BLACKSBURG, Va. – The gubernatorial panel investigating the shootings at Virginia Tech received a briefing Monday and visited the buildings where 33 people died. The panel's chairman said afterward that the experience was "almost undescribable."
W. Gerald Massengill, chairman of the panel, said it was helpful to hear about the shootings from people who were there and to view the shooting sites. The more than two-hour private briefing included a presentation by Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum.
"I've seen and heard a lot in my career," said Massengill, a former Virginia State Police superintendent who oversaw the agency's response to the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon and the 2002 Washington-area sniper attacks. "This is almost undescribable."
The panel toured West Ambler Johnston Hall, the dormitory where the first two students were killed April 16, and the classrooms of Norris Hall, where gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 25 more students and five faculty members before committing suicide April 16.
The briefing and tour were closed under provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act that protect students' privacy and briefings by law enforcement agencies. Reporters for several news organizations had objected, saying it that it did not appear the grounds for closing the meeting were properly applied in this case.
"We want this process to be as public as we can make it," Massengill said earlier. "But I hope you understand there are certain sensitive materials that are allowed for within Virginia law."
The panel was to spend much of the rest of the day meeting in open session.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine created the eight-member panel, asking it to gather information about the gunman, how the events unfolded, and how the state and other agencies responded.
Additional meetings are set for next month in northern Virginia and the Charlottesville area. Kaine had said he hoped the panel could complete its review before classes resume in August.
The university also is doing its own reviews of safety and communications procedures that it expects to complete by late August, university President Charles Steger has said.