They escaped the notice of two separate investigations, but the mental health records for Seung Hui Cho, who on April 16, 2007 shot and killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech, have been found. They were in the home of the former director of the university’s counseling center, and only came to light, reports today’s Washington Post thanks to pre-trial discovery for lawsuits launched by the families of several of his victims.
The Post reports:
“Lucinda Roy, a Virginia Tech English professor who encouraged Cho to get counseling, said the late and mysterious reappearance of the records adds to concern that the university has been more concerned with preserving its reputation than with providing the public with a thorough account of how Cho’s case was handled.
Roy said she had been in frequent contact with Miller about Cho’s violent writings, flat affect and disturbing behavior. “He seemed to be a caring individual and responsive to problems, even though I was very disappointed that the counseling center could not have been more proactive,” she said. “It was always puzzling to me that they couldn’t find the records and there was not a huge push to try to find them.”
Parents of his victims are understandably furious it has taken so long and wonder why.
“The words that come to mind are coverup, collusion, obstruction,” said Mike Pohle, whose son was killed in the shootings. “I’m spinning. Who knows what could be in those records? But this is just potentially more information that says: Virginia Tech, you failed to do your job.”
Pohle and Suzanne Grimes, whose son was wounded and still has a bullet in him, said the revelation might call into question the $11 million settlement that all but two families of victims signed with the university. “It just infuriates me that all of a sudden now, these records have magically appeared from a former director,” she said. “When you retire, you take the pictures off the wall. You don’t take records. It doesn’t make sense. And it raises a whole new set of questions about accountability for Virginia Tech.”
One-third of American homes contain a firearm. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 5 to 8 percent of Americans — about 14 million — are suffering from depression, which is why more than 50 percent of gun deaths are suicides, as this was after multiple murders. The correlation between mental illness, the privacy of health records and gun ownership is messy, opaque and one of the greatest challenges the U.S. faces in attempts to reduce gun-related violence and death.