Monday, October 02, 2006

Trends, Fall 2006

I am a suicide prevention and school violence researcher and consultant, as well the author of Suicide Cluster (1987) and The Copycat Effect (2004). Unfortunately, it has been a busy two weeks for me, as besides giving prevention workshops that have touched on this matter, I was on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, on the night of the Dawson College shootings discussing the copycat effect I saw coming. The next several days I was interviewed by CTV and CBC, appearing on a Canadian television news program about the copycat effect. Of course, radio and television are avenues to present this material, but it does not allow for the fuller extension of insights through the written word of the online media.

Therefore, I want to share what I am seeing, what I project as forthcoming in the next month, October 2006. I've been saying most of this on radio interviews and in suicide trainings for weeks. No one seems to be listening, especially in the US media. Nevertheless, readers may wish to know about the patterns that are so obviously developing.

In talking about the copycat effect in media interviews, I've been noting a developing and coming wave of events for this autumn of 2006, due to the following facts...based on the trends and analyses I've written about in The Copycat Effect.

Here is what I am finding:

- most contemporary school shootings tend to occur primarily during two
periods of the school year - at the beginning (late Aug through October) and
near the the end of the academic year (March-April)...

- copycats follow a regular temporal pattern that repeats - these could be
after a primary media event in a day, a week, two weeks, a month, a year, ten
years - vulnerable humans have internal media clocks...

- copycats imitate the previous violent attacks, oftentimes down to specific
details as that mirror the previous specifics of the shooter, the victims, and the methods -

- "celebrity" events have a far-reaching impact and modeling effect - so, of
course, Columbine serves as a dark cloud over many school shootings.

One of the silliest things I have heard from cable news in the last several days during mid-September 2006, is that "these school shootings aren't like the other school shootings." This is short-sighted, and factually untrue.

Before the current model (post-1996) in which a member of the student body would go into their own school and kill fellow students, the pattern was one of outsiders - often adults - going into schools and killing students. In my book, I discuss some of the more infamous cases (on pages 166-167, and in a long list in my appendix, following page 263).

Every year is different, and a fresh view must be considered based upon observations that are right in front of our eyes. What I do at the beginning of a new school year is to see if there is an emerging pattern that will be the re-worked "copycat" model for the new school year. To me, it was and is obvious where we were going this year.

Specifically, here is the recent short history...a mix of outsiders invading school and students making plans:

Thursday, August 24, 2006 - Essex, Vermont - two dead (two teachers) - three wounded (two teachers, plus the shooter who turned the gun on himself) - the shooter was a male, all victims were female. Christopher Williams, 26, of Essex, attempted to kill his former girlfriend, first-grade schoolteacher Andrea Lambesis. The dead was Lambesis' mother, Linda, 57, the first victim, and veteran Essex Elementary School second-grade teacher Alicia Shanks, 56, of Essex, slain in her classroom at the school at about 2 p.m.

Wednesday, August 29, 2006 - Hillsborough, NC - one dead (father of teenage shooter) - two wounded (two students) - shooter showed up in a trench coat, with guns, pipe bombs, in a copycat of Columbine - Asked by police why he went to Orange High School, Alvaro Rafael Castillo, 19, responded: "Columbine. Remember Columbine."

Thursday, September 7, 2006 - Paris, France - A 19-year-old man was detained after opening fire with a shot-pistol at a school in Paris. There were no injuries. No other details available.

Friday, September 8, 2006 - Paris, France - A 16-year-old boy fired a shotgun inside a school in the southern outskirts of Paris, lightly injuring a teacher and a student, said police. No other details available.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Montreal, Quebec - Based on the pattern I see behind this shooting, Quebec was a logical next location (near Vermont and French-linked). Kimveer Gill, the 25-year-old shooter, a self-described atheist Goth with an Indian Sikh heritage, wearing a trenchcoat, dark clothing, and a Mohawk haircut, came to Dawson College, fully armed. He
appeared to target what students call the "Jew Caf" and opened fire, killing Anastasia de Sousa, 18, and wounded 19 other students. Police fired upon him, and then Gill turned the gun on himself. Gill was obsessed by the Columbine massacre. He mentioned online being a fan of several computer games (e.g. Super Columbine Massacre) and movies (e.g. Natural Born Killers,
Matrix) with violent themes that have been played out in several school shootings.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 - Green Bay, Wisconsin - Matt Atkinson, a 17-year-old senior, told an associate principal at Green Bay East High School on the day after the Montreal college shooting that a Columbine-like plot was being planned by two teens. It was said to be a "suicide-by-cop" plot. Police arrested the boys and then found sawed-off shotguns, automatic
weapons, pistols, ammunition, several bombs, bomb-making materials, camouflage clothing, helmets, gas masks, and suicide notes. Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski said: "This was a Columbine waiting to happen."

Thursday, September 21, 2006 - Montgomery, Alabama - Former student Willie Beamon, 18, told a female student his plans to go Robert E. Lee High school to start shooting. The girl notified the police of what she had been told. Beamon was arrested at the Second Chance School he was attending after he had been expelled from Robert E Lee High School.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - Bailey, Colorado (39 miles from Columbine) - Duane R. Morrison, 54, (DOB 7-23-1953) walked into an English classroom at Platte Canyon High School, and took six young female students hostage. After releasing four hostages, one at a time, the students told the police that sexual assaults were occurring. As the situation neared a 4 pm
deadline and discussions broke down, a police SWAT team blew open the door to Room 206 with explosives. Morrison fired a handgun at entering SWAT officers, and then at 16-year old Emily Keyes, fatally wounding her. The gunman then killed himself. The last hostage was saved. (A suicide note from the shooter was found on September 28th.)

Friday, September 29, 2006 - Cazenovia, Wisconsin - A recently expelled special or alternative education student Eric Hainstock, 15, arrived at school at 8 am with a shotgun. A custodian, teacher, and students wrestled the shotgun away, but the student broke away and pulled out a revolver. Principal John Klang, 49, was then shot with a handgun, three times, once in the head. Klang later died at the hospital. The shooter is taken into custody. According to initial reports, the shooter said he was "picked on," but Wisconsin newspaper interviews on October 2, 2006, established that he was the student that most often bullied others.

Please note that the lone male "outsider shooter" is a common denominator here, as well as most of the victims being females or authority figures (teachers, administrators). Also, there exists a clear and concentrated repeating pattern of Wednesdays and/or Thursdays, since August 24th.

I would watch Wednesday, October 11 (four weeks exactly) through Friday, October 13 (the month-by-date), the anniversary period, which is a "month" from the Dawson College shootings. There will also be another dangerous "hot window" for a next wave of school shootings. A month from the Colorado-Wisconsin events of September 27-29, at the end of October, could be a time in which people must keep their guard up and on high alert.

In general, of course, we seem to now be in an unfortunate high copycat effect pattern, and it could be a deadly time for students in North America, as well as internationally, for several weeks, no matter what the day or date. (I wrote the first draft of this September 27, and had to revise it, too quickly, on September 29, after the Wisconsin incident. The landscape of school shootings is changing rapidly this fall.)

As the US Secret Service found in their study of school shootings, the vast majority, 80% of these shooters, are suicidal. Frankly, I think all of them are suicidal. Homicide, as Freud said, is suicide turned outward, and that's exactly the model that is being followed. Suicide is also homicide turned inward.

Expect more school shootings, unfortunately. Be alert, be prepared, be careful.


Anonymous said...

So... did you post this before or after the Amish shooting?

Loren Coleman said...

This essay was penned after the Colorado incident, then slightly updated after the Wisconsin shooting.

Versions of it exist, in a continously updated fashion, at

Anonymous said...

Reminds me very much about Stand Alone Complex (see for definition...)

Anonymous said...

Have the writers of the teen movie Heathers ever credited The Suicide Cluster? It's about the right time period. And it rang true with me and a lot of others of my generation. Some of us have basically grown up with your premises even if we didn't know where they came from. And now I'm very interested in the details. Will definitely have to include your book in my next Amazon shipment.

Anonymous said...

i'm curious about your patterns... some i agree with, but one that jumps out at me was the attempt to link quebec and france. is that a link that the shooter would make? or is it only apparently logical to nonfrench observers?

the other pattern that troubles me is the thursday/wednesday one. perhaps that is because i don't understand your thesis, are you trying to say that the copycats are attentive to the repeating dates only, or to the events on the dates? the reason i note that is because i would make a distinction between days where a shooting occurred vs days where police arrested someone pre-shooting. from that perspective, wednesday is the day with the most shootings (3) and then thursday and friday each have 2.

does that change your predictions at all? i'm not trying to be critical, it's an interesting theory and i am curious to see how it pans out.