Panel to research Tech shootings


RICHMOND — An independent review commission including former Department of Homeland Security head Tom Ridge will study aspects of the Virginia Tech shootings and work on recommendations for prevention of future incidents, Gov. Tim Kaine announced Thursday.

“I now am planning on the independent review panel to look at all the circumstances surrounding this horrible event, so that we can examine everything that happened and hopefully learn from it,” Kaine said in the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond.

Retired Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gerald Massengill, who led the state’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2002 sniper shootings, will lead the panel.. He said the panel is a chance to examine and learn from a national event.

“This is a case study of a very tragic incident,” Massengill said. “We are not trying to second guess anyone with any decision or with any action that was taken. But at the same time, I want to be clear on this: Our purpose is to address those things that need to be on hold and strategies, policies, processes. that will make Virginia safer.”

Kaine said the commission will start researching the incidents soon, and anticipated the review will be completed before the next academic year.

The commission will not have the authority to punish anyone,  but will make safety recommendations to the governor.

Kaine said he would take all recommendations seriously.

Other members of the board are Gordon Davies, former director for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; Roger L. Depue, former FBI officer; Aradhana A. “Bela” Sood, medical director for the Virginia Treatment Center for Children at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center; and Dr. Marcus L. Martin, assistant dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. Two members are yet to be announced. Kaine said he is planning to pick someone who has worked with crime victims, and a retired judge who has expertise in legal statutes regarding the incidents.

Kaine said the safety issues raised after the incidents should be carefully reviewed in the context of a college campus.

“It’s very important when we look at these security issues to recognize that they are not just generic issues,” Kaine said. “They are security issues in the context of a college campus. It’s a place where youngsters go to experience independence often for the first time in their life; where they’re learning, growing and expanding their horizons.”

The work of the panel, Kaine said, will be as open to the public as the work will allow.

“We want this process to be as transparent as possible,” Kaine said. “We want people to have confidence in the findings and recommendations of this commission.”

Kaine said the degree of public involvement will be up to the panel and there probably will be sensitive discussions with people related to the incidents.

No legislators will serve on the panel, but Kaine said there will be plenty of time before the 2008 General Assembly session, should the findings inspire legislative proposals.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and Jacob A. Lutz, rector of the Board of Visitors at Tech, requested the appointment of the panel from Kaine earlier this week. The governor said the university should focus on recovering from the tragedy and completing the semester.

“They don’t need to have the additional burden of the after review of these events distracting them from these core missions,” Kaine said.