Virginia Tech addresses alleged misinformation about April 16 massacre

Letter from Virginia Tech director of news and information Mark Owczarski to all news media outlets:

Dear Editor:

We know the Virginia Tech community and all the families and victims of the April 16, 2007 tragedy hurt deeply with the appearance of each new story about the violence that struck our campus now more than two and a half years ago.  On December 4, 2009 [several media outlets] published an article about the release of the amended report produced by the state panel charged with investigating the tragedy.  Unfortunately, there were revisions that led to insinuations and implications reported in the media that are not correct.

The amended report states that "at least two Policy Group members" notified family members of the West Ambler Johnston Hall shootings that preceded the shootings in Norris Hall.  This is not correct.  None of the "Policy Group members" notified their family members of the shootings in advance.  Nor were the two staffers, who did mention the shootings to family members, decision-makers in the response to the WAJH shootings.

In one case, a mother called to wake up her son for class, as was her practice.  During the course of the brief conversation from her car while on the way to work, she mentioned that there had been a shooting on campus.  She instructed him to go to class that morning on Virginia Tech's campus, which he did.  The other staffer received a phone call from the university while she was leaving her children with her mother.  During the course of conversation, she told her mother she had to leave quickly because there had been a shooting on campus. 

Clearly, these two conversations do not comprise any effort by university staff or Policy Group officials to notify their own families of danger in advance of notifying the campus community. 

Also, there were reports that the president's office was locked on the morning of April 16.  This is also not correct.  While a person with an office down the hall directed that his office be locked, the president's office was not locked nor ordered to be locked.

The tragedy of April 16, 2007 with its wrenching loss of life due to one deranged young man continues to sear the hearts of all who were touched by that terrible day.  We will never stop asking why Cho did what he did, nor what we can do to make sure it never happens again.  And as we do so, our University will continue to be committed to the facts and full transparency of the facts that lead us to understanding.

Mark Owczarski
Director, News and Information
Virginia Tech

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.