BLACKSBURG, VA. — In a chilling video made public Wednesday, Virginia Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho declared: "This didn't have to happen," likening himself to the Columbine killers and talking of his hatred for the wealthy.
Cho mailed the package, which contained an 1,800-word diatribe and multiple photos of him aiming handguns at the camera, at 9:01 Monday morning. That was nearly two hours after he had killed two students in a dormitory and minutes before he stormed a classroom building and killed 30 more people before turning a gun on himself.
He sent his parcel to NBC in New York, which made copies of the material before turning it over to authorities.
In an often-incoherent monotone laced with obscenities, Cho says that "you had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today.... 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."
In one of the more than 40 still photographs, Cho poses with arms outstretched, wearing black gloves, as he points two firearms -- presumably the Walther P22 and the 9-millimeter Glock he used to gun down students and teachers. Dressed in a black shirt, khaki military-style vest and black cap turned backward, Cho stares ominously into the camera.
"When the time came, I did it," he says. "I had to."
The dramatic disclosure came on a day when authorities also revealed that Cho was involuntarily hospitalized overnight in late 2005 for a mental evaluation after two female students complained to campus police that he was stalking them. Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell R. Flinchum said that the women had received calls and computer messages from Cho that they considered annoying but not threatening, and neither pressed charges.
According to the December 2005 detention order, state officials thought there was "probable cause to believe" that Cho was "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for" himself.
The physician's assessment of Cho noted that he appeared "flat" and that "his mood is depressed."
According to many around the Virginia Tech campus who knew Cho, he kept up the visage of a loner uninterested in the world -- until Monday morning.
Federal law enforcement sources said Cho sent his materials, which were filled with profanity and railed against the wealthy and the religious, by Express Mail from the Blacksburg post office just off campus. He listed his name on the package as "Ishmael."
He apparently began working on the materials at least six days before the massacre, NBC said. But some of his rantings appeared to have been recorded after the first two slayings occurred around 7:15 a.m. in West Ambler Johnston Hall.
About 40 minutes after mailing the package, Cho was on the second floor of Norris Hall. There, he burst into crowded classrooms and began shooting students and teachers indiscriminately, many of them at powder-burn range.
Armed with the two weapons and about 50 rounds of ammunition, the 23-year-old immigrant from South Korea nearly emptied both chambers before shooting himself.
But Cho's mailing, coming two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, suggests he intended to be heard from beyond the grave.
Some of the video shows him talking from inside a car. At other times, he is shown in front of a cinderblock wall.
Karan Grewal, one of Cho's roommates, said that when he saw the footage, he could not believe it was the same person he had shared a six-person suite with since last fall.
"It was a totally different person," the 21-year-old accounting major said. "He was staring straight at the camera, and he never stared into our eyes or even looked at us."
Grewal listened to Cho growl and mumble on camera, but said: "I never heard his voice while I was in the room with him." And it looked, Grewal said, like Cho had filmed the video inside their Harper Hall suite -- the same white walls, the same maroon couch.
"It was scary, because it looks like it was in my room," Grewal said. "I could have come home."
Cho apparently sent some of the materials in text files and recorded others onto computer discs. According to NBC, the package included 27 QuickTime video files showing Cho talking into the camera. He does not direct his anger at any specific person, but does mention "sin" and spilling his blood. He speaks at length about how much he loathes the wealthy. His voice often is soft and uneven, difficult to understand.
"I could have left," he says. "I could have fled. But no. I will no longer run. If not for me, for my children, for my brothers and sisters. I did it for them.... The time came and I did it. I had to do what I did."