Saturday, February 09, 2008

Shootings Shatter Gender Barrier

Change is in the air. And danger. The Louisiana Tech killing of two nursing students destroys the recent truism that male shooters were the only ones who have carried out fatal rampages in schools and colleges in the last dozen years.

After September 11, 2001, the race and ethnicity of the so-called "classic school rampage killers" have changed from only rural and suburban white youth. Now this new event breaks the invisible gender barrier.

Additionally, in the last two years, a major change in school shootings has been to that of a sprinkling of older males who are using the "fishbowl" of educational settings to carry out their deathly attacks, which often have as a component mass hostage situations, as well. Now a little-acknowledged earthquake has occurred with a woman being the suicidal shooter.

On Friday, February 8, 2008, at Baton Rouge, two Louisiana Technical College students, Karsheika Graves, 21, and Taneshia Butler, 26, both of Baton Rouge, were killed by a schoolmate, Latina Williams, 23, with a .357-caliber revolver.

The two women apparently were shot while sitting in their seats in the second-floor classroom at Louisiana Technical College, Baton Rouge Sgt. Don Kelly said. About 20 people were in the emergency medical technology class at the time.

Williams entered the room briefly, spoke with the instructor and left, police reported. She returned through another door and fired six rounds, reloaded and shot herself in the head, Kelly said. (Not at all surprisingly, since I consider 100% of school shooters as suicidal.)

Officers ran into the building within four minutes of the first 911 call, which came at 8:36 a.m., Kelly said.

"There was mass pandemonium, people running," he said. "One officer -- the first into the classroom -- told me he could still smell gunpowder."

"Why those two women were targeted ... is still an unanswered question," Kelly said.

As noted in great detail in The Copycat Effect, the "modern era" of school shootings began in the USA on February 2, 1996, in Moses Lake, Washington. The new pattern that was shown in that shooting was of a male student (not an outsider) entering the school and killing his classmates and teachers.

In the Moses Lake event, Barry Loukaitis, 14, in this Columbine precusor, dressed all in black, including a long coat (apparently more of a Western duster than a trenchcoat), held his algebra class hostage, killed two students, wounded another severely, and killed his algebra teacher by shooting her as she wrote on the blackboard.

Loukaitis then turned to the class and said "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" The quotation was directly taken from a Stephen King book, Rage about a school shooting of an algebra teacher that Loukaitis allegedly used as the model for his attack. (King withdrew the book from publication three years later, after Columbine.)

From 1996 until 9/11, school shootings profiled by the mass media and cable news in their wall-to-wall coverage were of white males. After 9/11, Natives, African-Americans, and other ethnicities began to show up as the shooters. Nevertheless, all were still males.

In the worst school shooting rampage in modern U.S. history, a male student, Cho Seung-Hui, whose family had moved from South Korea when he was a youth, killed 32 people at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, before turning the gun on himself.

Before 9/11, this pattern of the fatal shooters being rural and suburban Caucasian males held. But following a year of quiet, while young white males are still shooters, an international flavor to the personalities and locations of the shooters and shootings occurred - with a German (Erfurt, Germany), a Native American (Red Lake, Minnesota), an East Indian Sikh (Dawson College, Montreal, Canada), and a South Korean (VA Tech), being some notable and prominent examples mentioned by the media. During the nine school shootings of the fall of 2006, the element of "outsider" was most definitely an underlying theme, with a mix in of some sexually disturbed and disruptive male adults.

The shifts in rampage shootings has been in evidence too. A year ago, Sulejmen Talovic, 18, a high school dropout and Bosniak immigrant, opened fire at a crowded Salt Lake City shopping mall. The Trolley Square shooting occurred on February 12, 2007, at Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah. The shooting resulted in the deaths of five bystanders and the shooter himself who was killed by police. At least four others were wounded.

All the old models and profiles have been falling apart.

Now, with Louisiana Tech, the gender barrier has been broken.


Above, Brenda Spencer, after her arrest.

Media accounts may try to compare this week's Baton Rouge shooting with the horror and rampage of January 29, 1979. That was the date on which 16-year-old Brenda Spencer stuck her rifle out her window and began firing not at her own school, but at her San Diego neighborhood's Cleveland Elementary School, across the street. Before it was over, she had killed two, the school's caretaker and the principal, as well as wounding nine students. When arrested by the police and asked why she did it, Spencer infamously said: "I just don't like Mondays." That quote became an anthem of the era, via a song written by Bob Geldof, and sung by his Boomtown Rats.

Twenty years ago, on May 20, 1988, in Winnetka, Illinois, Laurie Dann, 30, walked into a second grade classroom at Hubbard Woods Elementary School carrying a pistol and two revolvers and began shooting children, killing eight-year-old Nicholas Corwin and wounding five others before fleeing. She entered a nearby house where she shot and wounded a 20-year-old man before killing herself.

Both the Spencer and Dann incidents were of female outsiders invading the safety of schools to carry out their outrages. Neither were of them being members of the student body, the pattern of the "modern school shootings," in which the shooters have taken out their homicidal-suicidal rage on their schoolmates. That is the familiar scenario of the 1990s and this decade.

But the Louisiana Tech killings change all that. A woman as a classmate has now been involved in a fatal assault.

If we have learned anything from the recent past, awareness of the shifting patterns are often instructive in predicting the near future. Look for major surprises in school shootings and similar mass rampages for this spring, unfortunately. Look again, too, to the months of March and April, with the red zone of the ten days from April 16 through April 26, 2008, as especially dangerous.

Be aware. Be alert. Be safe.


Anonymous said...

Your insights into this disturbing but fascinating topic are always a must read.
May I ask how you arrive at the 'red zone' dates? Is there a pattern you've discovered with the duration between incidents?

Anonymous said...

I am also curious about the red zone dates. I sometimes feel a bit of sympathy for the shooters--what did they experience to make them think this was a good idea?? Ridicule? Beatings? What?? ..or were the shooters just not wrapped very tight?

Anonymous said...

April 20th was Hitler's birthday, and serves as date of commemoration among anarchists. It was also the date of the Columbine, Colorado massacre.

Anonymous said...

Hitler's birthday, Oklahoma City, etc. Copycats are copycats.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points & worthy of the notice. Vigilance & not letting familuarity breed contempt are worthy watch words for all who work (fromally or informally)as critical incident response team responders who are charged with preventive maintance efforts in schools & all public settings. Agitated individules & their demeanor should always be a noted consideration of all who play a role as givers in social setting & that includes the work place. The ripple effect is just another catalist that can act as a trigger. Gender has never been exclusive. I for one have 28 of these events under my belt since 1978. Vigilance,Preperation & Training of all "providers" is where investing can pay off. Preventative maintance does work & cuts the odds of such school
or work place avengers scenerio being acted out as attempted. The knowledge & sill aqusition is out there. It is the initiative & responsibility of providers that drives critical incident response. These incidents will continue to rise as our society continues to become more stessing baring copycat effect & gender considerations.

Anonymous said...

Your insight is very good. I appreciate the information you've offered. I noticed that you think the people who commit these crimes are outsiders. It seems to me that people are acting now as they've always acted. THere have always been bullies, outsiders, popular, unpopular. Seems to me the only thing that has changed is how people choose to handle being treated in a negative manner by society. What is your take on why people and more of them are actually committing these crimes?