The former student of a small, Christian university who shot dead seven people at the campus on Monday was angry because his classmates used to tease him about his bad English, police said last night.
One Goh, a 43-year-old native of South Korea, allegedly arrived at the private Oikos University in Oakland, California, looking for one of its administrators. When told she was not on campus, he reportedly entered a classroom and ordered students to line up against a wall. When they failed to comply, he began shooting them at close range.
The rampage was the deadliest seen at a US college campus since 32 students were gunned down at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, in April 2007.
"The senseless violence and loss of life at Oikos University is heartbreaking," said Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education.
Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, added: "The tragic loss of life at Oikos University is shocking and sad. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and friends and the entire community."
Six of the victims were female students. A seventh was a man whose car was commandeered as the gunman fled. Goh surrendered without resisting a short time later at a nearby supermarket. He was in custody yesterday and prosecutors are expected to announce formal charges against him today.
Police said the suspect had been responsive to questioning and possible theories about his motive had emerged. They included the resentment he felt for having been expelled from the private Korean college several months ago because of alleged behavioural problems.
But it seems that Goh, a former nursing student, also remained upset about have been singled out in classes because of his poor command of English. "They disrespected him [and] laughed at him," the Oakland police chief, Howard Jordan, told reporters. "They made fun of his lack of English speaking skills. It made him feel isolated compared to the other students."
"We've learned that the suspect was upset with the administration at the school," Mr Jordan added in an interview with ABC television yesterday. "He was also upset that students... in the past when he attended the school, mistreated him, disrespected him and things of that nature. We've learned this was a very chaotic, calculated and determined gentleman that came there with specific intent to kill people."
While officials held back from identifying any of the victims, first descriptions of the slaughter began to emerge. Paul Singh, whose 19-year-old sister, Devinder Kaur, was shot in the arm during the massacre, said she told him that Goh ordered the students to line up against a classroom wall.
"'Get in line and I'm going to kill you all' is what he said this morning, my sister told me. They thought he was joking at first."
The shock was felt first in the very large Korean-American community in the area. "I'm very sorry to the victims of the shooting, and I'm very sorry that it happened in a Korean Christian school," said Kyung Chan Kim, the head of the Northern California Korean Christian Association. "However, this kind of incident can happen regardless of place. I don't think it is just a problem within the Korean community."
Tashi Wangchuk said that his wife, Dechen Yangzom, 28, was in another classroom when she heard gunfire. "Out of instinct, she locked the door and turned off the lights. Then the guy came and banged on the door and shot several rounds at the door and then he left," he said. "The police said what she did was heroic."