Unsung American Hero: Cadet Matthew Joseph La Porte

Ed Beakley of Project White Horse alerted me to the untold story of Mathew Joseph La Porte, Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets:

The story of Cadet La Porte on the morning of 16 April, 2007 is tragic and short.  It is not based on eyewitness account but rather on physical evidence.  Given the magnitude of the tragedy, and the seriousness of trying to understand how to prevent further similar events, his story has almost been lost. And that’s just not right…

The basic story

In the early morning of Monday, 16 April 2007, 23-year old Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho entered a dormitory room and killed two students. Sometime later he then entered the Norris Hall engineering building and began to systematically attack five classrooms on the second floor, ultimately killing 30 students and professors and wounding or causing injury of an additional two dozen. As police officers approached classroom 211, Cho took his own life. These premeditated attacks represent the worst mass-murder shooting to ever take place in an American school.

The final act

Around 9:52 the police entry teams move up the stairways shouting “Police, Police!” Cho has returned to room 211 where he had previously attacked and killed several students. There is about a half minute of silence with no shots fired by Cho, then a final two shots, the last being the one turned on himself. Evidence indicates that the next to last shot would have been into Cadet La Porte who would have been dead for some time from the previous attack to the classroom.

From evidentiary photographs…

The body position and the wounds of Matt La Porte indicate that he had maneuvered around the room from his desk in the rear right of the classroom and attempted to attack Cho across the front of the classroom. Attired in his uniform, he fell just short of the door, lying next to the blackboard facing where Cho would have been standing while shooting. Matt’s arms were outstretched in a classic football tackling position. He had eight bullet entry wounds – fingers, thumb, arms and shoulders and to the front of his head – that could only have been sustained while moving forward on the shooter in the very position he fell.
The Archangel team believes there is no other conclusion that can be drawn from the physical evidence other than that Cadet Matthew Joseph La Porte died in a charging attack on Seung-Hui Cho.

His story has not been told:

Note that nothing of the above is mentioned on any of the available reports or recounting of the incident, and I cannot find anything indicating this story has ever been told, or that this young man’s bravery has ever been recognized…
As to why this story has never been told, I can only speculate.  Recognizing the magnitude of the tragedy, the necessary crime scene investigation, and the intense desire to understand how this could ever happen and thus translate into prevention of future occurrences in our schools, I can appreciate why key aspects may not have been released for some period of time…
But to not recognize this act of valor above and beyond just strikes me as –if not wrong – certainly just not right…while there might be an issue of the media presenting a model of student fighting back, the evidence seemed clear of his attempt to stop the killer and dying in the process. Was he not a military serviceman in uniform, who fought to save others under heavy fire at close quarters?  Should Cadet La Porte not be recognized as a national hero?
There is no axe to grind here on “why” no recognition or award.  My assumption is that within the magnitude of the tragedy and the nature of the investigation, Cadet La Porte’s actions got lost if for no other reason there were no witnesses.  It is indeed only the physical evidence that supports this – where he sat, vice where he died, his posture, and where his wounds were…It just doesn’t appear that you can draw any other conclusion other than that this young man “gave all valiantly.”
Sometimes it is impossible not to be a victim, but I don’t think Cadet La porte died as a victim at all- when challenged, he acted.
To me, seems he died like a fighter pilot – spirit of attack, born of a brave heart.”

6 thoughts on “Unsung American Hero: Cadet Matthew Joseph La Porte”

  1. If ALL of the students were as brave as Cadet La Porte, and would have immediately attacked Cho at the outset of the shooting, the body count I would assume would have been much lower.

  2. I was a professor at VT during that time, now at the Univ. of FL. Matthew LaPorte was buried in Blacksburg with full military honors because he was Air Force ROTC. The ceremony was conducted without publicity at the request of his parents, in order to avoid a media circus. Several hundred cadets participated in the military burial, including my oldest son, Army ROTC and VT graduate, May 2010.

  3. JF,
    Thanks for posting. This young man was a hero. Not right that his story is not more well known. My only real concern with telling this was whether his Mother might be caught off-guard or might be opposed. She had been told in private by a Virginia State policeman, but decided not to push the story. BUT was more than agreeable to have it out.

    My source as noted was a briefing to police by John Giduck, author of Terror at Beslan. As in the Beslan story John and team were involved very quickly. His book on the police action “Shooter Down” just came out. Of note is that one of his analysts was first Sgt Maj of Delta.

    Again thanks.

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