Virginia Tech

Of course this story bothers me. The worst mass murder in American history is going to bother almost everyone (and for those not bothered, well, I bloody well hope they don’t see today’s events as inspiration.) But even though Kevin Wignall raises interesting points about alienation among American teens and college students and the prospect of tightening gun control laws, the detail that really got under my skin is this:

Campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said Monday night that

investigators had preliminarily identified the gunman, whose name he

did not reveal. Investigators told NBC News that they had trouble for

several hours identifying the man, _who died after he shot himself in

the face. He carried no ID, and an initial check on his fingerprints

came up empty_. (Italics mine)

Now, when this was first reported, police hadn’t made any sort of identification, and presumably a name will be announced or more likely, leak out to the first available media scooper as soon as possible. But I can’t help but think that our shooter, whoever he turns out to be, is a different animal from the Charles Whitmans, the Howard Unruhs and the Harrises and Klebolds of the world. We’ll see if Ed’s hypothesis that “he first American mass murder along these lines…in which there was absolutely no ego involved” bears out, but shooting yourself in the face and going to the trouble of – at least temporarily – making it difficult for cops to identify you smacks of something way beyond the typical school shooting motivations.

And if the Chicago Sun-Times is correct, we may be looking at quite different territory:

Authorities were investigating whether the gunman who killed 32

people on the Virginia Tech campus in the deadliest shooting rampage in

U.S. history was a Chinese man who arrived in the United States last

year on a student visa.

The 24-year-old man arrived in San Francisco on United Airlines

on Aug. 7 on a visa issued in Shanghai, the source said. Investigators

have not linked him to any terrorist groups, the source said.

Police believe three bomb threats on the campus last week may have been

attempts by the man to test the campus’ security response, the source


We’ll see how this develops, but I suspect the answers that will emerge may not be pleasant, to say the least.

UPDATE: Well, the above article shows the biggest problem with round-the-clock reporting. David Montgomery corrects the record, saying the gunman was from Fairfax County. A press conference revealing more information – including the shooter’s name – will take place later this morning.

More comprehensive and corrective updates are taking place at

UPDATE TWO: The shooter has been identified as 23 year old Cho Seung-Hui, an English major at Virginia Tech.