Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech massacre: Costa Rican recalls ordeal

Eduardo Pinto born in Escazu, San Jose, and VA Tech campus resident was in a building next to the one where the first shooting took place.

By Alfredo Gonzalez
La Nacion

Translated by Uri Ridelman



Name: Eduardo Pinto
Age: 19
Country: Costa Rica
Ocupation: Engineering student

Since when are you a student of Virginia Tech?
-I enrolled in August 2006 so this is my second semenster.

Where were you when the shootings took place?
-I was in a building named McBryde Hall, next to the one where the first shooting took place. Suddenly we saw SWAT officers arrive and search the building. We were very afraid because we didn't know what was going on.

What have you heard about the cause of this tragedy?
-Rumors have it that the first victim was the girlfriend of the alleged shooter. Apparently it started as an argument and then when a university official arrived he shot them both, but I have no idea what led him to shoot the people at the second building.

What security measures have been adopted by the university?
-There's a huge number of police officers patrolling the campus and we have been advised to stay in our rooms. Also the dorms have been locked the whole day and entrance is only allowed with a student ID. Furthermore, it appears that most of the university buldings have been searched and most of the streets leading to the university have been blocked.

How many Costa Ricans study at Virginia Tech?
-We are three and fortunately, as far as I know, none of the others where in the buidings where the shootings took place.

Did you know any of the victims?
-As of now we don't know who all the victims are. Only the name of one victim has been released and it wasn't anyone I know. The phone lines have collapsed because everyone is trying to contact their loved ones.

Usually, what is campus security like?
-This is a small town where usually nothing big happens. Most of those here are students and there aren't many violent incidents. The dorms have controlled access, you can't go in or out without a student ID. The campus has its own police force and you do feel safe here, but apparently it isn't as secure as we thought.

Last week there were two bomb threats. What security measure were adopted? Were students informed of this?
-The first threat, on April 2, was announced in a letter that was found in a building. The building was locked down and classes there were cancelled while an investigation took place.
The second threat took place last Friday and mentioned three buildings. Not much was said of it only that police was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the threats.

Due to those threats did the university practiced any evacuation drills or was security reinforced across campus?
-As a result of the second bomb threat several buildings were locked the whole weekend as they were searched by police officers and trained dogs, but apparently they didn't find any explosives. As for reinforced security, nothing worth noting took place. You didn't see more police officers on campus or anything.

What was the reaction of the students to these threats?
-A lot of us took these threats as nothing important, we just thought it was someone who was trying to get some attention and left the letters in the buildings.

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