A verdict reached by a jury yesterday in a wrongful death case against Virginia Tech has awarded two victims’ families four million dollars each, but the money is not what matters, say the parents.
Jurors sided with the Peterson and Pryde families, whose daughters Julia and Erin were killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history when student gunman Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on his classmates in 2007. Cho fatally shot 32 people before turning the gun on himself, but not before he wounded 17 others. The families filed suit against the school for wrongful death, claiming officials didn’t do enough to warn students that they were in danger. During the trial, the parents’ attorneys claimed that campus police jumped to the conclusion that the first two victims were shot by a jealous boyfriend, and that the gunman was not a threat to others. They presented evidence that campus leaders heeded the police conclusion without question, then waited 2-1/2 hours before sending a campus-wide warning that a shooting had occurred. It did not say a gunman was still at large even though no one had been taken into custody at that time.
Virginia Tech spokesman said in a statement, “We are disappointed with today’s decision and stand by our long-held position that the administration and law enforcement at Virginia Tech did their absolute best with the information available on April 16, 2007.”
Both the Peterson and Pryde families were eligible to receive a share of the $11 million awarded after a lawsuit in 2008 and both rejected the money, instead making the decision to file a wrongful death suit.
“When you know that something is right you’re not deterred from your course,” said Celeste Peterson. “We wanted the truth from the very beginning and we got it. All I know is today we got what we wanted.”