As shock waves reverberated after the release of Cho Seung-Hui's disturbing videos, photos and writings late Wednesday, law-enforcement officials expressed disappointment that the images had been aired.
At a news conference on Thursday morning (April 19), Virginia State Police Colonel Steve Flaherty said the information found in the package was of "marginal value" to the investigation and did not provide any significant evidence to advance the case.
He said the materials did not definitively tie Cho to the murders at the West Ambler Johnston Hall dorm, though investigators had hoped it would provide some vital evidence or visual link between that incident and the murders at Norris Hall later Monday morning (see " 'When The Time Came, I Did It,' Cho Says In Newly Released Video"). Cho mailed the materials to NBC shortly after the first shootings took place; the express-mail package arrived late due to errors he'd made writing the address.
And although NBC News President Steve Capus said the arrival of the tape on Wednesday forced the network to make "tough" decisions about whether to air the manifesto, Flaherty expressed regret that the public was exposed to the images.
"What I was concerned about ... a lot of folks saw images that are ... really very disturbing," Flaherty said. "They're the type of things that those of us in my walk of life usually have to contend with and deal with, and I just hate that a lot of folks that are not used to seeing that type of image had to see it.
"I'm sorry that you were all exposed to these images."
Hours after the press conference, NBC and MSNBC announced they will "severely limit" use of the images, as did ABC News. At both CBS News and CNN, producers will need explicit approval from their bosses to use them going forward, according to The Associated Press. Fox News said it would cease airing the images altogether.
"The decision to run this video was reached by virtually every news organization in the world, as evidenced by coverage on television, on Web sites and in newspapers," NBC said in a statement. "We have covered this story — and our unique role in it — with extreme sensitivity, underscored by our devoted efforts to remember and honor the victims and heroes of this tragic incident."
Family members of victims canceled plans to appear on NBC's "Today" show on Thursday because they "were very upset" with the network for showing the pictures, "Today" host Meredith Vieira said, according to the AP.
Capus told The Washington Post that network executives debated for hours over what to broadcast. "There are some things we haven't shown and words we haven't released that are more appropriate to hold back," he said. "Journalists have a responsibility. We're not just here to pass on in direct form raw video and complete documents."
Before the clips were aired, NBC News anchor Brian Williams told viewers, "We are sensitive to how all of this will be seen by those affected, and we know we are, in effect, airing the words of a murderer here tonight. ... So much of it is so profane, so downright gross and incomprehensible. We tried to edit carefully for broadcast tonight."
At Thursday's press conference, a U.S. Postal Service inspector, Dave McGinnis, confirmed that Cho had dropped off the package on Monday morning after the first shootings, and said that no one took particular notice of him in the morning's rush to get tax returns into the post on time. The clerk who accepted the package, though, did notice that there were six digits in the zip code and corrected it.
Flaherty also mentioned that the investigation phase at Norris Hall had concluded and that the building would soon be turned back over to the university.
Read "Students From Across U.S. Respond To Shootings: 'It Is Beyond Unsettling' ", "On Virginia Tech Campus: 'I Can't Believe This Happened Here' ", "Gunshots 'Sounded Like A Hammer': Virginia Tech Students Speak About Shootings" and " 'People Are Missing': VT Student Reflects On Loss Of Friend" for firsthand accounts from the Virginia Tech campus and additional student reactions.
Go to "Virginia Tech Students Reach Out To One Another" and "Virtual Memorial, MySpace Pages Help VT Mourners Cope Online" to find out how students are coping with the tragedy.