the lack of such obvious previous evidence of Cho Seung-hui‘s capacity for violence did not mean there were not warning signs about his behavior. Both the local police and the school knew about other incidents, and a court once even described him as an imminent danger to himself and others.
Our correspondent in Blacksburg, Virginia, is Lisa Myers.
LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Keith, Virginia Tech authorities acknowledged today there were at least half-dozen red flags indicating that Cho was a very troubled young man.
(voice-over): Virginia Tech police revealed today that Cho has been on their radar for years, after a series of complaints and warnings from four students, teachers, and acquaintances.
WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE CHIEF: We did have contact with Cho in the fall of 2005.
MYERS: The first warning, November 2005, a female classmate complains to police that Cho is stalking her, but won‘t press charges. Fall 2005, creative writing professor Lucinda Roy says Cho‘s violent writing and bizarre behavior disturbed her so much, she called in campus police and counseling.
LUCINDA ROY, CREATIVE WRITING PROFESSOR, VIRGINIA TECH: I‘ve been teaching for 22 years, and I realized that this was a student, one of the most disturbed students I‘ve ever seen.
MYERS: December 2005, another female student tells police Cho is bugging her with instant messages. Police interview Cho. The next day, an acquaintance of Cho‘s tells police Cho may be suicidal.
FLINCHUM: Officers again met with Cho and talked with him at length.
Out of concern for Cho, officers asked him to speak to a counselor.
MYERS: The school then obtained this temporary detention order, which calls Cho mentally ill and an imminent danger to self or others. Cho was briefly hospitalized here, evaluated, then released.
CHRIS FLYNN, COOK COUNTY COUNSELING CENTER: Clearly, if anyone had any warning about a violent incident, people would have stepped in and acted.
MYERS: But law enforcement authorities say there were so many red flags that the school should have done more.
MIKE SHEEHAN, NBC NEWS SECURITY EXPERT: I think the university should have put their arms around him a lot more aggressively, a lot more proactively, than they did over the last 18 months.
MYERS: Today, a possible explanation for the critical two-hour delay in alerting students and state police about the first shooting. A search warrant indicates police immediately zeroed in on the wrong man, Karl Thornhill, a student at a nearby college, described as the boyfriend of Emily Hilscher, one of two killed in the dorm.
Police stopped Thornhill on Route 460, and were interrogating him on the side of the road, when reports came of the second shootings.
MYERS: Today police requested all of Cho‘s medical records from at least two psychiatric facilities. University officials declined to say whether they shoulder any of the blame, saying that will be decided by an independent investigation. Keith?
OLBERMANN: Lisa Myers at Blacksburg, Virginia, great thanks. There is Christian imagery in the killer‘s video, references to Ishmael, possibly literary, possibly Koranic, possibly biblical. In amid the voyeurism and the fulfillment of the fantasies of a sick mind, are there truly clues that might be of some public value?
And to even out the ledger just a bit, moving from the creator of the nightmare to honoring the victims and paying tribute to the heroes at Virginia Tech. This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: There is a United States post office just to the northern edge of the Virginia Tech university campus. Presumably on Monday morning, having already killed two students in a dormitory, Cho Seung-Hui went to that post office on University City Boulevard, or if not that, another, and mailed an overnight package to NBC, getting the address and zip code wrong, but getting just close enough to have it delivered today.
And then within half an hour of dropping that envelope off, he was back on campus, less than a mile away, to resume killing people, 30 more, as it proved. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, authorities believe the package could be of extraordinary value in explaining what happened Monday morning. It was processed at a Virginia post office at 9:01 a.m., an hour and 46 minutes after the first shootings which killed two people.
The package, Cho‘s attempt to define his footnote in history, compiling, in essence, a multi media manifesto, including time stamps on computer documents, putting the start of its creation at least six days before the shootings. That manifesto included 43 still images, only two of which show him smiling, the rest of which appear to show him wielding the same two weapons he would use to such awful effect less than an hour after mailing these images.
Not content to let those images or the indelible pain of 32 deaths speak for him, this college student, who was so silent all those years at school, finally spoke for himself, addressing a camera directly in 27 individual video clips included in the package, which provide his answers to his motives, and in the end, provide no answer at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO SEUNG HUI, VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTER: This sadistic stuff. I may be nothing but a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy‘s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you I died, like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
Do you know what it feels like to be spit on your face and have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon a cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement?
You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in your lives as you can just because you can? You‘ve had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn‘t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren‘t enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn‘t enough. Your vodka and cognac weren‘t enough. All your debaucheries weren‘t enough. Those weren‘t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You‘ve had everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to Greg McCrary, former FBI profiler, to see whether this does in fact provide some answer to someone trained to see answers like that. Thank you for your time tonight sir.
GREGG MCCRARY, FMR FBI PROFILER: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Did we learn anything today? Might we yet learn anything today, with the emergence of this material?
MCCRARY: Well, it typifies a pattern that we see in mass murderers, paranoid delusions, grandiosity, a need for public attention, and a very elaborate blaming system. All those things that we classically see in mass murders are here.
OLBERMANN: Do any of these specifics, the Christian imagery, the crucifixion imagery, that return address Ishmael, which could be from any number of sources, diatribes against affluents and hedonism? Does anything actually mean anything or are they essentially random?
MCCRARY: Those are his prosecutorial delusions, and his ideas of
wanting to be a martyr, likening himself to Christ, and all sorts of
things, also identifying himself with the Columbine shooters. All of those
and calling them martyrs. It‘s just that. It‘s just that he perceives himself as a martyr.
OLBERMANN: In that one clip there it sounded awfully like a grandiose version of essentially envy that he didn‘t have access to a Mercedes and cognac. Could it be fundamentally as simple as that, and just have spiraled out of control into this horror?
MCCRARY: I think there‘s more profound mental illness involved that that, but it could be this sense. These people come from a sense of powerlessness and this is his way of imposing his will on everybody and gaining power and seeking power. And that‘s really what it‘s about.
OLBERMANN: And to that point, throughout he‘s talking about his pain, the failings of rich people, the power that they have. But in the imagery, this is about guns, this is about weapons, his assumption of a position of power. Is that the dynamic here that will be focused on by investigators who are really poring over this thing when they get the full analysis of it?
MCCRARY: Sure, to a degree, that‘s how he gets power is through violence. That‘s how he gets it. And the danger here, and you touched on it, and I just want to touch on it for a moment here too, is the copycat phenomena and contagion. Because every time we have one of these that are nationally televised and actually celebrated in this way, we really energize other killers. And I‘m afraid in the next few weeks we‘re going to see—hopefully it‘s just an attempt without it carrying out.
Even today I got a call, there was a triple homicide and a suicide up in New York. I don‘t know if it was related to this or not. This is the danger of doing this. While you inform the public on one hand, you may be energizing a killer on the other.
OLBERMANN: What would you do? Would you report the fact of this mailing and not show any of it?
MCCRARY: Yes, that would be my recommendation. Report the fact, but showing the pictures of him with guns, guns to his head, guns pointing at other people, this is the visceral, primal stuff that energizes other killers, and that‘s what I perceive to be the danger of covering it in that manner.
OLBERMANN: Greg, give me one final assessment here. One of these two things is necessarily true. Either he paused in the middle of this carnage, in-between the shootings, to mail this himself or he had an accomplice who mailed it for him. Those are both very disturbing thoughts.
MCCRARY: Yes. I may be on the verge of speculating. He probably did it himself. I think he‘s so paranoid, there‘s such a pervasive mistrust of others that it‘s the hallmark of paranoia. I think more than likely he took his own photos and did this. The fact he couldn‘t even get the zip code right is an indication of how decompensated he was.
OLBERMANN: And yet, he was able to kill two people, stop and go to a post office and then go back and kill more people?
MCCRARY: This is all part—this is one big suicidal event in his claim to fame. He wanted the grandiosity. NBC News had to know about it, the world had to know about it and this is how he handled it.
OLBERMANN: Former FBI profiler Greg McCrary, great thanks for your insight tonight.
MCCRARY: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Twenty seven video clips, 43 pictures, a 23-page written statement, an audio clip. A psychologist who specializes in campus crime will mine this awful trove to see if there‘s any insight. And the heroes of Virginia Tech who saved lives at the risk of their own. We‘ll look at their sacrifice next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The mind reels at the thought of it, a press kit from a mass murder, sent by the mass murder between the first and second stages of the horror he unleashed, presumably from a post office less than a mile from the scene of his second shooting rampage, a post office in Blacksburg, Virginia.
As we continue to follow the extraordinary story of the package of videos and photographs and statements sent by the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, to NBC News, arriving this morning, immediately turned over to the FBI, there‘s also our number story on the COUNTDOWN. He wanted this to be about him. The news media, us, the news viewer, you, are to some degree complicit in fulfilling this part of his evil wish.
But we can ameliorate this just slightly. Two reports now on those whom this story should truly be about, the heroes who risked their lives to save others. That in a moment from Matt Lauer. And the victims profiled again for us tonight by Mike Taibbi.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today the first funeral for Romanian born engineering professor and Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu, whose students say he gave his life to save theirs. Now the details of all the victims‘ stories are emerging, providing a fuller picture of just how much was lost in those bursts of gunfire.
Julia Pryde of New Jersey, who was focusing on watershed management;
Juan Ramon Ortiz of Puerto Rico, who was pursuing a degree in engineering and had a young bride at home; and Caitlin Hammaren of New York, who loved horses, tennis and the violin, and whose friends say was beloved for her generosity.
KRISTEN WICKHAM, FRIEND OF VICTIM: She‘s always been here through everything that I‘ve been through.
TAIBBI: The victims represented such diversity, from at least 10 states and seven foreign countries, travelers between many cultures. Nineteen-year-old Mary Karen Read was born to an Air Force father and a Korean mother and was ready, her friends said, to spread her wings. German Professor Jamie Bishop wanted his students to not just learn the language, but to love it, as he did.
Canada‘s Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a mother of two daughters, taught French. And Daniel Perez Cueva of Peru, who studied French and his mother is now in such grief.
BETTY CUEVA, DANIEL CUEVA‘S MOTHER (through translator): It‘s hard.
It‘s hard to believe that my son is dead.
TAIBBI (on camera): There was a special agony being endured by the parents of the victims. Everybody here is in pain, of course, but those parents are hurting most of all.
(voice-over): The parents of Austin Cloyd, who loved volleyball and basketball and rehabbing houses for a local charity, are devastated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make the best memories that you can make with your kids, because someday that may be all you have left. That‘s what we have left now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we have lots of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have lots of good ones.
TAIBBI: All over this vast campus, there were small gatherings of students and parents, sharing their thoughts and holding on to each other, waiting for time to start doing its healing work.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Blacksburg, Virginia.
OLBERMANN: And then there is the heroic. Some of the very people Cho Seung-Hui railed against in the manifest received today, the very same rich kids he tried to kill en masse on Monday, put their safety, their lives at risks to save friends and strangers. Matt Lauer has that part of the story.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Often times in a moment of crisis, when human nature is at its worst, the human spirit is at its best. When Cho Seung-Hui opened fire on his fellow classmates, 32 people died. But heroes were born.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Students with minor injuries talked about pushing classmates and teachers into the back and locking doors. They were all very, very brave.
LAUER: This story, like so many others, has people asking what would we do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought about would I have been able to do that. Could I have stood up against that and not thought of myself and just thought of all those other people in the room?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘d like to say you could, but most people would think of themselves first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely a question right now going through everyone‘s mind.
LAUER: It was a question answered heroically by Wesley Autrey four months ago when he leapt into the path of a New York City subway train to save a total stranger.
WESLEY AUTREY, HERO: I someone that was in distress, and I made a split second decision.
LAUER: And in 1982, when an Air Florida flight crashed into the icy waters of the Potomac.
AUBREY SKUTNIK, HELPED SAVE DROWNING WOMAN: A decision had to be made to save that girl. So he tore his boots and jacket off and his wrist watch and he dove in after her.
LAUER: And it was here on Monday morning, on the second floor of Norris Hall, room 204, where Liviu Librescu, a lecturer in engineering and mathematics, had to make one of those instantaneous life and death decision. As the gunman approached his classroom, a Holocaust survivor decided to use his own body to block the doorway, trying to buy some students precious time to jump out of the window and escape.
Librescu died, but some of those students survived.
NICOLAE TOMESCU, LIVIU LIBRESCU‘S FORMER COLLEAGUE (through translator): He had huge affection for his students and he sacrificed his life for them.
LAUER: Experts say doing the unthinkable to save others is something routed in a basic part of our DNA.
DR. ANAND PANDYA, CEDARS-SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: There‘s both a biological and psychological reason for bravery. Heroism starts in the mind and the body.
LAUER: There will undoubtedly be other stories of heroics at Virginia Tech. And while the nation contemplates their sacrifices, we continue to ask what would we do.
OLBERMANN: Matt Lauer reporting. There is a specialty in psychology treating, analyzing the crime on campus. We‘ll ask one of its practitioners, might any of the murderer‘s words and images today be of use in stopping the next Cho Seung-Hui? Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It can be a hard truth to grasp, but those who are studying Cho Seung-Hui tonight, pouring through the array of materials he sent to NBC, know that there is a difference between understanding and excusing. In our number one story tonight, the essential task of understanding what happens in the mind, in the brain of a 23-year-old man, what drives him to kill two people at 7:15 one morning, then claim sufficient presence of mind to go to a post office and mail a package and then half an our later escalate the violence into the deadliest shooting in American history?
Earlier today, we began hearing new reports that Cho‘s mental stability had been called into question on numerous past occasions, by school officials, by government officials, by doctors, by other students who feared, who reported him. Then tonight, the receipt of that package at NBC News confirmed in Cho‘s own words and images what everyone who knew him feared; he was obsessed with violence and the instruments of violence, naming and Dylan and Eric—Klebold and Harris, we can safely assume the Columbine killers as martyrs.
And in his own rambling words, both written and spoken, he failed to identify any intelligible motive for Monday‘s shootings, portraying himself in terms of Christian iconography, the crucifix specifically, as a victim, a martyr of unspecified suffering, whose grievances, whose persecutors were no more specific, lashing out at rich kids, brats, but in the end failing to achieve his ultimate goal of conveying a message that any of us could even understand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUI: I didn‘t have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run. It‘s not for me. It‘s for my children, for my brothers and sisters that you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I did it for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to Doctor Susan Lipkins, a New York psychologist, who specializes in school violence. Great thanks for your time tonight.
DR. SUSAN LIPKINS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: We have dealt with this from a criminal perspective, talking to profilers, but putting that aside for a moment, help us understand how this course of action made sense just to him, not just for a moment, but over obviously the course of days. What did he think he accomplished by killing not just himself, but 32 others.
LIPKINS: Well, I think the first thing you have to understand is I assume that he has been suffering from something what we know to be psychotic, such as schizophrenia, and that he was operating much of the time outside of reality. So when you use rational thinking, it‘s hard to explain.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything that guides us, whether we are dealing with a schizophrenic or some other clinically damaged person, that one could commit two murders, go to a post office and essentially mail a press release in video form, quite complicated, quite prepared, and then resume, return to the violence and exaggerate it 15 fold, and do all this is a span of just over two hours.
LIPKINS: Well, I think that much of this was planned. You know, I think we know that he bought the gun 35 days ago. We all know in the media it take a long time to compile what he did, in fact, send to NBC, and to plan the entire thing. I think he was almost acting it out. You know, that picture of him with the two guns pointed, it looks like somebody from a video game. And I don‘t know. I think he was in and out of reality as though it was a video game. I‘m not quite sure how much he really understood of what he was doing.
OLBERMANN: We have heard a great deal tonight, the last couple days about warning signs. If the students and if the school officials and if the public officials all raised red flags about this, do we now conclude that the system either failed or was it simply not a good enough system, or is a better system one that would so restrict everybody as to be useless in denying ordinary people freedom?
LIPKINS: No, I think that there‘s a triage system, just like you go into the emergency room, and somebody who‘s bleeding or has a high fever is treated before somebody else who may not have something as severe. It‘s clear that this kid was suffering from extreme behavior and bizarre behavior and we need to have a system that would attend to his needs immediately, protect him and protect everybody else.
OLBERMANN: Is there a point in seeing this timeline, as we know from this mailing today, and from everything else that came out from the report from Virginia, about him being found an imminent danger to himself in December of 2005 -- I s there a point at which you would say the handling of this situation went wrong, that some other action might have prevented this, might have saved him or at least taken him out of the public mainstream?
LIPKINS: Yes, of course, in 2005, when he was found to be incompetent, we need to know what happened from that. And somebody should have been medicating him, monitoring him. Perhaps he shouldn‘t have even on a college campus.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything from what you‘ve been able to determine and see of this manifesto that we‘re all trying to digest at this hours still, that could help us prevent the next Cho Seung-Hui?
LIPKINS: Well, I think that the error is thinking that the content is important. It‘s not. You know, everybody who is schizophrenic, and has these kind of paranoid ideations, will come up and they actually think that they are god or they are the devil. And they go on and they rant and they rave. So it‘s really not relevant want he said.
What‘s relevant is that we have people in pain throughout the country, who are not receiving proper care.
OLBERMANN: So, all of this, the references even to the Columbine killers, are almost incidental in analyzing what we are seeing?
LIPKINS: Yes, it‘s almost standard operating procedure. There‘s an anti-hero kind of feeling that you have. We see that in video games. We seen that in movies. And unfortunately we see it in paranoid schizophrenics.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ve seen already in the last couple of days this has been blamed on everything from how he was raised, to where he originally was born, to immigration, to everything else. Is all of that irrelevant too? Is this just a question of what‘s going on inside a disordered brain?
LIPKINS: Well, you know, you never know exactly when something is going to pop. We all may have a predisposition. And at some point, when under certain pressure, it is more likely to be expressed. And that is true even with schizophrenia. So it sounds to me like he was very humiliated and that he was very isolated all the way back in high school. And that things got worse.
OLBERMANN: Psychologist Doctor Susan Lipkins, great thanks for your time tonight.
LIPKINS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,466th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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