Author: has written 1136 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

77 Responses

  1. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl April 18, 2007 at 12:52 pm |

    I had postulated about this yesterday over at Pandagon. I was thinking hard about the horrible intersection of misogyny that abetted this. First, the misogyny that led someone to shoot a woman he couldn’t have, and then the misogyny of the police dusting off their hands and declaring case closed because it was a “domestic” issue.

  2. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 April 18, 2007 at 1:30 pm |

    Now, a boyfriend with guns makes a good suspect when a woman is found shot dead

    I disagree. Any ex-boyfriend could be a suspect. Just because he owns guns doesn’t mean he should be singled out. As a matter of fact, if he acquired his firearms lawfully, he’s already passed so many checks, then his record is fairly clean–including domestic violence charges.

  3. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 April 18, 2007 at 1:36 pm |

    Marksman,

    That’s making a lot of assumptions, considering how easy it is to acquire a firearm unlawfully. You’re also ruling out anyone who seems to be / actually is leading a ‘normal’ life and then just freaking snaps. It does happen.

    I think you’re missing the bigger statement too. An ex-boyfriend with a gun shouldn’t be ‘singled out’, per se, but you can bet that he’s one of the first people that should be looked at. And even at that, I mean, really. If you use the ‘singled out’ argument, it kind of negates the whole idea of even having a suspect. Isn’t that what suspects are? Otherwise it’s just going to be a blind search for no one in order to just spare everyone’s feelings.

  4. DAS
    DAS April 18, 2007 at 1:37 pm |

    Did they figure they had their guy in custody?

    I guess they did — and it’s turned out they weren’t “dismissing” a domestic incident per se (which would have been misogynistic) so much as jumping to conclusions that they had cracked the case. Indeed, one can argue that by pursuing the domestic violence angle, which angle should generally be pursued (and it’s misogynistic to ignore that angle, as has been pointed out here and elsewhere), they trapped themselves into not seeing the whole picture of what might have actually happened.

    Anyway, though, what this does go to show is the danger of being too confident in your police-work. If you’ve convinced yourself you have your perp in custody, you won’t pursue the real perp who might very well go on to kill again. Which is why it’s very important that at all stages of an investigation and trial, every effort is made to try and find reasonable doubts in the building case against a suspect — it isn’t just a matter of making sure innocent people don’t get wrongly convicted, but also a matter of making sure you actually have the perp taken off the streets, whereas when you have an innocent person in your custody, the perp is still free!

    Which, if I may wander OT, is a real problem with Bush & CO’s Gitmo “justice” — you ship a suspected terrorist suspect off to Gitmo … not only are you depriving that person of his rights, but if that person’s innocent of a particular crime, the perp is still at large and ready to strike again — which you won’t know, ’cause you’ve tortured the innocent person into confessing so you’re “sure” you have the right man.

  5. John (sorry 'bout that)
    John (sorry 'bout that) April 18, 2007 at 1:38 pm |

    Marksman,

    That’s making a lot of assumptions, considering how easy it is to acquire a firearm unlawfully. You’re also ruling out anyone who seems to be / actually is leading a ‘normal’ life and then just freaking snaps. It does happen.

    I think you’re missing the bigger statement too. An ex-boyfriend with a gun shouldn’t be ’singled out’, per se, but you can bet that he’s one of the first people that should be looked at. And even at that, I mean, really. If you use the ’singled out’ argument, it kind of negates the whole idea of even having a suspect. Isn’t that what suspects are? Otherwise it’s just going to be a blind search for no one in order to just spare everyone’s feelings.

  6. libdevil
    libdevil April 18, 2007 at 1:51 pm |

    Thing is – there’s no reasonable way to predict that somebody will go from shooting 2 people to shooting 60+ more a couple hours later.

    Like it or not, lots of people get shot in this country. We have a culture that accepts and promotes gun violence. But what doesn’t happen in the overwhelming majority of those cases is that the murderer goes on a rampage with scores of additional victims. In the face of no evidence, I see a lot of suggestions that the police didn’t take this seriously. I rather suspect that they took it as seriously as they would any other double-murder, which is all it was and all it was likely to be, until 2 hours later. I’m sure they were investigating, looking for the identity of the murderer, and trying to figure out what happened.

    Andraegus Moss was shot to death yesterday in Lawton, OK. Would anyone suggest that the entire city of Lawton should have been put on lock-down? Would any suggest that the police in Lawton should be expecting a massacre to happen a couple hours later?

  7. ladyfest romania » Blog Archive  » girls leading to massacres, as always

    [...] rday… and they’re just as shocked that someone complained. Of course. —- more at Feministe —- on a very different note (about Liviu Librescu) [...]

  8. Heraclitus (Jeff)
    Heraclitus (Jeff) April 18, 2007 at 2:05 pm |

    I can’t get over the fact that they, apparently including the university admin, knew that a woman and an ra had been shot dead but didn’t consider that enough of a “tragedy” to cancel classes for the day because it was “domestic” or a “lover’s quarrel.”

  9. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred April 18, 2007 at 2:13 pm |

    Why did they think it was a domestic dispute? That’s the sticky question for me, you have on the one hand two bodies, one a black guy, and one a white woman… clearly no witnesses because the boyfriend and cho probably weren’t the same ethnicity (I’m assuming from the names, unless thornhill is a common east asian surname, or he’s one of brangelina’s colonial brood) so… where’d they get the domestic dispute hypothesis from exactly?

    Surely that sort of assumption is procedurally dodgy?

    Andraegus Moss was shot to death yesterday in Lawton, OK. Would anyone suggest that the entire city of Lawton should have been put on lock-down?

    If he as killed at a school, yes a general shutdown would probably have been a good idea for reasons beyond protecting the student body from the killer.

    VT is not a city btw, it’s a college. there’s a difference – think of it like if someone was killed at work, it’d be pretty normal for the place to close down afaik.

    You’re also ruling out anyone who seems to be / actually is leading a ‘normal’ life and then just freaking snaps. It does happen.

    Gonna have to ask for a cite for this statement, becuase it goes against everything I know about human pyschology, but I’d be interested to be proven ignorant.

  10. libdevil
    libdevil April 18, 2007 at 2:51 pm |

    Virginia Tech isn’t a “school.” It’s a major research university with tens of thousands of faculty, students, and staff. They live there. They eat there. They work there. They get much of their entertainment there. Major universities have their own police forces, medical facilities, and often churches. They have much more in common with Lawton, OK than with what the word “school” conjures to mind.

  11. JoFo
    JoFo April 18, 2007 at 2:59 pm |

    R Mildred,

    You’re also ruling out anyone who seems to be / actually is leading a ‘normal’ life and then just freaking snaps. It does happen.

    Gonna have to ask for a cite for this statement, becuase it goes against everything I know about human pyschology, but I’d be interested to be proven ignorant.

    Perhaps it was just said in a way that is not particularly articulate. And I know this is reaching, but Ted Kaczinski (sp?) led a pretty ‘normal’ and even brilliant life apart from the Unabomber spree, according to those who knew him. And Jeffrey Dahmer was purported to be a fairly ‘normal’ guy by those who knew him before his own grisly deeds. And Andrea Yates. I’m sure the list could go on. Now, that is not to say that these people didn’t have deep psychoses that went unnoticed or unaddressed, but there have been many things like this in which people say ‘it’s always the quiet ones’.

    The thing with VT, though, is this guy had a history of disturbing writing. Not that that is the end-all, be-all, but it was obviously a red flag enough for them to mention it, whether or not they did anything about it.

    Be that as it may, the authorities were still very lax in their handling of the issue. Domestic dispute or not, if somebody is killed on a campus the entire place should be locked down for a while and some method other than school-wide email should be utilized for notifying the faculty and students of a problem.

  12. Vanessa
    Vanessa April 18, 2007 at 3:38 pm |

    I still would think they would at least cancel class for the day, if anything out of respect for the dead.

  13. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate April 18, 2007 at 3:53 pm |

    Did they figure they had their guy in custody?

    Apparently. A reasonable, and tragically incorrect assumption.

    Maybe it explains why students at Virginia Tech weren’t warned of a gunman, but what about students at Radford?

    Is it standard police proceedure to warn school officials if one of its students are being sought as a suspect in a murder? Or to evacuate the school?

    the misogyny of the police dusting off their hands and declaring case closed because it was a “domestic” issue.

    How can the police assumption that the victim’s boyfriend was the murderer be seen as misogynistic? Isn’t the boyfriend (especially one with guns) usually the best suspect?

  14. Laura
    Laura April 18, 2007 at 4:09 pm |

    JoFo – considering this guy’s creative writing a relevant factor leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know what he wrote about, but ‘disturbing’ is in the eye of the beholder; many, many people who are otherwise healthy and functional in their relationships with others (or, at least, never kill anyone) use dark themes and imagery in their creative work as a means of exorcising some feelings, or simply because they find it intriguing, to the extent that thinking of it as an obvious precursor to mass violence would put goodness knows how many harmless people under suspicion. Hindsight is 20/20 and all, but the media focus on his writing seems like clutching at straws for something to write about, a la Marilyn Manson/video games/insert scare here…

  15. Vinegar
    Vinegar April 18, 2007 at 4:20 pm |

    I read the plays online that people say he wrote. Violent, yes, but not particularly disturbing. If you didn’t know what the guy did, they wouldn’t leave much of an impression. I was actually rather bored by them. There’s just as much (or more) violence in the average action or horror film.

  16. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred April 18, 2007 at 4:21 pm |

    You misundertand me – I wasn’t asking for citations of psychopaths and sociopaths putting on a “normal” facade when in public, that’s pretty normal even for regular spousal and child abusers, I was wondering where you got the impression that people just “snap” – the unibomber was a slow burner, and dahmer was probably a sociopath from a very young age, most are.

    Cho was already stalking women and generally acting like a Nice Guy on coke long before he started shooting up the dorm – no he didn’t just snap, and no the writing isn’t actually the red flag (that’s pretty normal fanfiction.net fare, and they actually read more like a prelude to a regular suicide than any indication of an urge to kill – though imho most people seem to reading those plays bass ackwards), the red flag should have been how he was making emotional connections to women in a disturbed and dangerously unhealthy manner that could only add to his general feelings of isolation and dissassociation from social norms of behavior.

  17. Heraclitus (Jeff)
    Heraclitus (Jeff) April 18, 2007 at 4:32 pm |

    Yeah, I read “Richard McBeef,” and the most violent thing in it was the dumbing down of Hamlet. I really don’t see how anyone was supposed to figure out how he was going to act from that. Conversely, I’m sure there are many people handing in far more “disturbing” stuff in their classes that never physically hurt anyone.

  18. Vinegar
    Vinegar April 18, 2007 at 4:38 pm |

    I’m thinking now that his classmates were perhaps more disturbed by the amount of his writing that focused on violence, combined with the fact that he came off as a weird guy, rather than the content on its own.

  19. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm |

    I disagree. Any ex-boyfriend could be a suspect. Just because he owns guns doesn’t mean he should be singled out.

    Let’s look at your logical chain:

    – Woman shot to death.
    – Investigate people close to her.
    – Look at the people who don’t own guns first.

    Why does that make sense? Investigation 101 says you go first to the guy who has both the means and the motive. Investigating all of the other ex-boyfriends who don’t own guns first when you have a murder victim who’s been shot with a gun and a current boyfriend who does own guns is bad police work.

    Eliminate the most likely suspect, and then move on from there. “Obsessed stalker” is unfortunately going to come up pretty late on the radar, which I think may be something the killer was counting on.

  20. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 18, 2007 at 4:43 pm |

    Oh, and I agree that it’s silly to automatically assume that someone who writes disturbing stuff is going to turn out to be a spree killer. Otherwise, the cops had better be keeping a close eye on Eli Roth.

  21. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 4:49 pm |

    Why did they assume it was a “domestic dispute” and that the incident was over?

    Gee, I don’t know. How about the fact that women are killed by current and former romantic partners at the rate of four a day in the United States. The fact that the vast majority of female homicides involve someone known to the victim. The fact that the majority of these incidents don’t escalate into additional violence.

    This is a crime that’s committed often enough that it goes below the fucking fold when it happens in my community (which is not that different from the VT community). For a metro area like Chicago, crimes of women-hatred by current and former romantic partners might get on page 3.

    In the case where a woman is killed in her own home, the odds are overwhelming that she is killed by someone she knows. I’d be asking questions if the boyfriend wasn’t questioned within hours. I don’t know if the police jumped to a conclusion regarding guilt, but the idea that they shouldn’t question him given thousands of similar cases of woman-hatred is amazing.

    The odds that a specific case is the first part of a serial or spree, are almost as bad as winning the lottery. In retrospect, it’s easy to say that VT should have done something other than issue a general warning and advise watching for suspicious behavior. But it’s unreasonable to criticize anyone for treating the first shooting as an isolated case given that there are 4 cases just like it every day more than 1,400 every year.

    When it was obvious that this was not one of the thousands of cases that happen every year, the VT administration responded within minutes. But the second round of shootings were over in under a half hour.

  22. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 4:49 pm |

    That’s making a lot of assumptions, considering how easy it is to acquire a firearm unlawfully

    And according to Bloomberg, NY felons go to VA to acquire guns legally because it’s so lax there. Go to a gun show, you’ll see.

    Thing is – there’s no reasonable way to predict that somebody will go from shooting 2 people to shooting 60+ more a couple hours later.

    As someone who grew up on a college campus and has been around administrators, staff and faculty all my life, I just have to disagree with this statement. As has been pointed out, a college is simply different than a town. From their perspective, it’s not about the statistical chance of someone committing how many murders. It’s about the fact that there’s been two murders on campus and the gunman is still unaccounted for. It’s all very well to look to the boyfriend, yes he’s a logical suspect. But the biggest immediate problem is that the shooter has not been caught or identified at the scene, his whereabouts are unknown, he’s killed two people. There is no way to know whether he’s still there or whether he’s planning more murders. When a fugative escapes from a prison, if he shoots someone on a campus, that campus would be secured. It wouldn’t be assumed that he could never come back even though he’s still at large. There’s no way that administrators should not move to protect the students, faculty, and staff.

    Yes, there are large campuses, and yes, they only had two hours and it’s possible that the entire campus could not have been secured in time and he could have slipped in somewhere. But there’s simply no excuse for not making an attempt. If VT had run out of time, they couldn’t be faulted. They’re being faulted because they did nothing. I am 100% certain that if this had begun not at the dorm but at an academic building right next to the dorm, the reaction would not have been “ho hum, domestic issue, let’s just assume the shooter’s gone and isn’t coming back even though we just don’t know.” I have an equally hard time thinking that if this man had killed two men, or a woman had killed anyone, it would be instantly regarded as nothing more than a domestic dispute that couldn’t possibly continue. That’s a pretty big assumption based on apparently very little. We’re talking about 2 dead students. That’s why I really have to regard the “gunman possibly loose on campus, no worries, it’s domestic” excuse as problematic. At the very least, as everyone I know who works at a college has stated, cops should have been posted to the 100 college buildings and classes should have been cancelled. It’s inexcusable.

    There was an FBI agent whose daughter goes to VT on TV, and she actually called the administration after hearing about the first shooting and offered them tips on how to implement security measures, and was completely blown off. No, it is not possible to secure a college campus at all times. But it sure as hell is possible to try to do something to beef up security when you’ve had two murders and the shooter’s whereabouts are unknown and as far as anyone can tell, he may still be at large. The entire campus is under the aegis of the university, and if they’re letting it be known that no only can’t they provide any degree of security in an emergency, but they’re not even going to try, especially if one victim is female, then good luck getting parents and students to pony up that $160,000. Good luck getting anyone to work there.

  23. ACS
    ACS April 18, 2007 at 5:19 pm |

    zuzu —

    There are 26,000 students at that university. There are 100 cops total, between Blacksburg and Virginia Tech. Divide that up into three shifts, as is usually done, and you end up with 33 cops. How are 33 people going to coordinate the evacuation of 26,000 people, in the span of two hours? And to where? From their classes where, to their knowledge, there were no murders occurring, to the dorms where, to their knowledge, two murders had just occurred? At the beginning of this year, they closed the university — but it took them over twelve hours to do so.

    I’ve yet to see any proposed plan by which what you’re suggesting actually could have taken place.

    — ACS

  24. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 5:25 pm |

    zuzu: There’s no way they could have known that with the gunman on the loose.

    There are hundreds of murderers running around on the loose at any point in time. There are at least a half-dozen unsolved cases in my hometown. There is often little reason to assume that each and every one is going on a shooting spree, and plenty of reasons to not make that assumption.

    Perhaps the world would be a better place if we insisted on stopping it over every case of woman-hatred where a suspect is still at large. I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon.

    zuzu: Who said he shouldn’t have been questioned? Well, other than Marksman.

    The entire premise of argument here is that the administrators, having some magic 8-ball that actually works, should have realized that the killer in this case is somehow different from the other 1,400/year, and shut down the school in the face of an imminent threat.

    JennaJ: They’re being faulted because they did nothing.

    I don’t know where that comes from. We can certainly debate as to what the administration should have done. But it’s a basic fact that they were working with campus police and informing faculty and staff to be on a higher level of alert. Shutting down campus would have been problematic because it involves a lot of people outside of their normal routine, and therefore less able to spot suspicious behavior.

    JennaJ: There was an FBI agent whose daughter goes to VT on TV, and she actually called the administration after hearing about the first shooting and offered them tips on how to implement security measures, and was completely blown off.

    Yes, I routinely “blow off” total strangers who divert my time and attention during a crisis to give me advice.

  25. bastard.logic
    bastard.logic April 18, 2007 at 5:39 pm |

    VA Tech Round-Up

    by matttbastard

    Despite prior stalking complaints from several female students and a declaration of ‘imminent danger’ by a state magistrate that led to a brief involuntary detention, Cho Seung-Hui passed his instant background check with f…

  26. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 18, 2007 at 5:43 pm |

    Here’s the lead graf of USA Today’s coverage of the last high-profile shooting at Virginia Tech:

    BLACKSBURG, Va. — A hunt for a fugitive accused of killing an unarmed hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy Monday forced a virtual lockdown of Virginia Tech on the first day of the fall semester.

    So, obviously, it’s not completely impossible to shut the campus down. They did it less than a year ago. That’s why people keep asking why they didn’t do it this time around.

  27. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm |

    zuzu: They have a public address system, and presumably the doors have locks. Several people have written comments on this blog about lockdown drills they go through in high school just for such an occurrence.

    College is not an extension of high school and the last thing we need is to make the student-instructor power exchange more dysfunctional by giving instructors in loco parentis (that would go over like a lead balloon with students who are older than I am).

    Another factor is that High Schools are designed to be under 2,000 students or designed as separate schools within schools to enhance security. There are also a lot of similarities between high schools and prisons in terms of designing the daily routine of students/inmates around controlled mass movement that enable teachers to easily spot out of place behavior. The kinds of behavioral control that go on in traditional k-12 schools would probably be rejected by many at the college level.

    If VT is anything like my campus, you are talking about hundreds of buildings spread out over a square mile of campus, parkland, high-density residential, low-density residential, and commercial neighborhoods. When ACS says about 12 hours, I’d say my campus takes a similar quantity of time to lock down during breaks (and is rarely fully locked down.)

    This is one of those ideas that sound great using 20/20 hindsight. Certainly there is precedent, on the other hand, there is precedent for the killer to ditch the firearms, take a shower, and go through the rest of his routine like nothing happened. Disrupting the routine makes it harder to identify if the suspect has run away or is acting strangely. Big manhunts pull resources away from looking for evidence and interviewing contacts in the first day.

    We know from hindsight that they were wrong, but given the evidence available to the administration at 8:30 am, I think it’s a reasonable error rather than a callous lack of concern for either the victims or the campus community.

  28. ACS
    ACS April 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm |

    Evacuation would be pretty foolish, actually, with a gunman on the loose. It would both put students in danger and increase the possibility that he would be able to slip out in the confusion. But you announce that there’s a situation, you need everyone to stay where they are and lock the doors, then you not only alert people that something’s going on, but you also give the cops some assistance in helping locate the guy.

    The gunman himself did exactly what you suggested: he locked (actually, chained) the doors of the building he was in, then started killing people inside. Remember, after the first killing, they had no idea where he was or what he was intending to do. If he was inside one of the buildings at the time, or had gone to class, it’s pretty likely that locking the doors would have had exactly the opposite effect you intend.

    — ACS

  29. Mostly Normal
    Mostly Normal April 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm |

    This is on a different topic, but Feministe writers, have you heard about this? The rapper Akon basically assaulted a 14-year-old on stage in Trinidad after conning her into thinking she could win a trip to Africa.

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article?id=161129187

    The video is here; story for the stupid website:
    http://www.celebslam.com/akon-is-smooth-with-the-ladies

  30. mustelid
    mustelid April 18, 2007 at 6:08 pm |

    The entire premise of argument here is that the administrators, having some magic 8-ball that actually works, should have realized the killer in this case is somehow different from the other 1,400/year, and shut down the school in the face of an imminent threat.

    Are you trying to say there are 1,400 homicides a year at Virginia Tech? I think someone would’ve noticed a murder rate like that by now. Oh, and yes, by all means, let’s NOT lock down the campus in the hopes of noticing someone deviating from their normal routine and mowing down everyone who adhered to their customary schedule out of ignorance.
    Would it really have been so hard to send out mass emails, and have emergency vehicles cruising the campus broadcasting the shutdown over loudspeakers?

  31. ACS
    ACS April 18, 2007 at 6:15 pm |

    Would it really have been so hard to send out mass emails, and have emergency vehicles cruising the campus broadcasting the shutdown over loudspeakers?

    Okay, so you’ve just put 26,000 people in the public spaces of the university, some of them on their way back to the dorms. Now what?

    — ACS

  32. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 6:16 pm |

    zuzu: I’m not sure where you get the idea that anyone is arguing that the school should have known that he was going to go on a killing spree. What we’re arguing is that you don’t just shrug your shoulders after a killing, chalk it up to a domestic dispute, and don’t do any further investigation while you still have a hot trail.

    From what I’ve seen, the VT Police were doing this by interviewing people related to the case.

    Zuzu: Nor do you fail to tell people in the community that you’re looking for someone with a gun who just killed two people.

    The VT Administration did this through a broadcast message sent to all campus phones, and bulk email.

    Zuzu: And there is PLENTY of reason to try to catch the guy who just killed two people while he still might be hanging around the area.

    I see plenty of evidence that the VT Police and Administration were doing this.

    Zuzu: Can you explain the difference? I sure as hell can’t.

    It took a full working day to shut down the campus that time.

    And there are some key differences. Known suspect/unknown suspect. Community outsider/community insider. Coordination of multiple police agencies/Investigation by local agency. Extended time period/Short time period.

    Given the information that was available at 8:30 am, informing the community about an at-large suspect and requesting tips regarding suspicious behavior seems like it would be a more productive avenue than trying to shut down the campus.

  33. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 6:17 pm |

    How are 33 people going to coordinate the evacuation of 26,000 people, in the span of two hours? And to where? From their classes where, to their knowledge, there were no murders occurring, to the dorms where, to their knowledge, two murders had just occurred? At the beginning of this year, they closed the university — but it took them over twelve hours to do so.

    Nobody is suggesting that they could have successfully evacuated the entire campus in two hours. However, they could have made an attempt to take *rudimentary* security measures, that’s all that anyone would have asked for, such as using the PA to inform students of the situation, and posting cops around campus. The answer to not being able to do everything is not to do nothing. And you keep saying to their knowledge, how did they know? They were putting all their resources into going after the bf. All they know is that they have an armed fugative on a big campus. He could have been hiding anywhere on campus, in a closet, in a basement, barracaded in a classroom with hostages. They knew the shooter had not been caught and had no reason to assume that he was gone or wouldn’t come back. It’s inconceivable to be so lax.

    There are hundreds of murderers running around on the loose at any point in time. There are at least a half-dozen unsolved cases in my hometown

    Yes, and that is EXACTLY the same as assuming an armed fugative who’s at large and has just killed two people is no possible danger to anyone.

    The entire premise of argument here is that the administrators, having some magic 8-ball that actually works, should have realized that the killer in this case is somehow different from the other 1,400/year, and shut down the school in the face of an imminent threat.

    Yes, the entire premise here is to assume that school officials are obligated to act to protect the campus community and not assume that an armed fugative whose whereabouts are unknown and who’s just committed multiple homicide and taken off with his guns and ammo has got it out of his system and now is as harmless as sugar cream pie. Look, obviously a woman is more likely to be killed by someone she knows. More likely. Not assuredly. Theer have been school shootings, there have been serial killers. But there are two victims here. The killer didn’t leave a note. He didn’t identify himself. Nobody identified him. Nobody knew who he was, what his motivation was, who his intended victim was. He’s just killed two people in a public place. If ever there’s a time for the public to be concerned about their safety, this is it.

    Yes, I routinely “blow off” total strangers who divert my time and attention during a crisis to give me advice.

    Ha ha. They knew exactly who she was and blew her off because they had the situation handled, it’s just a domestic dispute.

  34. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 6:22 pm |

    mustelid: Oh, and yes, by all means, let’s NOT lock down the campus in the hopes of noticing someone deviating from their normal routine and mowing down everyone who adhered to their customary schedule out of ignorance.

    How do you notice someone deviating from their normal routine when everyone is deviating from their normal routine?

    That is how the Jill Berman case was cracked and convicted after several years. Enough family members came forward regarding the suspect’s change in behavior after the murder to build a case.

  35. NewCompu
    NewCompu April 18, 2007 at 6:36 pm |

    i am with CBrach all the way. in loco parentis sucks! I would find in completely infantalizing if security measures such as door locks were instituted to attempt to keep me safe in the event of some maniac busting in and trying to shoot up the place. I’m a big grownup and I can go it on my own. I’m especially offended by the idea that we don’t just do away with all already existing campus security altogether and force everyone to run a gauntlet of firing squads and whizzing bullets to enter any building. I’m not sure how the maintenance staff who get paid $6 an hour will feel about my proposals, but anyone who thinks they have a right to be protected at work should grow up and stop relying on mommy at Wild West Frontier U.

    There are also a lot of similarities between high schools and prisons in terms of designing the daily routine of students/inmates around controlled mass movement that enable teachers to easily spot out of place behavior.

    Yeah, that’s what separated high school from college. When I come upon two dead bodies in the quad or see a guy running around spraying bullets, I scratch my head and have a hard time figuring out what’s out of place and what all the fuss is about, personally.

    Remember, after the first killing, they had no idea where he was or what he was intending to do

    All the more reason to just pretend nothing ever happened. I’m sure the college president thought to himself, well, we could do something, but it might have unanticipated bad effects–better to just let this whole thing play out naturally.

    The VT Administration did this through a broadcast message sent to all campus phones, and bulk email

    Right. And by that time the slaughter at Norris hall was underway. Time can sometimes by of the essence when you’re dealing with an angry killer.

  36. Nekko-Onna
    Nekko-Onna April 18, 2007 at 6:43 pm |

    I don’t think the individual blame-game works very well in this situation. I have spent the last fourteen years around colleges/high schools- first as a student, now as an instructor. The decisons made at VT- from the first concerns over Cho’s stalking and “troubled writing”, to the decsion not to lock down the campus after the first two murders, were actually pretty standard-issue responses to these situations. These, in the end, also happened to be the wrong responses, but hindsight is 20/20. The real problem, then, isn’t what individual people did/failed to do, but rather the societal assumptions that underpinned the decisions made. I think specifically, how we as a society view stalking and domestic violence probably dictated the responses to the situations above more than any flawed decision-making on the part of any individual or individuals per se.
    If as a society we got as worked up over stalking as we do, say, drug dealing, I would make the bet that Cho wouldn’t have stayed as far under the local authorities’ radar screen as he seemed to be. If you had a suspected drug dealer living on campus, at the very least, I would expect his name to be near the top of the short list of people to check out when things went wrong. The same thing applies to domestic violence. If we got as outraged at domestic violence as we do at stranger-perpetrated violence, I doubt the authorities would have been of the disposition to let an armed person just roam freely until they caught him, even if they didn’t necessarily percieve him to be a threat to others. (ex: if Cho had robbed the two students in the dorm at gunpoint, then shot them, I bet a campus-wide lockdown would have been called).
    With that said, however, even the “right” responses might not have been able to avert this tragedy. In our rush to make ourselves feel safer, I hope we don’t forget that sometimes, bad things happen that we just can’t avoid.

  37. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 6:53 pm |

    JennaJ: Nobody is suggesting that they could have successfully evacuated the entire campus in two hours. However, they could have made an attempt to take *rudimentary* security measures, that’s all that anyone would have asked for, such as using the PA to inform students of the situation, and posting cops around campus

    Um, they DID THAT! The Administration sent email to every address, and a message to every campus phone. They worked with police as the situation developed.

    JennaJ: The answer to not being able to do everything is not to do nothing.

    Actions taken by the administration:
    1: Informing the campus community through two different channels that homicide had taken place on campus.
    2: Asking the campus community to watch out for suspicious behavior.
    3: Coordinating with police on campus security.

    Actions taken by the police:
    1: Informed the administration of the preliminary results of the investigation.
    2: Pursued probable leads.
    3: Continued to keep the administration informed of developments.

    JennaJ: And you keep saying to their knowledge, how did they know? They were putting all their resources into going after the bf.

    The location of the crimes made extremely likely that the suspect was a member of the community, and known to the victim. The boyfriend was the most probable suspect, but interviewing people who had contact with the first victims should have been a priority in the early hours of the investigation.

    JennaJ: All they know is that they have an armed fugative on a big campus.

    There was no reason to assume he was still armed.

    JennaJ: He could have been hiding anywhere on campus, in a closet, in a basement, barracaded in a classroom with hostages. They knew the shooter had not been caught and had no reason to assume that he was gone or wouldn’t come back. It’s inconceivable to be so lax.

    With only 100 police officers (perhaps 25 on duty) there was not enough personnel to mount an effective manhunt. Wade Steffy’s body was found by accident months after he went missing on the Purdue University campus in spite of a manhunt that included thousands of volunteers. Jill Berman’s body was found years after she went missing in spite of a million-dollar hunt.

    And WHO are you looking for? You can’t do that kind of search for an unknown subject wearing unknown clothing. Heck, I can think of a half-dozen cases in my local area where the killers ditched the weapons, and let themselves be interviewed by police. Even with the infamous family killer in Indianapolis who was big news last year voluntarily surrendered before the police search caught up with him.

    JennaJ: Yes, and that is EXACTLY the same as assuming an armed fugative who’s at large and has just killed two people is no possible danger to anyone.

    JennaJ: Yes, the entire premise here is to assume that school officials are obligated to act to protect the campus community and not assume that an armed fugative whose whereabouts are unknown and who’s just committed multiple homicide and taken off with his guns and ammo has got it out of his system and now is as harmless as sugar cream pie.

    False dichotomy much?

    The school officials DID act to protect the campus community, and DID NOT assume that he was not dangerous.

  38. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 7:16 pm |

    zuzu: Not for hours, though.

    25 minutes after they were briefed on the situation by the police. All of the events unfolded over about three hours, bridged during a Monday morning shift change. I can’t think of a worse time for a disaster to happen because the people who needed to be informed of the first event were commuting at the time. So no one outside of third shift police were available before 8:00am.

    So the response-time clock starts at 8:00am. About 25 minutes to get the warm bodies in the same room. Just about right. The Chief of police gets on the phone at 9:00. The messages go out at 9:25. And again, we have an unknown subject in an unknown location with unknown motives. Odds are strongly in favor that he’s hiding out, skipping town, or trying to not look suspicious in his normal routine.

    zuzu: As for putting all the resources into looking for the boyfriend: why was all the time and effort expended looking into her contacts when there were TWO people killed?

    No idea. Now THAT is an interesting question. But double homicide is common enough that it would only raise the “shooting spree” flag in the most paranoid.

    NewCompu: I would find in completely infantalizing if security measures such as door locks were instituted to attempt to keep me safe in the event of some maniac busting in and trying to shoot up the place.

    Finally, a new good idea worth reading. Yes, I do think that door locks would be a good idea.

  39. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 7:28 pm |

    But double homicide is common enough that it would only raise the “shooting spree” flag in the most paranoid.

    Uh huh. Well, if you have any suggestions on where to find the most paranoid, can you let me know? Oddly enough, I’d like to go to a school where the campus administrators are just super paranoid enough to think, hey, someone came on to our campus and killed two of our students, just yanked out a gun and shot them right out in the open apparently with witnesses, his identity and whereabouts are unknown, he’s armed, do we have a safety or security concern here? Maybe even a little one?

    Would it be extremely paranoid to forcast potentially not a shooting spree (however defined) but maybe just another double or single homicide? After all maybe the guy didn’t get exactly who he came for. Even just one more murder would be a cause for concern, correct? Something that it would be desierable to prevent if possible?

  40. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 7:35 pm |

    I also have to say that from what I know of organizational behavior, 2 hours from incident to response is an eyeblink. I’ve come to feel this way about 9/11 as well. Bureaucratic organizations just are not built for quick and tactical thinking, and tactical dictators almost always get canned for making mistakes with their autonomy.

    I still think their decision to alert the entire community while police continued the investigation was a sound one, given what was known at the time. Their response during and after the events at Norris Hall was extremely quick as well.

  41. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 18, 2007 at 7:36 pm |

    But double homicide is common enough that it would only raise the “shooting spree” flag in the most paranoid.

    Double homicide inside a crack house in the worst part of Bronx? Barely raises an eyebrow.

    Double homicide inside a dorm room on a college campus in a rural area? That’s not common. At all.

    Context matters. Is it fair that context matters, and that a double homicide is more notable on a quiet college campus than it is in a crime-ridden section of a big city? That’s a whole other debate.

  42. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 7:57 pm |

    JennaJ: Uh huh. Well, if you have any suggestions on where to find the most paranoid, can you let me know?

    This thread seems to be loaded with it. Double homicide doesn’t happen with the same frequency as women killed by men they know. But it’s also one of those things that won’t make the front page on a metro newspaper.

    JennaJ: Oddly enough, I’d like to go to a school where the campus administrators are just super paranoid enough to think, hey, someone came on to our campus and killed two of our students, just yanked out a gun and shot them right out in the open apparently with witnesses, his identity and whereabouts are unknown, he’s armed, do we have a safety or security concern here? Maybe even a little one?

    NPR reports that the first shootings took place in a dorm room, I’ve not seen reports of witnesses. And again, VT Administration and police did consider it a safety concern, and informed the entire community to be on alert, and were coordinating with police on investigation and security.

    JennaJ: Would it be extremely paranoid to forcast potentially not a shooting spree (however defined) but maybe just another double or single homicide? After all maybe the guy didn’t get exactly who he came for. Even just one more murder would be a cause for concern, correct? Something that it would be desierable to prevent if possible?

    Certainly, not. However, perhaps the killer will do this, perhaps the killer will do that, perhaps the killer will do something else. How do you make a decision which protects the health and welfare of the students, and not waste resources on a dead end?

    For reasons I’ve stated before, alerting the community to a potential threat pending further investigation may have not been the right decision in this case, but it’s not a decision that demonstrates a disregard for student safety.

    In addition, I don’t believe that it is even possible for a large campus to lock down in the short period of time between incidents.

  43. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 7:58 pm |

    I still think their decision to alert the entire community while police continued the investigation was a sound one

    Yes, except they didn’t alert the entire community. They sent out an email (and as has been pointed out, too late). That is not the way to alert the entire community. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time in the morning to check my email and I don’t think I’m unusual in that. It’s also hard to check your email if you’re in transit. Many students interviewed reported that they had no idea what was going on. Of course, if someone had happened to call in, they would have been informed too. So much for the great effort to inform the entire community.

  44. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 8:13 pm |

    This thread seems to be loaded with it. Double homicide doesn’t happen with the same frequency as women killed by men they know. But it’s also one of those things that won’t make the front page on a metro newspaper.

    Wow really? It will, however, make the front page of a college newspaper if it happens on campus. If you think college administrators have no responsibilities to teh college community, okay. Cutting all that unnecessary personnel will result in a big tuition cut, correct?

    NPR reports that the first shootings took place in a dorm room, I’ve not seen reports of witnesses. And again, VT Administration and police did consider it a safety concern, and informed the entire community to be on alert, and were coordinating with police on investigation and security.

    I’m not sure about witnesses, I’ve heard various reports that suggest at least one of the homicides happened in a hallway. The problem is, no, they didn’t inform the entire community to be on alert. They wasted time devoting all the resources to the bf, and then simply sent out an email. That is not making even a dulsatory effort to inform the entire community. The president himself explained that they didn’t do more about general safety because they assumed it was simply a domestic dispute. Was he lying?

    However, perhaps the killer will do this, perhaps the killer will do that, perhaps the killer will do something else. How do you make a decision which protects the health and welfare of the students, and not waste resources on a dead end?

    Yes! There you’ve got it. You’ve got an armed killer and you don’t know a damn thing about his plans. To most people, that is not a justification to do nothing, it’s more of a cause for extreme concern and immediate action. If you’re a college administrator and you do nothing concrete to increase safety on campus because you don’t want to waste money, you may accept that but the vast majority of students, staff, and parents will not. If you do something and the killer turns out to be the boyfriend, you’re no worse off. If you do othing and the killer is still on campous and kills again, that’s a big problem for you. Use common sense.

    In addition, I don’t believe that it is even possible for a large campus to lock down in the short period of time between incidents.

    Sigh. Yes. Once again, no one is suggesting that it would have been possible to completely secure the campus in two hours. However, it is not unreasonable to request that in an ongoing emergency situation, emergency security measures are taken. If VT had attempted to increase security on campus and run out of time, then no one would be complaining. We’re complaining because they made no such attempt. (Oh and BTW? The killer didn’t call up and explain that he was planning to strike again in 2 hours, and that’s when they called it all off because clearly they just didn’t have time. They had no way of knowing how much time they had or didn’t have, so that’s not really an excuse. All the more reason they needed to act immediately).

  45. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm |

    Sorry for continually screwing up the tags.

  46. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm |

    Mnemosyne: Double homicide inside a dorm room on a college campus in a rural area? That’s not common. At all.

    Context matters. Is it fair that context matters, and that a double homicide is more notable on a quiet college campus than it is in a crime-ridden section of a big city? That’s a whole other debate.

    “Fair” can take a flying fuck with a donut for all I’m concerned. I’m worried about effective. And I think that it’s downright idiotic to assume that an incident in a dorm is somehow a unique precious and special thing that makes a statement and is radically different. I live in a city (40,000 isn’t ‘rural’) much like Blacksburg, and about 1/5th of the population (ballpark) lives in housing rented from the University. The University clocks a fair quantity of crime, including violent crime, just because there are more than 10,000 people who live and work here.

  47. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 18, 2007 at 8:58 pm |

    JennaJ: Wow really? It will, however, make the front page of a college newspaper if it happens on campus. If you think college administrators have no responsibilities to teh college community, okay. Cutting all that unnecessary personnel will result in a big tuition cut, correct?

    False dichotomy much?

    My position has been that steps taken to inform and alert the campus community were reasonable given the patterns of gendered violence in the United States, and the information available to the Administration prior to the Norris Hall attack. Attempting to “lock down” the campus potentially could have made it more difficult to identify and locate the killer.

    They wasted time devoting all the resources to the bf, and then simply sent out an email. That is not making even a dulsatory effort to inform the entire community.

    Well, it’s a pretty well established fact that the message went out not only to all members of the community via email, but also went out over every campus telephone. Those two modes should have reached a large portion of the campus community, who would have taken steps to inform the rest. These two combined would probably have been more quicker and effective than sending police to every building.

    JennaJ: You’ve got an armed killer and you don’t know a damn thing about his plans. To most people, that is not a justification to do nothing, it’s more of a cause for extreme concern and immediate action.

    You have a very weird and idiosyncratic definition of ‘nothing.’ At the moment, I wish I made your ‘nothing.’ I probably could live comfortably and pay my bills without having to hustle freelance.

    At this point, I’m just repeating myself. I feel that the actions taken by the administration to inform and alert the community prior to the Norris Hall attacks were reasonable given the facts of the crime, and the epidemic pattern of similar crimes in the United States.

    JennaJ: However, it is not unreasonable to request that in an ongoing emergency situation, emergency security measures are taken. If VT had attempted to increase security on campus and run out of time, then no one would be complaining. We’re complaining because they made no such attempt.

    That’s a rather strange definition of ‘no such attempt’ you are using there.

    JennaJ: (Oh and BTW? The killer didn’t call up and explain that he was planning to strike again in 2 hours, and that’s when they called it all off because clearly they just didn’t have time. They had no way of knowing how much time they had or didn’t have, so that’s not really an excuse. All the more reason they needed to act immediately).

    I’ve not seen a source that says that they called anything off. Do you have additional sources?

    I think you are demanding an impossibility here. Time after time we find that organizations can’t make quick and consistently correct decisions. I think that any hope we have in preventing future tragedy comes from empowering instructors to make decisions.

  48. Kat
    Kat April 18, 2007 at 9:53 pm |

    I was at my office in Honolulu the day of the Xerox shootings. I actually was stuck in traffic in front of the Xerox building right around the time the shootings happened. By the time I got to work (still unaware of what was going on), I remember that the response was pretty quick. Streets were closed, buildings were locked down. We were kept in our offices even for some time after the gunman was found and they sorted out what had happened. I don’t think anyone was forcing us to stay in the buildings, but we all had the advantage of knowing the risk and could make informed decisions. No one left and we all kept TVs and radios tuned in to the local news stations to keep updated.

    There was particular attention paid to the downtown offices of Xerox, in case the gunman tried to head there.

    After experiencing that, I was very surprised to hear about the two hour delay at VT.

  49. NewCompu
    NewCompu April 18, 2007 at 10:35 pm |

    “Fair” can take a flying fuck with a donut for all I’m concerned. I’m worried about effective

    Yeah, and since “effective” to you translates as “do jack,” we’ve got the President of the US with a lucrative job offer on Line 1.

    And I think that it’s downright idiotic to assume that an incident in a dorm is somehow a unique precious and special thing that makes a statement and is radically different

    Jesus B Christ!!!! I’d really advise you to stop using words like “idiotic” or you might get arrested by the Irony Police. It’s not a unique and precious and special thing. I hate to tell you this, but there at the university there are a whole bunch of people hired to try and prevent things like forseeable mass murders. Yes, it’s unfair that people react differently to a shooting in a public area than in a private home, but you know what? Let’s say this shooting didn’t happen in a dorm wheer hundreds of people live. Let’s say a guy in a bank pulled out a gun and started shooting. Know what would happen, if they couldn’t identify the shooter and he got away? They shut the bank and shut the street and evacuate and search nearby buildings and infrom the public. Shooting in a library? Yeah. Shooting in front of the library? Same. Shooting in a mall? Yeah. Police station? Government building, courthouse? Uh huh.

    given the patterns of gendered violence in the United States

    Gendered violence? We have two victims. I know there are more than 2 genders, but we have two major ones represented. Hard to make a lot of generalizations about the pattern of violence experienced by the what, 200 million or so seemingly cisgendered people in the US. How about the pattern of random violence? How about the pattern of disgruntled person shooting up a school?

    and the information available to the Administration prior to the Norris Hall attack

    Which is that a crazy man is on campus shooting people. This point was made before, but deserves to be reiterated. If this exact same crime had happened anywhere but a dorm, in the Social Studies Building, Cafeteria, gym, anywhere else, is there any chance at all that it would have been dismissed as a domestic incident and the course of action taken would have been the same? Think about it. Two shot and killed in a classroom (where they were alone, even), in the art gallery, outside a classroom, anywhere, outside, ANYWHERE, by persons unknown, and the actions taken would not have been dramatically different? Really?

    Those two modes should have reached a large portion of the campus community

    Yeah, much more effective than going over the loudspeaker and driving around with a bullhorn. Surprising it didn’t work.

    Attempting to “lock down” the campus potentially could have made it more difficult to identify and locate the killer.

    Whereas deciding not to bother with any security measures worked out wonderfully. Hey, its not like we didn’t find the killer, and that’s more important than protecting the school.

  50. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 18, 2007 at 11:00 pm |

    And I think that it’s downright idiotic to assume that an incident in a dorm is somehow a unique precious and special thing that makes a statement and is radically different.

    It’s not “special.” It’s unusual. Unless you’re under the impression that there are dozens of double homicides on college campuses every year?

    Take one of the universities near me — the University of California at Los Angeles. They just had their first campus murder in 17 years when a robbery went wrong.

    Maybe we should look at the University of Southern California, which is in a much tougher neighborhood than UCLA is. They had a student murdered … in 2004. He was walking home late at night and, again, it was most likely a robbery gone bad, though we may never know for sure.

    But, despite what you’re claiming, there doesn’t seem to be at least one double homicide every year, even on big-city campuses with 30,000+ students. Funny, that.

  51. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 18, 2007 at 11:03 pm |

    Oh, no, wait, there was one other big murder case at USC: Holly Ashcraft killed her newborn. So I guess that proves that college campuses are dangerous places where students are murdered in droves every year, right?

  52. JennaJ
    JennaJ April 18, 2007 at 11:05 pm |

    False dichotomy much?

    False dichotomy? If there’s no difference between an on campus and an off campus shooting, then why do they pay so many cops and adminstrators? When you’re on you’re own and even the most reasonable steps won’t be taken in the aftermath of a shooter on campus, that will eliminate about 2/3 of the campus payroll. I see tuition cuts in future.

    My position has been that steps taken to inform and alert the campus community were reasonable given the patterns of gendered violence in the United States

    Fine, if you think that it’s reasonable to do nothing to inform the campus community except to send out an email 2 hours after the fact (oh in conjunction with putting out phone messages, because if I’m not emailing first thing in the morning I’m making phone calls and not with my cell phone, too bad VT has such a large commuter population, but I hear commuters are deaf and so on campus announcemts wouldn’t have helped) when the new killings are already underway, I can’t stop you, but you have to understand a few of us paranoid nutters are going to think there are a few other steps that could have been taken “you know, we just assumed it was domestic violence, so, that’s why” certainly suggests to me that other decisions would have been made if they hadn’t been so quick to blow off the whole situation as “domestic.”

    You have a very weird and idiosyncratic definition of ‘nothing.’ At the moment, I wish I made your ‘nothing.’ I probably could live comfortably and pay my bills without having to hustle freelance

    Yes, I tend to use the definitions common on my home planet of Earth. Since you live in FantasyLand, you can solve your problem by convincing yourself that you don’t have to work because it’s reasonable to live in a cardboard box and anything else is over the top.

    That’s a rather strange definition of ‘no such attempt’ you are using there

    Yes, again, Earth. “If only we had gone back in time and sent out an email earlier and you had actually gotten up early because of a premonition that you might die if you ventured outside so you’d have time to check it when we made no attempt to get the news out any other way and virtually no one seemed to know about it (except the girls in Norris Hall hiding in an office from the shooter, they did check the internet and found the website gloriously updated) or cancel classes and let that be known, etc, we’d be heroes! Our quick action would totally have saved your life, if only we lived in another dimension.”

    I’ve not seen a source that says that they called anything off. Do you have additional sources?

    No, you misunderstand me. You and the other guy keep saying that they only had two hours. Point is, they didn’t know they had only two hours. It’s not as if the killer called to let them know they only had two hours and at that point they decided to throw up their hands, knowing they didn’t have enough time. They had no idea how much time they had or what was going to happen, which makes it that much more necesssary to immediately start taking routine precautions.

    I think you are demanding an impossibility here. Time after time we find that organizations can’t make quick and consistently correct decisions.

    We’re talking about an emergency, and not asking them to do anything other than use elementary common sense. Of there’s no one there who’s capable of making no-brainer calls in an emergency, then I wish VT good luck in attarcting employees and students.

  53. Moira
    Moira April 19, 2007 at 12:47 am |

    There was no reason to assume he was still armed.

    CBrachyrhynchos, why would you ever assume that someone who shot two people to death would not be still armed? You’re not wrong in saying that many shooters ditch their guns in trying to elude capture, but why would you assume that all shooters do? Is this standard procedure for security forces? If you assume that a shooting suspect is still armed and you wind up being wrong, there’s far less at risk than if you assume that the unapprehended suspect is not armed and you wind up being wrong.

    You’ve been arguing on the basis of risk analysis and effective procedure, but you seem to have abandoned that in this sentence just to contradict JennaJ’s position.

  54. JM
    JM April 19, 2007 at 3:18 am |

    “There was no reason to assume he was still armed”

    Really? Is that because his guns were found at the scene? I hadn’t heard that. Weird that they would go after the boyfriend in that case and not just assume that one of the dead students had killed the other and then committed suicide. Barring guns found at the scene, no reasonable person would assume he WASN’T still armed.

    “risk analysis and effective procedure”

    I am a VL or a TA at 4 different campuses, and I can tell you that sending out a campus-wide email is absolutely the most ineffective way possible to inform the entire community, with the possible exception of whispering the news in one person’s ear in Farsi. None of my students ever know what is going on at their schools, because nobody ever reads mass emails from the school. Maybe you are the one person on Earth who does, but trust me on this one, even my straight-A dilligent students regard emails from the college as inbox cluttering spam, to be deleted unread. Not to mention how unlikely it is that students who come to early classes without bothering to get dressed or brush their hair would take time to check their email. Also not to mention the fact that it wouldn’t have helped anyway BECAUSE BY THE TIME THE EMAIL WAS SENT TWO HOURS AFTER THE FACT THE ENGINEERING BUILDING WAS ALREADY UNDER ATTACK. It was too late. Putting an announcement over the PA system could have been done an hour or more earlier, and even one announcement to even one group of students would have caused the news to spread like wildfire. More than 1,000 separate mass emails, even if they’d be sent in a timely fashion. It really doesn’t pass the smell test that the administration was so concerned with public information when they waited so long and chose such a ridiculous method.

    “DID act to protect the campus community and DID NOT assume he was not dangerous”

    Because two hours after the fact they finally send out a half assed (ie, likely to be seen by virtually no one, even if it weren’t already too late) alert to the community? They dismissed this as a mere domestic dispute under the assumption that an abuser who kills isn’t a danger to anyone but his partner, even though there was no actual evidemnce that this was a domestic dispute and he’d already killed at least one other person, and went after somebody who no piece of evidence and no witness connected to the scene. If this is how they show that they’re assuming he’s dangerous (to who? certainly not anyone on campus), I’d hate to know how little they’d do if they DIDN’T think there was a problem. The campus was locked down when someone who’d killed two people was suspected of being in the area, but when someone killed two students right there, well…

    “no resources to mount an effective manhunt…ditched his weapons…WHO are you looking for”

    What you dont seem to understand is that this isn’t an episode of NYPD BLUE. The #1 responsibility of the university isn’t necessarily to catch the killer, it’s to protect the campus. If, as you say, resources are so scarce and the killer is so unlikely to kill again, all the more reason it seems so insane to apparently send every person on campus who’s heard about this incident (both of them) off to pursue nonexistant leads (oh and if it’s sensible to assume the killer was a member of the campus community based on location, well, the boyfriend wasn’t). Without even taking a small look around, say see if he had a friend who also has a couple of guns? If the killer has ditched his weapons, that’s wonderful. If he’s still on campus, the more cops you’ve got around, the more likely that probably is. If disrupting the schedule makes it harder to figure out that someone’s acting odd (which couldn’t happened anyway, since the campus had not been notified and everybody who’d know to look for someone acting off was with the boyfriend, so that would have been pointless) and he slips away, that’s also a good thing. WHO you’re looking for, that would be the students, the janitors, the groundspeople, the professors, the cafeteria workers, plus anybody who seems to have a gun. You can’t necessarily find the killer, but you pretty much can find the campus community and figure out an effective way to communicate with them. To do everything you can to make sure everyone is informed of the situation, knows what to do in the event of an emergency, and is as safe as possible. The important thing isn’t so much to catch the killer as to try to prevent further deaths, especially as, as you say, ythat could be difficult, knowing you’ve got a captive population that doesn’t have a clue what’s going on or the best way to protect themselves in the off chance something similar to what happened previously happens again.

    I really don’t see how it’s possible to suggest that the Virginia Tech brass did everything they possibly could have done or should have done, and if you could get them alone in a room with some truth serum apart from the threat of lawsuits, I bet they’d agree.

  55. JM
    JM April 19, 2007 at 3:30 am |

    That’s supposed to say, the important thing isn’t so much to catch the killer, especially as, as you say, that could be difficult, but to try and prevent further deaths

  56. Confused
    Confused April 19, 2007 at 8:05 am |

    “the misogyny of the police dusting off their hands and declaring case closed because it was a “domestic” issue.”

    I’m having a hard time understanding why the police are being criticized for being misogynistic (I’ve heard this argument several times already).

    What’s misogynistic about assuming that the killer was the boyfriend? Isn’t the boyfriend (or husband) usually the one who did it in situations like the murders in the dorm?

  57. Deoridhe
    Deoridhe April 19, 2007 at 9:03 am |

    I find it odd that people keep talking about how effective the email was at alerting people that there was an armed man on campus who had shot two people when all the email mentioned was to look for anything unusual.

    If i’d sent that email, even late as it was, the subject would have been “URGENT: Two people have been shot; gunman still at large”. In the case of the email I’ve seen that was sent out, the fact that two people were already dead and someone was unaccounted for but armed and dangerous wasn’t even in the BODY of the email, much less the subject.

    And no one saying the University response was effective has addressed the fact that a prisoner got loose and was possibly in the area of the University at the beginning of the school year caused a campus lock-down. I find this a curious ommission.

  58. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 19, 2007 at 11:43 am |

    What’s misogynistic about assuming that the killer was the boyfriend? Isn’t the boyfriend (or husband) usually the one who did it in situations like the murders in the dorm?

    The misogyny wasn’t in investigating the boyfriend first — it was in the assumption that a man who kills a woman in a domestic dispute is automatically not a danger to the larger community, so therefore there’s no reason to warn everyone else that an armed gunman is at large.

  59. Confused
    Confused April 19, 2007 at 12:32 pm |

    “it was in the assumption that a man who kills a woman in a domestic dispute is automatically not a danger to the larger community, so therefore there’s no reason to warn everyone else that an armed gunman is at large.”

    Isn’t that assumption supported by the fact that the vast majority of men who kill their girlfriend / wife don’t kill anyone else?

    Why should the police have assumed that this case was different?

  60. Magis
    Magis April 19, 2007 at 12:56 pm |

    Actually, some rampages start as a “domestic” and get worse from there. Unless there is a credible suspect IN CUSTODY one should assume the violence is not over.

  61. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 19, 2007 at 1:08 pm |

    Isn’t that assumption supported by the fact that the vast majority of men who kill their girlfriend / wife don’t kill anyone else?

    I’d have to disagree with you there. Out here in Los Angeles, we’ve had several cases just in the last few years of disgruntled exes killing not only the ex-girlfriend/ex-wife, but the children and/or other family members. Sometimes even innocent bystanders (you may have heard of a famous case — I think the defendant’s last name was Simpson?)

    It’s not nearly as uncommon as you seem to think.

  62. Rose
    Rose April 19, 2007 at 1:26 pm |

    Below is a link to stats on campus violence. I had a hard time finding this, most reports are only for individual universities.

    Take a look at it, there seems to be a myth that domestic violence murders on campus are very frequent, and if you had shut down the school for them, you’d have to do it every day and the terrorists will win, or something like that. According to this piece, there were 23 murders committed on campus in 2002, I couldn’t find anything more current. If this piece is true than it’s actually even more rare than I would have thought.

    http://www.acha.org/info_resources/Campus_Violence.pdf

  63. Confused
    Confused April 19, 2007 at 1:30 pm |

    It’s not nearly as uncommon as you seem to think.

    Fair enough.

    I should have said that the majority of men who kill their wives don’t then go on to kill strangers.

    But I think the OJ case supports my point instead of refuting it (it was the ex again in that case).

  64. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 19, 2007 at 4:24 pm |

    I should have said that the majority of men who kill their wives don’t then go on to kill strangers.

    Majority? No. But it’s common enough that the possibility shouldn’t be blown off. Several of the more infamous high school shooters (including Kip Kinkel) killed their parents or grandparents before showing up at the school with guns. On the adult side, you have people like Mark Barton in Atlanta, who killed his family before he shot up his office, and many, many other examples.

    Again, the cops’ mistake was assuming that it was a domestic incident and not exploring any other possibilities. A lot of times, that kind of mistake is fairly minor, but in this case, it came right back around and bit them in the ass. Hard.

  65. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko April 21, 2007 at 12:00 am |

    So a black man and a white women were murdered. They would have shut down the campus if it had been two white men because that wouldn’t be regarded as domestic homicide. They did shut down the campus when two male guards were murdered in August 2006.

    In the two hours between the murders of Hilscher and her dorm neighbor Ryan Clark, and Cho’s mass killings at another university building, they chose not to cancel classes or lock down the campus. (They did choose to do so, however, in August 2006, when a man shot a security guard and a sheriff’s deputy and escaped from a hospital two miles away.) Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said authorities believed the first shooting was a “domestic dispute” and thought the gunman had fled the campus, so “We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur.” The assumption, apparently, is that men who kill their cheating girlfriends are criminals, but they are not crazy, not psychopaths, and not a danger to anyone other than the woman in question. (Or, as one reader commented at Feministe sarcastically, “Like killing your girlfriend is no big deal.”)

  66. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko April 21, 2007 at 12:07 am |

    Bob Herbert’s op-ed yesterday connected murderous violence and gender:

    But a close look at the patterns of murderous violence in the U.S. reveals some remarkable consistencies, wherever the individual atrocities may have occurred. In case after case, decade after decade, the killers have been shown to be young men riddled with shame and humiliation, often bitterly misogynistic and homophobic, who have decided that the way to assert their faltering sense of manhood and get the respect they have been denied is to go out and shoot somebody.

    Dr. James Gilligan, who has spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts, and as a professor at Harvard and now at N.Y.U., believes that some debilitating combination of misogyny and homophobia is a “central component” in much, if not most, of the worst forms of violence in this country.

    “What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.”

    Violence is commonly resorted to as the antidote to the disturbing emotions raised by the widespread hostility toward women in our society and the pathological fear of so many men that they aren’t quite tough enough, masculine enough — in short, that they might have homosexual tendencies.

  67. Ursula L
    Ursula L April 23, 2007 at 12:24 pm |

    …such as using the PA to inform students of the situation…

    None of the colleges or universities (three, thus far) I’ve attended has a full-campus PA system. The library will have a PA system that works only in the library. The student union or dining halls may have a PA system if they are set up with Muzak. But not all dining halls will be.

    The classrooms and dorms never had a PA system.

    High schools use a PA system because they’re set up with everyone in a compact area, and on roughly the same schedule. You can have a daily announcement over the PA system during homeroom, which justifies the cost of installing one.

    Universities really don’t need a PA system as part of their ordinary operations. Things like daily announcements during homeroom don’t happen. And the community is much larger, so that there aren’t many announcements of interest to everyone, and there are far too many specific group announcements to fit into a reasonably timed PA announcement.

    Elementary and High schools are designed to control movement and keep track of everyone. Universities are designed to facilitate easy movement, and let people move from room to room or building to building as their personal academic needs require.

    It is a totally different architecture and infrastructure. Designed to open up, not lock down. Wide doors, open atriums, lounges, libraries, public greens, bridges and tunnels to connect buildings, etc.

    10,000 people in 70 different buildings, each on their own schedule, just aren’t controllable in the way that a county high school would be. The entire concept of “lock down” as drilled in elementary schools is impossible.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.