Late in the afternoon of February 20, 2008, Mike Nizza posted at his blog, "The Lede: Notes on the News" at The New York Times, a short essay entitled "After Illinois Shooting Rampage, a Cold Digital Trail."
Nizza wrote, in part:
The hunt for digital clues in the latest school shooting got off to a promising start last Friday. Hours before the police or news organizations identified the gunman, Loren Coleman of the Copycat Effect took tidbits plotted by a Chicago Tribune article and quickly connected them using the Web.
“Matching the two, you find it is Steve Kazmierczak,” he wrote. “I expect an in-depth examination of Kazmierczak’s visible internet life within hours.”
But the trail went cold without any major discoveries. No hints to Mr. Kazmierczak’s motive, no explanation for why a well-liked graduate student decided to open fire on a lecture hall full of students and then kill himself.
So far, bill of Web particulars includes:
– A small folder of nondescript images uploaded to Photobucket.
– A chat room complaint about Paypal.com.
– His pitch for a top post in a student group.
– His former girlfriend’s MySpace page.
The police investigation has also hit a wall. Chief Donald Grady of the university police force told the Tribune today that Mr. Kazmierczak also “didn’t tell people what he was going to do” and his computer turned up without a hard drive, along with a cell phone missing its main memory chip.
The conclusion was obvious: Mr. Kazmierczak was covering his tracks. Why did he hide it? What’s on that hard disk? What made him do it? The answer may well be lying where everyone first thought to look: buried on a hard disk. Unfortunately, it’s just out of reach, and seems likely to stay there.
Nizza continues on, talking about Virginia Tech's Cho, but I want to stop here and address the "messages left behind" and the alleged Internet invisibility of Steven Kazmierczak.
Kazmierczak did leave his footprints on the Internet, but it may have not been in "manifesto" form, as with the Finnish school shooter or the Virginia Tech killer. It also was not like the Red Lake school gunman or Dawson College killer, both of whom left overt exchanges in online hate and neo-Nazi forums.
No, Kazmierczak was more subtle, visiting sites, such as Amazon.com, and leaving reviews or critiques.
In a forthcoming Chicago Tribune article next week, more will be revealed. Stay tuned.
I agree with the editorial decisions being made to slow down the nature of the information-sharing that occurs after a school shooting. There is absolutely no reason to rush to print this material in the mainstream media immediately after such an event.
But the unfolding of the twilight language to be revealed in all of this, in the long run, assists in predicting future shootings.