Virginia Tech officials might have saved lives if they had notified faculty and students sooner about the first two shootings on campus, concluded a panel investigating the April shootings that left 33 dead.
"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference. ... So the earlier and clearer the warning, the more chance an individual had of surviving," said the report, which was released late Wednesday night.
However, the report concluded that while alerts might have helped students and faculty to protect themselves or alert authorities of suspicious activity, a lockdown of the 131 buildings on campus was not feasible.
It would take 400-500 security officers to do the job, while only 14 of the school's 41 officers are on duty at 8 a.m. on a weekday, the report said.
Gunman Seung-Hui Cho was also an insider, a student with an ID card to access campus buildings and the ability to get the same messages as everyone else. He could have gained access to a dormitory or begun shooting people in the open, the report said.
"From what we know of his mental state and commitment to action that day, it was likely that he would have acted out his fantasy somewhere on campus or outside it that same day," the report said.
The eight-member panel, appointed by Governor Timothy M. Kaine, spent four months investigating the shootings before releasing its report.
The report also concluded that while Cho had demonstrated numerous signs of mental instability, the university did not intervene effectively.
Lack of counseling
The governor's panel sharply critiqued the university's counseling center, where Cho was referred for treatment in 2005 after a stretch of bizarre behavior and concerns that he was suicidal.
The panel concluded that the counseling center failed to provide needed support and services to Cho, due to a lack of resources, misinterpretation of privacy laws and passivity.
The report also noted that records of Cho's "minimal treatment" at the counseling center are missing.
"The university body was not put on high alert by the actions of the university administration and was largely taken by surprise by the events that followed," the report said.
The report said the university's emergency response plan was deficient in several respects: it did not include provisions for a shooting scenario and did not place police high enough in the emergency decision-making hierarchy. It also did not include a threat assessment team.
The protocol for sending an emergency message on April 16 was "cumbersome, untimely, and problematic when a decision was needed as soon as possible," the report said.
The April 16 massacre was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Cho killed the first two students just after 7 a.m., more than two hours before his deadly rampage in classroom building across campus. It was not until 9:26 a.m. that the school sent the first e-mail to students and faculty.
The subject line read, "Shooting on campus." The message read: "The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case."
No further action was ordered. Cho began shooting inside Norris Hall about 20 minutes later.
Kaine said earlier Wednesday he did not conclude from the report that either Virginia Tech President Charles Steger or campus police Chief Wendell Flinchum should resign.