The disturbing video of an armed Cho Seung-Hui delivering a snarling tirade about rich "brats" and their "hedonistic needs" had some marginal value to the official investigation, but it didn't add much that police didn't already know, State Police said Thursday.
The self-made video and photos of Cho pointing guns as if he were imitating a movie poster were mailed to NBC on the morning of the Virginia Tech massacre. A Postal Service time stamp reads 9:01 a.m. - between the two attacks that left 33 people dead.
"This is it. This is where it all ends," Cho says in one videotape, in which he appears to be more melancholy than angry. "What a life it was. Some life."
Cho, 23, speaks in a harsh monotone in other videotaped rants, but it isn't clear to whom he is speaking. Some of his photos resemble scenes from a South Korean movie in Chan-wook Park's "Vengeance Trilogy."
"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," Cho says in one, with a snarl on his lips. "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."
NBC said the package contained a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos. It was given to State Police but contained little that they didn't already know, Col. Steve Flaherty said.
On NBC's "Today" show Thursday, host Meredith Vieira said the decision to air the information "was not taken lightly." Some victims' relatives canceled their plans to speak with 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, Va. "There's really no words. It shows he put so much thought into this and I think it's sick."
The package helped explain one of the biggest mysteries about the massacre: 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.
"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," says Cho, a South Korean immigrant 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 fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."
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 was the second of Park's "Vengeance Trilogy" and is about a man unjustly imprisoned for 15 years. After escaping, he goes on a rampage against his captor.
The connection was spotted by Professor Paul Harris of Virginia Tech, who alerted the authorities, according to London's Evening Standard.
It has become commonplace for movies or music to be linked to especially violent killers. One blogger for the Huffington Post, filmmaker Bob Cesca, dismissed the connection as "the most ridiculous hypothesis yet."
Authorities on Thursday 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 demeanor had disturbed professors and students so much that he was removed from one English class and was repeatedly urged to get counseling.
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-colored 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.
He refers to "martyrs like Eric and Dylan" - a reference to the teenage killers in the Columbine High School massacre.
NBC News President Steve Capus said the package was sent by overnight delivery but apparently had the wrong ZIP code and wasn't opened until Wednesday, NBC said.
An alert postal employee brought the package to NBC's attention after noticing the Blacksburg return address and a name similar to the words reportedly found scrawled in red ink on Cho's arm after the bloodbath, "Ismail Ax," NBC said.
Capus said that the network notified the FBI around noon, but held off reporting on it at the FBI's request, so that the bureau could look at it first. NBC finally broke the story just before police announced the development at 4:30 p.m.
It was clear Cho videotaped himself, Capus said, because he could be seen leaning in to shut off the camera.
State Police Spokeswoman Corinne Geller cautioned that, while the package was mailed between the two shootings, police have not inspected the footage and have yet to establish exactly when the images were made.
Cho repeatedly suggests he was picked on or otherwise hurt.
"You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience," he says, apparently reading from his manifesto. "You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."
A law enforcement official said Cho's letter also refers in the same sentence to President Bush and John Mark Karr, who falsely confessed last year to having killed child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media.
Earlier Wednesday, authorities disclosed that in November and December 2005, two women complained to campus police that they had received calls and computer messages from Cho. But the women considered the messages "annoying," not threatening, and neither pressed charges, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.
Neither woman was among the victims in the massacre, police said.
After the second complaint about Cho's behavior, the university obtained a temporary detention order and took Cho away because an acquaintance reported he might be suicidal, authorities said. Police did not identify the acquaintance.
On Dec. 13, 2005, a magistrate ordered Cho to undergo an evaluation at Carilion St. Albans, a private psychiatric hospital. The magistrate signed the order after an initial evaluation found probable cause that Cho was a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness.
The next day, according to court records, doctors at Carilion conducted further examination and a special justice, Paul M. Barnett, approved outpatient treatment.
A medical examination conducted Dec. 14 reported that that Cho's "affect is flat. ... He denies suicidal ideations. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal."
The court papers indicate that Barnett checked a box that said Cho "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." Barnett did not check the box that would indicate a danger to others.
It is unclear how long Cho stayed at Carilion, though court papers indicate he was free to leave as of Dec. 14. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said Cho had been continually enrolled at Tech and never took a leave of absence.
A spokesman for Carilion St. Albans would not comment.
Though the incidents with the two women did not result in criminal charges, police referred Cho to the university's disciplinary system, Flinchum said. But Ed Spencer, assistant vice president of student affairs, would not comment on any disciplinary proceedings, saying federal law protects students' medical privacy even after death.
Some students refused to second-guess the university.
"Who would've woken up in the morning and said, `Maybe this student who's just troubled is really going to do something this horrific?'" said Elizabeth Hart, a communications major and a spokeswoman for the student government.
One of the first Virginia Tech officials to recognize Cho's problems was award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni, who kicked him out of her introduction to creative writing class in late 2005.
Students in Giovanni's class had told their professor that Cho was taking photographs of their legs and knees under the desks with his cell phone. Female students refused to come to class. She said she considered him "mean" and "a bully."
Lucinda Roy, professor of English at Virginia Tech, said that she, too, relayed her concerns to campus police and various other college units after Cho displayed antisocial behavior in her class and handed in disturbing writing assignments.
But she said authorities "hit a wall" in terms of what they could do "with a student on campus unless he'd made a very overt threat to himself or others." Cho resisted her repeated suggestion that he undergo counseling, Roy said.
Questions lingered over whether campus police should have issued an immediate campus-wide warning of a killer on the loose and locked down the campus after the first burst of gunfire.
Police said that after the first shooting, in which two students were killed, they believed that it was a domestic dispute, and that the gunman had fled the campus. That man is no longer a suspect.
A dormitory neighbor of the first two victims, Ryan Clark, 22, and Emily Hilscher, 19, described on ABC's "Good Morning America" what she saw that morning in Ambler Johnson Hall.
"I heard a really loud female voice scream. I opened my door and that's when I saw the blood and the footprints, the sneaker-prints, leading in a trail from her room," Molly Donahue said.
That's when she saw Clark, a resident assistant in the dorm, on the floor against a door, she said. A friend later told her he was dead. Donahue she said has since tried to return to the dorm but felt physically ill and is still terrified.
"I got to the point where I can't be alone," she said.
Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, Vicki Smith, Sue Lindsey and Justin Pope in Blacksburg, Va., Matt Barakat in Richmond, Va., Colleen Long and Tom Hays in New York, and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.