RICHMOND, Va. – Relatives of the student gunman who killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus allowed the university to turn over his mental health records to a gubernatorial panel investigating the shootings, the panel's chairman said Thursday.
Federal privacy laws governing health and student information had prevented the panel from reviewing Seung-Hui Cho's records. Panel Chairman W. Gerald Massengill had said he would go to court if necessary to obtain them.
"This is not all the records that we will need," Massengill told The Associated Press. "But this is certainly some that we felt a strong need to take a look at."
University spokesman Larry Hincker said the family gave permission for the records release late last week. Massengill said they were delivered to the panel on Wednesday, but that he had not yet examined them. They will not be made public.
Virginia Tech officials had been in negotiations with the family since the panel met in Blacksburg in May through a liaison that was "some law enforcement organization," Hincker said. Panel members — who do not have the power to issue subpoenas to compel testimony or obtain records — have expressed frustration at state and school officials, who have said they couldn't turn over Cho's medical, mental health or scholastic records because federal privacy laws protect people even after death.
Cho killed himself on April 16 shortly after a shooting rampage in which , who moved to the U.S. from South Korea at a young age, was teased at affluent Westfield High School in Chantilly, apparently because of his shyness and odd, mumbling way of speaking. In a video diatribe Cho mailed to NBC News the day of the shootings, he ranted against rich "brats" with Mercedes-Benzes, gold necklaces, cognac and trust funds.
Massengill said the panel may have to meet several more times. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has asked that the panel finish its work before school starts again in the fall.