A high school classmate remembers Cho Seung-hui as "supersmart" and "a really, really quiet guy," while a dorm mate says few even knew Cho lived there.
After the mass shooting on the Virginia Tech campus Monday, rumors circulated on television and the Internet about the identity of the killer. Some reports said he was a student at nearby Radford University, while the Chicago Sun-Times was reporting that authorities were investigating a 24-year-old who had entered the U.S. on a student visa on a flight from China last August. But officials now say the shooter was a little-noticed member of Virginia Tech’s student body, a loner so reclusive even neighbors in his own residence hall didn’t know him.
Officials say Cho Seung-hui, 23, was an English major at Virginia Tech who came to the U.S. in 1992 with his family and settled in Centreville, Va. School officials say he lived on campus in Harper Hall.
Joe was a classmate of Cho Seung-hui at Westfield High in Chantilly, Va., in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where both graduated in 2003. (At his request, Salon has removed his last name.) Joe went to middle school with the Korean-American Cho (his family name), and had known him since eighth grade. They were in the same advanced math class at Westfield High.
Both young men went to Virginia Tech after high school. Yet whenever Joe encountered Cho, who grew up to be a 6-footer with glasses, on Virginia Tech’s sprawling 2,600-acre campus, Cho rebuffed attempts to make conversation.
“He was a quiet guy, a really, really quiet guy, to the point where sometimes you would ask him questions and he wouldn’t respond to you,” says Joe, who remembers Cho as a “supersmart” student known for his math skills at Westfield, but who always kept to himself.
Andy Wong, 19, who lives on the second floor of Harper Hall, the dormitory where Cho lived, says that Cho was largely invisible to other residents of the dorm. According to Wong, none of his acquaintances on the floor knew much of anything about Cho. “I was surprised to learn that he lived on our hall. I might have seen him once, but I don’t remember.”
Joe, 21, graduated early and is now back in Northern Virginia working. Cho was due to graduate this semester. When Joe heard about the shooting, “Man, I felt sad for him. Maybe people should’ve tried harder to reach him.”
“I feel sorry for him and sad about the situation,” says Joe. “It feels so odd. It’s strange to see his face on CNN. This is the face of a killer. I think he was just a confused kid.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that the shooter left “an invective-filled note” in his dorm room, in which he decried “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus. He also had the words “Ismail Ax” written in red ink on his arm at the time of the shootings, the paper reported, and had been referred to Virginia Tech counseling services because of “disturbing” creative writing. One English professor described him as “troubled.”
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Joe Eaton is a freelance writer based in Roanoke, Va.