Movies and suicides were identified as being interwoven, and special studies were made of The Deer Hunter. Here again, Colorado cropped up. Philip J. Hinshaw, 22, of Boulder Colorado, killed himself acting out a scene from The Deer Hunter with a .38 caliber automatic in front of his cousin, noted the Rocky Mountain News on February 9, 1980. He died five months later. According to a January 20, 1982, news report on KMGH-TV, Paul Whittaker, 17, of Denver, Colorado, killed himself with a .22 caliber revolver while playing Russian roulette with his brother and two girls the day after The Deer Hunter was shown on broadcast television. Four other Russian roulette deaths occurred across the country within six days of this Colorado 1982 incident. The copycat effect was subtly occurring, linked to suicides, by professionals in the social sciences, like myself.
The copycat effect became so predictable, however, and the media coverage of these events so thorough, that I began to observe them almost as they would occur, in realtime. For example, on Friday afternoon May 16, 1986, former police officer David Young and his wife Dorris took over the Cokeville (Wyoming) Elementary School, and held 167 students and teachers hostage. The siege ended when one of the Youngs' homemade gasoline bombs went off, burning scores of fleeing, screaming children. David Young apparently then killed Dorris, wounded teacher John Miller, and then turned his Colt .45 on himself. (Months later, it was revealed that several children reported seeing angels in the classroom that day, including many children who claimed to have seen a "beautiful lady" who told them to go near the window. Other children reported seeing an angel over each child's head. A police photo taken during the incident - above - also reportedly shows "angels.")
The nationally broadcast Cokeville hostage situation, turned murder-suicide, was followed by the killing that night of five people at a bar and nearby convenience store in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When cornered by police, the killer, plumber Gilbert Eugenio Archibeque, shot himself once in the head with his .237 caliber handgun at 2 A.M., Sunday morning, May 18, 1986.Throughout the 1980s, it was individual acts of suicides, with occasional outbursts of murder-suicide incidents that grabbed the media's attention. The clumping and repeating of these suicides in specific geographic areas, like Loveland, were noted by social scientists as suicide clusters.
Suicide clusters of the 1980s - with Loveland's being the first epicenter - would be replaced by the school shootings of the 1990s, almost all conducted by suicidal male youth. The copycat effect had merely shifted its target as the media had shifted its focus. School violence has been around for a long time. but America’s “first” modern school shooting took place on Groundhog’s Day, February 2, 1996, at a school at Moses Lake, Washington State.
The Moses Lake killings set the pattern for what would follow in America--a student (not an outsider) killing other students and teachers. This is the horror--the danger from within of students killing students--that appears to have captivated the media. On that day, Barry Loukaitis, 14, dressed all in black, with boots and a long coat that hid his father’s hunting rifle and two handguns, walked into his Frontier Junior High fifth-period algebra class at Moses Lake and started shooting. He has cut the pockets out of his long Western duster and was able to use the .30-.30 lever-action hunting rifle without taking his hands out of the long, black trenchcoat. Loukaitis killed two classmates (Arnold Fritz and Manuel Vela) and then severely wounded another (Natalie Hintz). Hintz, sitting beside the boys, was shot in the stomach, with the bullet traveling through her elbow and almost tearing her right arm off. Next, Loukaitis aimed at the back of his algebra teacher, Leona Caires, and killed her as she was writing an equation on the chalkboard. With the carnage around him and 15 students in the room crying hysterically, Loukaitis calmly turned toward them, smiled and said: “This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?” The line was a quote from the Stephen King novel, Rage. Physical education teacher Jon M. Lane then rushed into the room, knocked the rifle away from Loukaitis, and wrestled him to the floor to end the shooting.
Loukaitis said his murderous loss of control was inspired by King’s Rage, Pearl Jam's music video “Jeremy,” and the movies Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries. Unfortunately, the explosive media attention to Loukaitis’ school shooting triggered a series of similar events. Today, Stephen King says he wishes he had never written Rage.
Then Columbine happened. On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed one teacher and 12 students and wounded 23 others at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Centering their attack on the cafeteria, Harris and Klebold spoke German and worn trench coats, as they reenacted scenes from Matrix and The Basketball Diaries in the nation's deadliest school shooting. They had plotted for a year to kill at least 500 and blow up their school. At the end of their hour-long rampage, they turned their guns on themselves. Harris and Klebold appeared to have deliberately chosen the anniversary date of Hitler’s Birthday for their attack. At one point, Harris and Klebold had considered the highly important date of April 19, too – the anniversary of Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing – but transportation problems forced a delay in their plans. They finally carried out their attack on the 20th – speaking German and “honoring” Hitler. (They had also discussed that after the attack, they would hijack a jetliner, fly it from Colorado, and crash it into Manhattan. This was two years before the 9/11 terror of 2001.) In the wake of the shootings in Littleton, the nation’s schools were under attack by copycats. Some 450 related incidents were reported in the month following the Columbine killings.
The decades-long impact of Columbine copycats is well-documented today, and I captured that research in my 2004 book, The Copycat Effect.
But in 2006, another shift occurred. Before 2006, most of the school shootings involved students or former students firing on students and teachers, and ending the incidents with the shooters' death, suicide by cop, or capture, often when attempting suicide. But something changed, and once again, Colorado fostered a model that was to be repeated in copycat situations.
Before the Colorado milestone incident of 2006 occurred, the following shadowy Columbine copycats took place:
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."
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."
But then something different happened at Bailey, on the edge of Pike National Forest. On Wednesday, September 27, 2006, at Bailey, Colorado (39 miles from Columbine), a man named Duane R. Morrison, 54, (DOB July 23, 1953) walked into an English classroom at Platte Canyon High School, and took six young female students hostage. The media and local law enforcement officials conducted detailed press conferences as the drama unfolded, giving exact details about why they could not rush the building; the hostage taker had chained the doors.
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.)
The Copycat Effect, Loren Coleman documents, in horrific detail, how the publicity about mass murders and suicides leads to more murders and suicides."
It is good to know someone was listening.
Nevertheless, the days that followed were filled with media reports giving in-depth details about what had transpired.
In America, the copycat effect was downplayed, and often skeptically challenged.
Col. Jeffrey Miller, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, held a widely reported news conference on October 3, 2007, the day after the Amish school shooting.
The public was looking for answers, of course. Miller wanted to communicate some, from his point of view. Many people clearly saw that the Amish attack bore similarities to a deadly school shooting on September 27, in Bailey, Colorado, in which police said an older white man (Duane R. Morrison) molested girls in a classroom before killing a 16-year-old and himself. But Miller said he believed the Pennsylvania attack was not a copycat crime. "I really believe this was about this individual and what was going on inside his head," Miller reportedly said.
The media, however, is always hostile to the "copycat effect" and so one spin on information shared by Col. Miller was done thusly:
Investigators also said that Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, plotted his takeover of the school for nearly a week and that the items he brought — including flexible plastic ties, eyebolts and lubricating jelly — suggest he may have been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls before police closed in.But if you read on, you will see that it is not this simple:
"It's very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself," State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. But Roberts "became disorganized when we arrived," and shot himself in the head.
Roberts had planned the attack for nearly a week, buying plastic ties from a hardware store on Sept. 26 and several other items less than an hour before entering the school, Miller said.So the facts are that the plastic ties, which are produced for many reasons, would become "hostage restraints," were purchased the day before Bailey. Other items were purchased after the Bailey hostage-school shooting-suicide incident, up to Monday, October 2nd's Amish killings.
How do we know what Roberts was thinking? He tells his wife in his note that he had been struggling with thoughts about molesting girls again. Perhaps his internal demons were being stirred up? He bought plastic ties to do "something." Then the media's wall-to-wall coverage of the sexual assaults on the six young female hostages in Bailey, Colorado, gave Roberts the canvas to paint his horrible scenario. Yes, something snapped inside of Roberts. To say that Roberts was not influenced by Bailey seems to be a form of denial.
The Amish school shooting at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, was the 24th school shooting in the United States in 2006, according to the National School Safety and Security Services.
There have been other violence events coming out of Colorado. On December 9, 2007, at Colorado Springs, Colorado, three people are killed and five wounded in two shooting rampages, one at a missionary school in suburban Denver and one at a church in Colorado Springs. The gunman in the second incident is killed by a guard. On Monday, June 9, 2008, the Colorado media reported a teenager was arrested in Fort Collins, who was also allegedly linked to three attacks, including a stabbing at a Wal-Mart. Police arrested the 17-year-old at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 1250 E. Magnolia Street, in Fort Collins, Colorado, after they reported a 20-year-old man, Frank McConnell, of Ault, was stabbed in his abdomen. Police believe the suspect may be the same person who assaulted another man and harassed a cyclist earlier in the day during a series of random attacks.
Recent interviews, about the Aurora shootings:
WGN - Mike McConnell: Loren Coleman
The Corbett Report: The Copycat Effect with Loren Coleman
Binnall of America: Loren Coleman and Bruce Rux
Talk Shoe - 42 Minutes: Loren Coleman
Red Ice Creations