Parents of gunman maintaining silence

While the parents of the Virginia Tech gunman have kept silent and out of public view, his uncle met an official from a Korean-American association and said he "assumes" the parents are doing fine.

While the parents of the Virginia Tech gunman have kept silent and out of public view, his uncle met an official from a Korean-American association and said he "assumes" the parents are doing fine.

The chairman of the Korean-American Association of Northern Virginia visited the paternal uncle of 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui at the uncle's home last night.

Baik In-suk, the association's chairman, said he wanted to check on the family's well-being and to offer comfort when he visited Cho Sun-ryol in suburban Washington.

He said he asked how the gunman's parents were and was told that the uncle "assumes" they are fine.

He described Cho Sun-ryol as unwilling to talk in detail.

"I just ask and then he say nothing," Baik said. He was eventually asked to leave, he said, and said he would not be returning.

Cho Sun-ryol declined to comment yesterday at his dry cleaning business in Edgewater.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that gunman Cho Seung-Hui was bullied by fellow students at school who mocked his shyness and the strange way he talked.

Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech student who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Virginia, with Cho in 2003, recalled that the South Korean immigrant almost never opened his mouth and would ignore attempts to strike up a conversation.

Once, in English class, the teacher had the students read aloud and, when it was Cho's turn, he just looked down in silence, Mr Davids recalled.

Finally, after the teacher threatened him to give him a failing grade for participation, Cho started to read in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth", Mr Davids said.

"As soon as he started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, 'Go back to China'," Mr Davids said.

The high school classmates' accounts add to the psychological portrait that is beginning to take shape, and could shed light on Cho's state of mind in the video rant he mailed to NBC in the middle of his rampage Monday at Virginia Tech.

He shot 32 people to death and committed suicide in the deadliest one-man shooting rampage in modern US history.

In the often-incoherent video, the 23-year-old Cho portrays himself as persecuted and rants about rich kids.

"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," says Cho, who went to the US in 1992 and whose parents work at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfil your hedonistic needs. You had everything."

Among the victims of the massacre were two other Westfield High graduates: Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson. Both young women graduated from the high school last year. Police said it is not clear whether Cho singled them out.

Stephanie Roberts, 22, a fellow member of Cho's graduating class at Westfield High, said she never witnessed anyone picking on Cho in high school.

"I just remember he was a shy kid who didn't really want to talk to anybody," she said. "I guess a lot of people felt like maybe there was a language barrier."

But she said friends of hers who went to middle school with Cho told her they recalled him getting picked on there.

"There were just some people who were really mean to him and they would push him down and laugh at him," Ms Roberts said yesterday. "He didn't speak English really well and they would really make fun of him."

Virginia Tech student Alison Heck said a suitemate of hers on campus - Christina Lilick - found a mysterious question mark scrawled on the dry erase board on her door. Ms Lilick went to the same high school as Cho, according to her Facebook page. Cho once scrawled a question mark on the sign-in sheet on the first day of a literature class, and other students came to know him as "the question mark kid".

"I don't know if she knew that it was him for sure," Ms Heck said. "I do remember that that fall that she was being stalked and she had mentioned the question mark. And there was a question mark on her door."

Ms Heck added: "She just let us know about it just in case there was a strange person walking around our suite."

Ms Lilick could not immediately be located for comment, via e-mail or telephone.

Yesterday NBC received a package containing a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement from Cho, 28 video clips and 43 photos - many of them showing Cho brandishing handguns. A Postal Service time stamp reads 9.01am - between the two attacks on campus.

The package helped explain one mystery: where the gunman was and what he did during that two-hour window between the first burst of gunfire, at a high-rise dorm, and the second attack, at a classroom building.

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," a snarling Cho says on video. "But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

Col Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said today that the material contained little they did not already know. Mr Flaherty said he was disappointed that NBC decided to broadcast parts of it.

"I just hate that a lot of people not used to seeing that type of image had to see it," he said.

On NBC's Today show, host Meredith Vieira said the decision to air the information "was not taken lightly". Some victims' relatives cancelled their plans to speak to NBC because they were upset over the airing of the images, she said.

"I saw his picture on TV, and when I did I just got chills," said Kristy Venning, a junior from Franklin County, Virginia. "There's really no words. It shows he put so much thought into this and I think it's sick."

Some of the pictures in the video package show him smiling; others show him frowning and snarling. Some depict him brandishing two weapons at a time, one in each hand. He wears a khaki-coloured military-style vest, fingerless gloves, a black T-shirt, a backpack and a backward, black baseball cap. Another photo shows him swinging a hammer two-fisted. Another shows an angry-looking Cho holding a gun to his temple.

There has been some speculation, especially among online forums, that Cho may have been inspired by the South Korean movie Oldboy. One of the killer's mailed photos shows him brandishing a hammer - the signature weapon of the protagonist - and in a pose similar to one from the film.

The film won the Gran Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004. It is about a man unjustly imprisoned for 15 years. After escaping, he goes on a rampage against his captor.

Authorities today disclosed that more than a year before the massacre, Cho had been accused of sending unwanted messages to two women and was taken to a psychiatric hospital on a magistrate's orders and was pronounced a danger to himself. But he was released with orders to undergo outpatient treatment.

The disclosure added to the rapidly growing list of warning signs that appeared well before the student opened fire. Among other things, Cho's twisted, violence-filled writings and sullen, vacant-eyed demeanour had disturbed professors and students so much that he was removed from one English class and was repeatedly urged to get counselling.

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