Friday, February 16, 2018

Post-Parkland Prediction: Be Alert in April

There are certain times of year that are routinely more dangerous for our children. What should people be preparing for in the wake of the Parkland shooting?

In my 2004 book, The Copycat Effect, I wrote a subsection entitled the "Significant of Dates," and began with the example of St. Valentine's Day, February 14th, (page 246):
Dates are important, anniversary events especially so. Suicides, murder-suicides, murders tend to clump around dates of loss for at-risk victims.
One such date is one that most people assume should be associated with happy feelings, but it is not. That is Valentine’s Day. For many people, it’s a day that speaks more to emptiness and loss than to joy and love.

When I wrote Suicide Clusters (NY: Faber & Faber, 1987), I mentioned the spike in suicides around Valentine's Day. From interviews I conducted, the date tended to not remind people of all the people they loved, but, among suicidal individuals, how alone they were. Simply put, people felt suicidal around February 14th. In this modern era of violence, that translates into also feeling homicidal.

The suicide clusters of the early 1980s were replaced by school shootings, as you know from the wall-to-wall coverage, first in a trickle in the mid-1980s, through the mid-1990s, followed by the tsunami of Columbine (1999) and beyond.

Ten years ago, in 2008, after school shootings in Memphis (February 4), Baton Rouge (February 8), Memphis again (February 11), and Oxnard (February 12), a mass shooting occurred at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois, leaving 6 dead (5 at the college and the shooter through suicide) and 21 wounded on February 14, Valentine’s Day, 2008.

The Parkland school shooting occurred on the 10th anniversary of that mass shooting of February 14, 2008, happening at Cole Hall, Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Illinois. Steven Kazmierczak opened fire with a shotgun and three pistols into a crowd of students on campus, killing five students and injuring an additional 17 people, before fatally shooting himself.

A school shooting of February 19, 2010, revisited DeKalb, Illinois. Soon after NIU marked the 2nd anniversary of the mass shooting that claimed the lives of six, 24-year-old NIU student Brian Mulder was shot by fellow student 22-year-old Zachary R. Isaacman, who survived.

But this time of year has been a dangerous one for years. There was a school shooting on February 19, 1987, with two dead. At the Bethel (Alaska) Regional High School shooting, 16-year-old student Evan Ramsey killed principal Ron Edwards, and 15-year-old star student athlete Joshua Palacios. He also wounded two other students.

School shootings go back over a hundred years. These deadly events occurred on February 14, 1883 (Florence, Nebraska) and February 14, 1920 (Durant, Oklahoma).  There was a school shooting on February 16, 1912, at LaGrange, New York, at the Sprout Creek School House, when 14-year-old May McQuade was killed by classmate Raymond B. Carroll, also 14. (This is part of the Fayette Factor for LaGrange is the French home of Lafayette.)

School shootings cluster and build momentum. This can be seen in Februarys and give indication that the copycat effect is taking place. For Februarys, you will find the data shows in 1978 (February 9, February 22); in 1996 (February 2, February 29); in 1997 (February 19); in 2004 (February 2, February 9); in 2005 (February 8); in 2008 (February 4, February 8, February 11, February 12, February 14); in 2010 (February 5, February 12, February 19, February 23); in 2014 (February 10, February 10, February 12, February 22);  in 2015 (February 4, February 14, February 23); in 2016 (February 9, February 12, February 29); and in 2017 (February 1, February 4, February 14).

If past modern trends continue, please be alert and aware that a winter (February) cluster of school shootings is followed by an infrequent but large school shooting in April, especially during the "dangerous red zone" of late April.

Ponder which dates of the month have turned into anniversaries for certain towns and cities:

April 12, 1994 - Butte, Montana - 1 killed
April 12, 2013 - Dublin, Virginia - 2 wounded
April 13, 2015 - Goldsboro, North Carolina - 1 killed
April 14, 2003 - New Orleans, Louisiana - 1 killed, 3 wounded
April 15, 1993 - Acushnet, Massachusetts - 1 killed 
April 16, 1987 - Detroit, Michigan - 1 killed, 2 wounded
April 16, 1999 - Notus, Idaho - mild injuries
April 16, 2007 - Blacksburg, Virginia - 33 killed, 23 wounded
April 16, 2013 - Grambling, Virginia - 3 wounded
April 16, 2015 - Paradis, Louisiana - 1 wounded
April 18, 2013 - Cambridge, Massachusetts - 2 killed, 1 wounded
April 20, 1999 - Columbine, Colorado - 15 killed, 21 injured
April 21, 1994 - Nashville, Tennessee - 1 killed 
April 23, 1991 - Compton, California - 1 killed
April 23, 2016 - Antigo, Wisconsin - 1 killed, 2 wounded
April 24, 1998 - Edinboro, Pennsylvania - 1 killed, 3 wounded
April 24, 2003 - Red Lion, Pennsylvania - 2 killed
April 26, 2009 - Hampton, Virginia - 3 wounded
April 27, 2015 - Lacey, Washington - no injuries
April 29, 1986 - Senath, Missouri - 1 killed

Modern school shootings have, therefore, clustered historically during Aprils in 2015 (April 13, April 16, and April 27); in 2014 (April 9 and April 11); in 2013 (April 12, April 16, April 18); in 2003 (April 14, April 24); in 1999 (April 16, April 20); and in 1994 (April 12, April 21).

April will be a dangerous time for mass shootings and other violent events. Needless to say, there are going to be school incidents, workplace violence, and probably mall & movie situations between now and April 2018. But there is something in the psyche of the suicidal-homicidal individuals who conduct school shootings linked to February and April.

Recall that April is a flashpoint for more than America. The W. R. Myers High School shooting was a school shooting that occurred on April 28, 1999, at W. R. Myers High School in Taber, Alberta, Canada. The gunman, 14-year-old Todd Cameron Smith, walked into his school and began firing at three students in a hallway, killing one student and wounding another student. This shooting was a direct copycat of the Columbine event of eight days before.

In 2009, on April 10, at a vocational college in Athens, Greece, one was killed in a shooting, and on April 28, at an elementary school in Harstad, Norway, no one was injured in the first Norwegian school shooting. On April 7, 2011, A 23-year-old former student fatally shot 12 people inside a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, school and died by suicide after being shot down by a policeman. In 2015, at a school in Barcelona, Spain, on April 20, a 13-year-old boy armed with a crossbow and a machete killed a teacher and injured 4.

The face of evil.

April 20, 2018, will be the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting and the 129th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler, who then killed himself on April 30, 1945. April 26th is Hitler's right hand man, Rudolf Hess's birthday and the anniversary of the Erfurt, Germany school shooting in 2002, when Robert Steinhäuser killed 16 and then himself.

It does get personal. Pictured is my maternal grandmother, Nellie Gray, who died at the hands of her estranged second husband, in a murder-suicide on Valentine's Day, 1940.

It is worthy of repeating what I wrote in 2009:
Murder and suicide are two sides of the same coin played out in going postal, workplace violence, shooting spree, and school shooting incidents, which are impacted by the copycat effect.
Being forewarned and aware is half the battle. Vulnerable, suicidal, homicidal youth need help and attention, long before it gets to the stage where they feel there's no turning back. Keep talking, take care, get people help, and remain alert, with your guard up.
A few bloggers may wish to demean the predictive insights of known patterns, but ridicule does not overwhelm the reality of history.


"Killers often pick special dates for their attack," April 17, 2009 by Trish Crawford, in Toronto Star

...Loren Coleman is worried, because mass killers often choose special dates and anniversaries for their carnage. The killers at Columbine did, by picking the birthday of one of history's monsters.
The author of The Copycat Effect (Simon & Schuster) says the amount of attention this anniversary gets may determine whether any other disaffected males bent on vengeance pick April 20 for their act of destruction.
"Anniversaries can be dangerous," Coleman says. "These individuals compete with each other."
...Coleman called schools "a fish bowl setting with a vulnerable population."
...The killers are uniformly "homicidal, suicidal, sexually dysfunctional males" who feel powerless and blame others for their problems. Attacking school students – young girls are favored targets – makes these people feel powerful and strong, Coleman says.

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