In the dusty coal town of Grundy Virginia, the Appalachian School of Law became a gruesome crime scene. Six people were shot by a mentally ill former student, Peter Odighizuwa. Three were killed - a dean, a professor and a student: Angela Dales.
"She was bleeding profusely. I thought I knew what it felt like, but you really don't until it is your family," said David Cariens. He was sitting in the living room of his Kilmarnock home 12 years ago when he got that dreaded phone call. The mother of his oldest grandchild was gone. That moment sparked a 12-year journey for Cariens to discover why this country is seeing so many mass shootings.
"There's a very good chance most of these shootings could be prevented. There's no doubt in my mind because the warning signs are there," said Cariens. He knows better than most the pain and helplessness of Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook.
"It's very good people making very poor decisions and the decision not to do something about a very clear warning that violence is about to occur," added Cariens.
He says there are obvious patterns with the mentally ill shooters. He believes the warning signs at Grundy were clear and missed.
"Peter Odighizuwa was known to be violent. He had created incidents in classrooms. He had gone to the Grundy Police saying that his house was bugged and that they were harassing him. He was a time bomb waiting to go off. So, all of the signs were there and nobody did anything," said Cariens.
Cariens was sitting in that same room five years later when another time bomb went off - Seung Hui Cho at Virginia Tech. He believes, "the tragedy at Virginia Tech was inevitable, because of the incompetence and ignorance and inaction on the part of school officials, mental health officials and law enforcement officials, and I do think it needs to be exposed."
Cariens spent 31 years with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He turned his analytical mind to research and spent three and a half years looking into to the tragedy at Tech. His book is called 'Virginia Tech: Make Sure It Doesn't Get Out.'
"In one chapter, I draw the parallels of before, during and after between Columbine, the Appalachian school of Law and Virginia Tech. The parallels are there and no one is paying any attention to them," said Cariens.
The State Supreme Court recently overturned a jury verdict in a wrongful death suit against the university. The justices wrote, "there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about potential criminal acts."
Cariens puts much of the blame for mass shootings on the mental health system in Virginia.
"As of right now, we spend less in Virginia on mental health than we did on April 16, 2007. The politicians are able to use the most vulnerable section of society to cut budgets, and they pay little cost."
Virginia, with state Senator Creigh Deeds leading the charge, is pushing to add more money into mental health care, an effort Cariens is watching closely.
11 Virginia Tech families helped Cariens with the book. They shared their experiences from the shooting and its aftermath. In the book, Cariens questions the integrity of the taxpayer-funded state report on Virginia Tech, which details what happened and went wrong.
"The one thing that the families need more than anything else, and I can speak from personal experience, the families need the truth. The truth is absolutely central to healing. Yet, the truth is the thing that we never get."
We reached out to Virginia Tech for comment. The university is aware of the upcoming book, but a spokesperson told us, because they haven't read it, it would not be possible for the school to issue a comment at this time.
Cariens says he's taking no money from the sale of his book, which will be released next week. He says after taxes and expenses, all profits will go to charities and to the victims' families who contributed to the book.
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:49 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:49:13 GMT
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