UPDATE: News Outlets Expose Killer's Background

By: E&P Staff Print and Web news outlets continue to dig deeply into the background of -- and troubling warning signs displayed by -- the shooter in the Virginia Tech slaughter. They ranged from visits to his parent's home in Centerville, Virginia, to blog postings by friends and the complete texts of two violent plays he wrote for a class at the school.

The Chicago Tribune and Washington Post revealed that he had "Ismail Ax" tattoed on his arm when he was found dead.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post revealed that famed poet Nikki Giovanni witnessed him at close range in a teaching visit to the school in 2005. Cho took pictures of fellow students during a creative writing class and wrote about death. "Kids write about murder and suicide all the time. But there was something that made all of us pay attention closely. None of us were comfortable with that," she said.

The students once recited their poems in class. "It was like, 'What are you trying to say here?' It was more sinister," she told the Post.

The Los Angeles Times revealed that Monday morning, according to school officials, "Cho even had time to post a deadly warning on a school online forum. 'im going to kill people at vtech today,' they said he wrote."

Joseph Aust, the killer's former roommate at the school, told the L.A. Times that Cho was always on his computer listening to rock, pop and classical: "He would spend a lot of time downloading music."

Along with another roommate, he told CNN on Tuesday night that Cho had stalked at least three girls, telling one of them that she had "promiscuity" in her eyes.

Earlier today, school officials said that Cho's writings in one English class caused them to "intervene" in some way.

Once again, The New York Times' blog, The Lede, came up with much of interest, including quoting from Ian MacFarlane, a former classmate of the killer, who now works for AOL. Macfarlane passed the two plays on to AOL News, and also explained: "When I first heard about the multiple shootings at Virginia Tech yesterday, my first thought was about my friends, and my second thought was 'I bet it was Seung Cho."

Back at school, he added, "When we read Cho?s plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn?t have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn?t pressure him to give closing comments."

MacFarlane closed: "As far as the victims go, as I was heading to bed last night, I heard that my good friend Stack (Ryan Clark) was one of the first confirmed dead. I didn't want to believe that I'd never get to talk to him again, and all I could think about was how much I could tell him how much his friendship meant to me. During my junior year, Ryan, another friend and I used to get breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Shultz Dining Hall, one of the cafeterias on campus, and it was always the highlight of my day. He could talk forever it seemed and always made us laugh. He was a good friend, not just to me, but to a lot of people, and I'll miss him a lot."

Professor Carolyn Rude, chair of the English departmen, told AP: ?There was some concern about him. Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it?s creative or if they?re describing things, if they?re imagining things or just how real it might be. But we?re all alert to not ignore things like this.?

The Washington Post reported this afternoon: "Investigators also found a note left in the shooter's dorm room, said to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation. 'It's sort of a manifesto' said the source, who described the note as a rambling and somewhat incoherent list of grievances. Among the people that Cho attacked in the note were those he considered rich, spoiled students, the source said. 'It was just sort of against the world,' the source said.

"The source also said investigators believe there was a connection between the shootings and recent bomb threats on campus and are 'trying to nail it down.'"


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