Probe of Va Tech Massacre Begins — Media Barred

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The panel investigating the shootings at Virginia Tech last month began Monday with a closed briefing and planned to tour the buildings where 33 people died.

The panel closed the meeting and tour under provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act that protect students’ privacy and briefings by law enforcement agencies. Reporters for several news organizations objected, saying it that it did not appear the grounds for closing the meeting were properly applied in this case.

“We want this process to be as public as we can make it,” W. Gerald Massengill, chairman of the panel, told reporters. “But I hope you understand there are certain sensitive materials that are allowed for within Virginia law.”

Massengill said the university made the decision to close the tour of West Ambler Johnston Hall, where the first two students were killed, and the classrooms of Norris Hall, where senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 25 more students and five faculty members before committing suicide.

The panel was scheduled for an open session later in the morning that would last through the afternoon.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine named the eight-member panel following the April 16 shootings, asking for details about the gunman, how the events unfolded, and how the state and other agencies responded.

Additional meetings are set for next month in northern Virginia and the Charlottesville area. Kaine had said he hoped the panel could complete its review before the start of the academic year in August.

The university also is doing its own reviews of safety, telecommunication and information-exchange protocols that it expects to complete by late August, university President Charles Steger has said.

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