Thursday, January 27, 2005

Suicidal Man in Jeep Cherokee Causes Train Derailment, then Jeep Workplace Shooting Rampage

In California, on Wednesday, January 27, 2005, at around 6 a.m. Pacific Time, Juan Manuel Alvarez, 25, of Compton, Calif., parked his Jeep Grand Cherokee on the Metrolink tracks at Glenville and got out before a train smashed into it. Alvarez told police that he was going to kill himself. The train crashes resulted in 11 dead, one missing woman, and 180 people injured. News that this was a suicide attempt flooded the media by the afternoon of the derailment. Reports that the SUV was a Jeep were widely disseminated.

Later on Wednesday at about 8:45 p.m. Central Time, an employee, Myles Meyers, at a Jeep Liberty production plant in Toledo, Ohio, using a shotgun, went on a shooting rampage with a double-barrel shotgun and then killed himself. Three were identified to be shoot, with two reported dead, including the shooter.

Both stories received massive media attention (along with a helicopter crashing in Iraq with 31 military personnel being killed) on January 27-28.

On November 6, 2004, the UK experienced a commuter rail crash involving a car on the tracks. It was later determined that was a death by suicide.

Will there be more copycats?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Korea media links Werther effect to rise in suicides

The Boston Globe of January 17, 2005, is commenting on the rise of suicides in South Korea and their ties to the Werther effect.

Rampages in the News

Rampages are in the news in mid-January 2005.

On Sunday, January 9, 2005, first media reports out of Ceres, California, told of a soldier having gone on a rampage. A police officer and the shooter were killed and another police officer wounded. The shooter was Andres Raya, 19, a decorated Marine who served a seven-month tour in Iraq. Later news stories questioned where or not Raya was a gang member. None looked into the "suicide by cop" angle.

On Tuesday, January 11, 2005, David Lynn Jordan reportedly killed five and injured two people at the Tennessee Department of Transportation maintenance garage. The victims included his estrangled wife, Donna Renee Jordan, 31, of Jackson, Tennessee Department of Transportation clerk; David Gordon, 41, of Medina, HCI Supply warehouse manager; Jerry Hopper, 61, of Enville, Tennessee Department of Agriculture Forestry Division employee, who were all killed. Larry Taylor, 54, and James Goff, 53, both TDOT garage employees, were injured.

On Sunday, January 16, 2005, a police officer went on a shooting rampage at the popular Ati-atihan religious festival in Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines, killing five other policemen and a child before he himself was shot dead. The shooter was Police Officer Jonathan MoreƱo, bodyguard of Aklan provincial Chief Supt. Odelardo Magallanes, who started shooting at the height of the Ati-Atihan Festival. Among those killed were Magallanes and the Kalibo police chief, Insp. Manuel Elijay Jr., two other policemen and a 10-year-old girl, Jo-velyn Cuales. At least 33 other people were wounded.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Evidence of Historic (1907) Baseball Suicide Copycat

Resourceful baseball researcher Frank Russo has passed along a baseball-related copycat suicide news item.

The New York Times, March 31, 1907

Friend of Dead Baseball Player Takes Carbolic Acid

Fort Wayne, Ind., March 30. - David P. Murphy, an engineer
on the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, committed suicide
to-day by swallowing carbolic acid. It is believed the suicide
of "Chick" Stahl, the Boston American baseball player, who
was an intimate friend of Murphy, had some effect in giv-
ing a suicidal impulse to Murphy's mind. Murphy left a note
saying: "Bury me beside 'Chick.'"

The headline makes me wonder if there were a series of suicides in the wake of Chick Stahl's death.

In 1906, Chick Stahl was named the full-time manager of the Boston
Americans (later known as the Red Sox). A former popular Boston Pilgrims outfielder, manager Stahl died by suicide with carbolic acid on March 28, 1906. This occurred while he was traveling with the team in West Baden Springs, Indiana. A note left behind stated: "Boys, I just couldn't help it. You drove me to it."

Copycat Suicides Topic of SoCal and SF Media as New Year Begins

The Los Angeles Times starts 2005 with a long examination of two youth suicides at the Pacific High School. The article comments:

"Copycat suicides in the United States are not uncommon, especially among teens and young adults imitating friends or acquaintances who have killed themselves. Researchers have found that every year in the United States, between 100 and 200 teenagers die in these 'suicide clusters.'"

Also, in the San Francisco area, according to an alert sent our way by correspondent Bufo Calvin, broadcast media are discussing a local suicide cluster. This new attention follows an earlier article on November 9, 2004, in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Clayton Valley High School suicides.

That article begins:

"The rumors started to fly around Clayton Valley High School in the third week of October. A former student committed suicide on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Exactly one week later, another girl, a freshman, killed herself...Exactly a week later, on the third Tuesday in October, a recent Clayton Valley graduate attempted suicide. By the time a recent grad at College Park, over in Pleasant Hill, killed herself on Oct. 26 -- another Tuesday -- Clayton Valley was in a frenzy."

These are two situations that may flare into full-scale suicide clusters, especially as the California media seem ready to fan the flames of the whole "wildfire" angle.