Cho Seung-Hui was the 23 year-old Virginia Tech student who killed 32 students and took his own life afterward on the morning of April 16, 2007.
What clues can we see throughout Cho Seung-Hui’s time at Virginia Tech (VT) that would signal and lead up to the making of a murderer?
1. He was an isolated recluse and silent loner.
Cho, a South Korean native, was in the U.S. as a resident alien with a residence established in Centerville, Va. Cho was living on campus in Harper Residence Hall. Yet his roommates say he was very quiet and kept to himself. The extent of his social revolved around instant messenger and time spent on face book.
2. Strange behavior alienating him socially.
Cho was said to often take pictures of people without permission. Perhaps Cho was collecting pictures to send to friends back in South Korea to project the social life he never had. Though many fellow students at Virginia Tech were disturbed by Cho’s picture takings, they were seemingly tolerant to a degree of his eccentric and weird behavior. Nevertheless Cho’s odd behavior served to ostracize and distance him socially from his peers. Many who crossed paths with Cho at VT thought of him as the strangest, spookiest person they’d ever encountered.
3. He was jealous and envious.
Cho left an angry note in his dorm room, which a law enforcement source described as a typed, eight-page rant against “rich kids” and women. “You caused me to do this,” the official quoted the note as saying.
Cho was jealous and envious of the rich kids money and guys who had the girls he dreamed of having. The Bible says, “Jealousy is the rage of a man” (Proverbs 6:34). That is to say jealousy precedes anger and rage. As for envy, it is “rottenness of the bones” (14:30).
4. Socially and sexually frustrated.
Leaving home to live at the University can be a real test for one’s manhood as Cho discovered. He was thrust into a new living environment, where he had to adapt and make friends. Not being the social type, the insecure Cho withdrew and isolated himself.
With the click of the internet, Cho was readily able to access all the pictures of the girls he inwardly fantasized about. This further intensified his own personal and sexual frustration as a man. What futile attempts he did make to befriend the opposite sex, Cho was seemingly rejected as there apparently was not a mutual interest.
Cho’s last hours apparently began with the killings of freshman veterinary student Emily Hilscher, 19, and senior Ryan “Stack” Clark, a resident advisor, at about 7:15 a.m. in the West Ambler Johnston residence hall.
Hilscher’s connection to Cho is not clear. The police who responded to 911 calls described the incident as a “domestic dispute,” implying that she and the gunman had some sort of relationship.
Another twist to this puzzling young man is his darkly comic one-act play “Richard McBeef,” which mentions a father’s pedophilia.
5. Uncommunicative, Cho was an emotional time bomb eroding from within.
David Schott, who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., with Cho in 2003, told the Boston Herald in an e-mail that Cho “never spoke a word.” Bottling up all of his pain and feelings within, Cho never confided in anyone as to what he was struggling with.
Unlike women who validate and easily articulate their feelings to one another, Cho (like many men) probably lived in denial for some time and just kept pushing his pain down.
6. Cho was likely the source of classmate jokes.
Kids can be cruel. It begins in elementary school and goes on through college. Kids don’t hold back any punches. The joke about unresponsive Cho was he was “The question mark kid.”
Cho sat in the back of the classroom, wearing a hat and seldom participating. In a small department, Cho distinguished himself for being anonymous.
A photo from the 2002 yearbook, when Cho was a junior, shows an unsmiling, bespectacled boy wearing a plaid flannel shirt over a light-colored T-shirt. He did not have a yearbook photo his senior year.
7. Cho played violent video games which desensitized him to violence.
Dr. Phil went so far according to Fox News as to have entirely blamed the video games. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that making sport of violence does tremendously desensitize people to acting in such a way. This was definitely another small component that compounded and contributed to the making of a murderer.
8. Full of shame and self-hatred.
It was said that Cho never made eye contact with anyone in high-school, this being a sure sign of low self-esteem and shame. Enduring such self-defeating tendencies for years enabled Cho to develop a strong sense of self-hatred.
Students said Cho was known for little more than his silent demeanor. They said he refused to introduce himself to his creative writing class last year. As classmates went around the room saying their names, he remained silent. On the sign-in sheet where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. “Is your name, ‘Question mark?’ ” classmate Julie Poole recalled the professor asking. The young man offered little response.
Cho’s two roommates told CNN in an exclusive interview that he had mentioned committing suicide to them after a disheartening incident when he had pursued a “friend” (no doubt a young lady) and the results were not favorable to his liking.
9. Cho expressed anger in his writings.
Cho’s deep sense of self-hatred manifested in his creative writing, which he as an English major wrote. It was said by his English teacher that Cho’s angry writings were a huge reason for concern. She urged him to get psychological counseling and even reported his problem to the University.
MacFarlane, a former play writing classmate of Cho’s, now an employee of AOL, wrote on a news blog that “When we read Cho’s plays, it was like something out of a nightmare.”
One play, titled “Richard McBeef,” depicts an angry adolescent who believes his stepfather murdered his biological father. It is laced with references to sexual abuse. In it, a chain saw-wielding mom has a temper that flairs on a whim.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is hard to do if you don’t first love yourself. The reverse is true in that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Since Cho inwardly hated and loathed himself, it wasn’t long before he would feel the same way about the professors and students around him.
10. Cho was using anti-depressants.
It was said that Cho was using anti-depressant medication to help him through the emotional lows he was experiencing. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, said the minimal and short-lived stimulation one would get from anti-depressants might be just enough to enable them to act on their anger.
As a minister I know well that medicating a person never deals with the underlying issue deeper within at the root of the problem. Despite using medication, Cho was becoming increasingly violent and erratic.
11. Cho gave people a bad vibe instinctively.
“We always joked we were just waiting for him to do something, waiting to hear about something he did,” said another classmate, Stephanie Derry. “But when I got the call it was Cho who had done this, I started crying, bawling.”
There certainly is something to be said about a woman’s intuition. Many seemed to have a sick gut feeling and premonition about Cho long before the blood bath broke out. Ian MacFarlane’s first thought when he heard of the massacre at his alma mater was for his friends’ safety. His second was, “I bet it was Seung Cho.”
There were some troubling signs with Cho: students in his writing classes say he often wrote violent scenes they describe as “twisted.” He wrote two screenplays dealing with death and revenge – two things that seem to have played out Monday on the Virginia Tech campus.
12. Family and outside pressure may have played a role.
I hate to generalize and stereotype. However as one who has traveled to over 50 countries of the world, I’ve got a pretty good sense of other cultures and their work ethic. This is merely speculative, but it may have some validity.
The shooting spree took place at Norris Hall, which houses the bulk of Virginia Tech’s famed engineering courses. Cho killed a few reputable professors from the engineering department, 30 people total at the engineering building though he was an English major.
Perhaps Cho’s father wanted him to study engineering at University, as many Asian fathers encourage their sons in such a line of employment. It was not said whether or not Cho was possibly denied admittance into the engineering program when he initially applied at attend VT. Cho’s English major certainly didn’t afford him a lot of interaction with other Asians at the University, who might have been more successful relating to him.
13. Cho sought to buy a gun.
Cho, a loner in life, apparently wanted to be anonymous in death. Sources say he carried no identification on him during his killing spree. And the serial numbers on his two handguns had been erased.
He was carrying a 9-millimeter Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, which he had legally bought five weeks earlier at a gun shop in nearby Roanoke, as well as a 22-caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol and several clips of ammunition.
The gun store owner told his story on TV and was very grieved for selling the gun to what he thought to be a “clean-cut,” respectable young man.
14. Cho lacked solid values and struggled making sense of his faith.
Unlike many who feel powerless and turn to God, Cho seems to have been troubled about religion and American values he witnessed on campus.
A rambling note left in Cho’s dorm room reportedly railed for several pages against “rich kids” and “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus. He seemed to identify with Jesus Christ to whom he likened his actions. Apparently Cho never learned that Jesus is a life-giver not a life-taker. Jesus forgave those who nailed Him to the cross and spit in His face saying, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Cho had no such forgiveness for those he slaughtered.
Sadly Cho never connected to his great Christian heritage in South Korea, where some of the largest and most dynamic churches flourish.
15. Demonic influences contributed to this mass murder.
It sounded like a demon spirit was speaking through Cho on his videos as he said, “my children, my brothers and sisters” which had no factual basis as Cho was an unmarried man without kids. It was like Satan himself was talking to through Cho, a child of the devil (Acts 13:10).
The strange inscription on one of Cho’s arms — the words “ISMAIL AX” in red ink reference the Biblical sacrifice of Abraham, in which God commands the patriarch to sacrifice his own son. Abraham begins to comply, but God intervenes at the last moment to save the boy.
Another obscure interpretation may be to a passage in the Koran referring to Abraham’s destruction of pagan idols. No matter how you look at it, “the devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10). As Satan filled the heart of Judas who was a murderer from the beginning, Cho equally was misdirected by the father of lies. Spiritually, Cho was born of his father the devil and his works of destruction he carried out to his own demise (John 8:44).
My deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to Cho’s beloved family in Virginia. I hurt and grieve with you over the loss of your son.
Truly hurting people, hurt people.
I pray our loving and most merciful heavenly Father will comfort you through this difficult time. As millions of South Koreans know, Christ Jesus can save to the uttermost. Once we have humbled our hearts and repented, we can immediately find forgiveness and refuge beneath His cleansing blood. Once you are beneath the blood of Jesus, you can live above the shame.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). Lift up your eyes to heaven where your help comes from. God is a very present help in our time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).