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Va. Tech pays US fines related to 2007 killings

  • Article by: STEVE SZKOTAK
  • Associated Press
  • April 16, 2014 - 12:56 PM

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Tech has paid federal fines totaling $32,500 for failing to issue a timely alert when a gunman began his killing rampage on campus seven years ago Wednesday, leaving 33 people dead.

The U.S. Department of Education said Tech has paid fines for two violations of the Clery Act, which requires universities to issue timely warnings of campus threats.

In paying the fine, the university decided against appealing the findings "to close this chapter on the tragedy of April 16, 2007," a spokesman wrote in an email.

"While we believe that the department's actions against Virginia Tech are inconsistent with their earlier guidance and policy, further litigation was not prudent in light of the various costs — emotional impact on the community, time lost, as well as financial," spokesman Larry Hincker said.

The Education Department fines stem from the university's actions on the morning of the shootings, when student gunman Seung-Hui Cho shot two people at a dormitory. One died at the scene, the other hours later.

Police investigating the first shootings of a man and a woman concluded that they were likely domestic in nature and that the gunman who remained at large did not pose a threat to the wider Blacksburg campus. University officials said they didn't alert the campus that a gunman was on the loose because of that guidance.

Hours later, Tech officials issued a specific, campus-wide warning that a "gunman is loose on campus." By then, Cho had chained the doors of a classroom building and killed 30 students and faculty members. He then killed himself.

The massacre is the deadliest in modern U.S. history.

The Education Department fine was the lone possible litigation remaining from the 2007 mass killings. In November, the Virginia Supreme Court tossed a jury's finding that the state was negligent in the shootings. The lawsuit was brought by the families of two students killed in the rampage.

The VTV Family Outreach Foundation, formed by the families of victims and survivors, said it was pleased that the Clery issue had been resolved and that members of the Tech community "can now continue on together in our efforts to make colleges and universities safer."

On the seventh anniversary of the killings, remembrances were held in Blacksburg and Richmond, where a bell in the shadow of the Statehouse was sounded for each victim.

© 2014 Star Tribune