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Attorney for victims' families criticizes Va Tech's response to shootings in trial opening
CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) ' Attorneys representing the families of two victims of the Virginia Tech rampage on Tuesday cast police investigating the first killings on campus as plodding and inexperienced and administrators as slow to alert students that a gunman was on the loose.
In opening statements, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the wrongful death trial replayed the minutes and hours after the first two shootings on April 16, 2007, and the police pursuit of a suspect who was not involved in the killings.
The attorneys criticized administrators for waiting two and a half hours before alerting campus that a gunman had killed two and remained at large. By then, gunman Seung-Hui Cho was chaining shut the doors to Norris Hall, where he killed 30 more before killing himself.
Attorney Michael A. Kernbach described to the jurors the bloody scene at the dormitory where the first two students were shot and the lack of effort by Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum to immediately seek out the gunman in the shootings, which Flinchum later described as possibly domestic in nature.
One hour after the killings, Kernbach said, "the Virginia Tech Police Department didn't tell anyone that a gunman was loose on the campus."
The plaintiffs' attorneys ended their opening statements by posting photographs of the two young women whose parents filed the lawsuits ' Julia K. Pryde and Erin N. Peterson. One of the parents bowed his head, appearing to cry, and another looked away.
The state had yet to present its opening statements but has defended the actions of university administrators and police
A jury of five women and four men was seated earlier Tuesday. Two of those jurors will serve as alternates.