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Was gunman crazed over Emily?

News.com.au | April 18, 2007
David Williams and Stefanie Balogh

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THIS is the face of the girl who may have sparked the worst school shooting in US history.

Eighteen-year-old Emily Jane Hilscher was one of the first two victims to be identified in the Virginia Tech massacre, along with 22-year-old Ryan Clark.

The pair were neighbours in rooms 4040 and 4042 on the fourth floor of the West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory where a gunman began the first of 33 campus shootings on Monday morning just after 7am, US time.

The gunman was identified by federal law enforcement authorities late last night as Cho Seung-Hui. He was described as being a 23-year-old South Korean male student who lived on campus, but no other details about him were released last night.

Witnesses to the shooting said that the gunman was involved in an argument with a girlfriend and had later stormed out of the dormitory building.

A counsellor believed to be Mr Clark, who was also a resident adviser was called to calm the situation at the dormitory.

The gunman returned at 7.15am and shot Ms Hilscher and Mr Clark. US media reported that Mr Clark had been shot in the neck.

More than two hours later the murderer armed with two hand guns stalked the corridors and classrooms of a college building in another separate part of the campus for about 20 minutes, killing 30 more people.

A further 20 students were injured, either by gunfire or jumping out of the massacre building.

The gunman was wearing a vest holding ammunition, witnesses said. He carried a 9mm semi-automatic and a .22-calibre handgun, both with the serial numbers obliterated, according to federal law enforcement officials.

He turned his weapons on himself before police could arrest him.

Police decided against closing down the college after the first shootings occurred, believing the killer had left the scene and was "off campus".

Then, two hours later, gunshots erupted from a separate building about 1km from the scene of the first murders.

Virginia Tech student Chen Chia-hao told Taiwan cable TV about the first shootings.

"They had a big quarrel in the West Ambler Johnston Hall and he shot her. Then the RA (dormitory supervisor) came, and he shot the RA," Mr Chen said.

Witnesses told how the gunman calmly roamed the classrooms inside Norris Hall, a building housing a science and engineering school, firing his weapon as students and teachers vainly tried to flee.

Wearing a black leather coat and maroon hat, the gunman used chains to lock the doors to the building from the inside before beginning his killing spree.

Friends of Ms Hilscher and Mr Clark last night posted messages on internet social-networking site "Facebook" and other blogs remembering her as a vibrant girl with an engaging personality.

"Emily was a wonderful person who always put a smile on my face," wrote friend Jessica Gould.

Mr Clark a prefect in the dormitory was in his fifth year at Virginia Tech and a leader in the school's marching band.

"He was such a friendly person," said friend Sarah Davis, 21, a trombone player in the band.

"When I came in as a freshman I was scared to death. He was always really friendly. If he didn't know you, he'd introduce himself."

Columbia County Sheriff's Office in Georgia confirmed 22-year-old Mr Clark from Georgia was one of the first shooting victims.

Ms Hilscher was confirmed dead by local law enforcement officials.

"You hear about people in other places mourning the loss of a child of great potential and great hope, and now we're the ones that have to bear that great loss," an official said last night.

"The Hilschers are strong people, and this is a strong community, and they'll have our support. The best we can hope for is a time of healing."

The list of the dead is known to include at least four staff members.

A message on the school's engineering department website paid tribute to two of the staff.

It read: "In Memoriam. Professor Kevin Granata and Professor Liviu Librescu who died on April 16, 2007 while serving Virginia Tech."

Professor Granata was killed while teaching his course in the Norris Hall building.

Professor Librescu, originally from Romania, was killed alongside Professor Granata.

A third instructor in the engineering department, Professor G.V. Loganathan, was also killed.

President George W. Bush addressed the nation in the hours after the shootings.

"Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community," he said.

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