Campus Aggression Prevention System (CAPS), Identifying Seung-Hui Cho, Shooter at Virginia Tech

I want to take a moment and illustrate the importance of a Risk Management System (RMS) that identifies and records low level aggressive acts because they are often the precursors of more serious and violent acts. The recording is important because it permits a team of trained responders to evaluate these acts and intervene and prevent more serious violent acts.

No one in higher education can forget the Virginia Tech Tragedy and Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 people and wounded 25 others. And most of you also know that Cho committed numerous acts of aggressive behavior observed by various classmates, faculty, campus police, and mental health professionals. With Stages Eight (murderer) and the most lethal Stage Nine (murder/suicide), there were significant indications of an emerging aggression.

  1. His poetry Professor had Cho removed from class because she found his behavior menacing and his obscene and violent poetry intimidating. (Stage Seven)
  2. Female classmates of Cho were also intimidated because he would photograph their legs under their desks. (Stage Five)
  3. He was the subject of a number of police reports concerning his harassment of female students. (Stage Five)
  4. Cho repeatedly placed harassing phone calls to an ex-roommate. (Stage Five)
  5. Campus police gave Cho verbal warnings after he was involved in at least three stalking incidents on campus. (Stage Six plus)
  6. When he texted an ex-roommate that “I might as well kill myself now”, campus police were informed and escorted Cho to the Mental Health Agency serving Blacksburg. (Stage 7)
  7. On the day of the shooting, Cho traversed the campus with the Thousand Yard Stare in a trance like state – “Walking Dead.” (Stage 8 or 9)

These are just some of Cho’s acts of emerging aggression that are frequently the precursors of acts of subsequent violence. But there was no Risk Management System (RMS) like CAPS in place where observed acts of this nature are recorded and shared by a trained team of responders who are specifically tasked with intervening as appropriate to prevent the sort of violence that occurred.

Sadly, when Cho’s poetry Professor learned of the massacre, she remarked that “I knew when it happened who (the shooter)  probably was”  I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of people who had crossed paths with Seung-Hui Cho had exactly the same reaction.


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