Saturday, December 15, 2007

Colorado Vortex

Colorado should understand that while it is often noted that deadly "random" shooting events are rare, no one in Colorado can avoid the fact that media-driven rage-filled rampages visit their state often.

On December 15, 2007, Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, opens a debate in the Rocky Mountain News, in the vortex location where people are currently reading the most about their church-related shootings. This is good. Hopefully, Kopel's discussion will continue beyond the pain of these new episodes and, at least, make some inroads into the local editorial decisions on reporting.

The two church-involved shootings of December 9th were perpetrated by a young man who lived a mere 13 miles from Columbine. Columbine (known just by the Colorado location name) is today an iconic and infamous event, which happened on April 20, 1999. It is a blueprint for too many mass shootings in schools, universities, malls, churchs, fast food sites, and other locations since then. Colorado's newest dead suicidal-homicidal shooter studied Columbine as well as last April's Virginia Tech event and others.

But sadly Colorado has been a frequent canvas for copycats.

As far as roadmaps are considered, the invasion of a school by a child molester who tied up and then shot students at Bailey, Colorado, served as the model for what happened a few days later among the Amish in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2006, at Bailey, Colorado (39 miles from Columbine), an older male walked into an English classroom at the Platte Canyon High School, and took six young female students hostage. After releasing four hostages, one at a time, the students began telling the police that sexual assaults were occurring. As the situation neared a 4:00 pm deadline and discussions broke down, a police SWAT team blew open the door to Room 206. The suicidal shooter 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, and publicized soon thereafter.

In a virtual mirror copycat of the Bailey event, five days later, on the morning of Monday, October 2, 2006, an older male with a child molestation history took hostages at West Nickel Mines School, a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He tied up ten, and eventually killed five girls (aged 7–13). In the end, he too took his own life.

Few nationally may remember that Bailey precursor, although at the time, it was shown wall-to-wall on television as if it was the second-coming of Columbine.

It should also be recalled that during press conferences held immediately after both the Bailey and the Amish incidents, we learned that the doors at both schools had been barricaded/chained so the hostages could not get out and the police could not get in. Such information from the Bailey shooter probably assisted the Amish school gunman, and it seems to have served as a blueprint for the VA Tech killer who would chain the doors to escape and entry as part of his April 16, 2007 massacre plans.

School shootings in Colorado are recalled, especially Columbine, but the memory may fade with regard to how Colorado has been involved in other copycat waves.

December 24, 2007 will be the 10th anniversary of a "going postal" situation at the General Mail Facility in Denver. Seven people were wounded, and fortunately no one was killed in that mass shooting. People chuckle and think "going postal" events were something that humorously happened in the 1980s. Besides them being deadly serious, they still occur in contemporary reminders and live on in other types of shootings. Postal workers in Denver processing and delivering Christmas mail this year, no doubt, won't forget what occurred there a mere ten years ago.

The lessons of media glorification of death was taught once before in Colorado.

In 1980-1981, a dozen teenagers died by suicide over a period of 18 months in Loveland, Colorado. The suicide cluster was fanned along by too much attention in the newspapers to the methods of the suicides, and not enough to communication and prevention. It was the copycat effect at work at its worst, taking the lives of young people by their own hand (with the modeling assistance from the media).

The Colorado media then decided to take a hard look at how they were reporting on adolescent suicide. Things changed. Front page stories disappeared, sensationalized articles vanished, the graphic means of suicides were deleted, and suicides decreased.

It is not too soon for the nation to begin to seriously scrutinize how it is subtly and overtly promoting the current waves of mass shootings. Dave Kopel is correct to begin this serious self-examination in Colorado.

Here is his thoughtful column on the subject:

The way the media cover an event influences whether there will be repetitions. For example, if a fan runs onto the field during a baseball game, the broadcast cameras usually avoid showing pictures of the fan. The TV producers know that the fan on the field is seeking attention, and that, presumably, getting his picture on television will reward him. Moreover, broadcasting the man's antics would encourage copycats.

Killing time at a baseball game is a tiny misdeed, compared to killing people, but many media decisions have the effect of encouraging copycat murders.

Last April, The Denver Post published on its front page five "glamour shots" that the Virginia Tech murderer had taken of himself, and sent to NBC. On Wednesday, the Post ran a front-page picture of the young man who killed two at a youth missionary center in Arvada and two others at a church in Colorado Springs, along with very large-type excerpts from the killer's rantings. In the first sentence, the killer compared himself to the Virginia Tech killer.

The Post might has well have a run a sidebar: "Are you a hate-filled sociopath? Are you upset because you have an intense feeling of superiority to other people, even though you have accomplished little or nothing? Your hateful screeds will not meet our standards for publication as a letter to the editor. However, if you perpetrate a mass murder, we will put your picture on our front page, publish your writings there, too, and do our part to ensure that your name is remembered forever."

The above paragraph is not the formal policy of the Post and of much of the mainstream media, but it amounts to the de facto policy.

In vivid contrast, the front page of Wednesday's Rocky Mountain News featured a photo of the students at Youth with A Mission in fervent group prayer, forgiving the killer. Both front pages will encourage imitation.

Loren Coleman's book The Copycat Effect convincingly proves that sensational media coverage of murders and suicides leads to additional murders and suicides. Coleman's weblog,, suggests that the Colorado attacks may have been triggered by media coverage of a similar attack on an Omaha, Neb., shopping mall a few days before.

This week, KHOW radio talk-show hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman led an excellent discussion of media responsibility in coverage of publicity-seeking murderers, including a good interview with Rocky publisher John Temple on Tuesday, in which Temple strongly defended media publication of a killer's name and picture.

Temple argued that newspapers should be edited with the ordinary reader in mind, and not with a view to a small number of sociopaths. But in fact, newspapers should sometimes be edited with the potential criminal in mind. For example, during the NATO meeting at the Broadmoor in 2003, the papers published some general facts about the security precautions. But if someone had leaked detailed security plans, which might have been useful to potential assassins, I strongly doubt that the papers would have published them - although the papers might have written about the leak while leaving out the details.

Even if one grants the arguments that publication of a publicity-minded killer's name and picture serve a public interest that trumps the risk of encouraging copycats, there are some standards that every responsible media outlet could adopt, to at least reduce the risk:

1. If a killer was seeking infamy, neither his picture nor his words should ever appear on the front page. The front page, because it seen at newsstands, convenience stores, and other locations, even by people who don't read the newspaper, has a publicity value that far exceeds any other part of the newspaper.

2. Temple argues that photos help readers understand that people who do terrible things are often very ordinary-looking. If so, a single photo on a single day is sufficient.

3. Never run a photo or video which the killer has chosen for his own publicity. Similarly, never run a photo of the killer "in action" - as in a surveillance tape. Such photos are enticing to sociopaths.

4. Do publish a photo showing the disgusting post-mortem condition of the killer, with half his face blown off after he has killed himself or been shot by a good citizen. The photo should appear, not in the printed paper, but on the newspaper's Web site and behind a warning page. Such photos would deglamourize the perpetrators.

5. Although there is some news value in reporting the killer's name initially, there is no need to use the name incessantly. Talk shows, TV programs, and follow-up news articles should follow the good example of Caplis and Silverman. Refer to the killer instead as "the coward," or some other term. ~ Dave Kopel, "KOPEL: Reducing the risk of copycat killers - How papers can avoid glorifying perpetrators, Rocky Mountain News, Saturday, December 15, 2007.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Colorado Killer Copied Columbine Shooter

Matthew Murray, the Colorado shooter of December 9th, was not too creative, actually. A study of his online "poetry" shows that he routinely lifted lyrics and wording from music groups and others to compose his postings.

Media attention in the wake of the Colorado shootings has focussed on how Murray did exactly the same thing with the passages he left behind about those killings. Most were rewritten works from others, including those of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine killers. This blog was the first to point out that Murray also identified Aleister Crowley as one of his models.

Kevin Vaughan of the Rocky Mountain News reveals more details of Murray's copycat behavior in his December 12, 2007, article, "Murray posted links to Columbine videos between sprees." Here are extracts from that article:

In the hours between deadly attacks on Christian centers in Arvada and Colorado Springs, Matthew Murray posted links on the Internet to videos featuring the Columbine killers and a man who carried out a 2005 murder-suicide with religious overtones.

Murray, 24, also appears to have created a Web page on the Web site in which he posed as a woman named Sarah, used the screen name "Chrstnnghtmr" - apparently for "Christian nightmare" - and listed English occultist Aleister Crowley as among his heroes.

* * *

A law enforcement source on Tuesday confirmed Murray used the screen name "nghtmrchld26" on an Internet message board for people disillusioned with some religions.

Eleven messages posted between Sunday's attacks by "nghtmrchld26" spoke of abuse at the hands of Christians, of leaving this nightmare behind to a better place, and quoted liberally from the hate-filled screeds of Columbine High School killer Eric Harris.

Two of the posts also included links to videos featuring Harris and fellow Columbine killer Dylan Klebold that are posted on the Web site

One five-minute video features still images of Harris and Klebold as well as actors who played them in a movie about the April 20, 1999, attack on the high school. As the pictures flick through in slide- show fashion, the song Anarchy from the band KMFDM plays.

A poster for KMFDM hung on the wall in Harris' bedroom the day of the Columbine killings.

Another message has a link to a video called Hitmen for Hire - a project Harris and Klebold did for a marketing class. In the video, they pose as hit men who get even with students who bully others.

A third message contains a link to a chilling video made by a young man named Ricky Rodriguez, who talks into the camera as he lovingly loads bullets into a gun. Rodriguez, who was raised in a religious organization called The Family International, alleged that he was repeatedly physically and sexually abused.

After making the video, he arranged a meeting with a prominent member of the group and stabbed her to death in January 2005. He then drove to Blythe, Calif., and killed himself.

* * *

Between the two attacks, Murray left 11 posts on the Internet message board, the first at least two hours after the Arvada shooting, the last a few hours before the one in Colorado Springs.

That first message, time- stamped 3:34 a.m. on Sunday, began, I made a God out of blood . . . not superiority. The words came from the KMFDM song that appears on the video about Harris and Klebold. A link to that video is included in the post.

It was not clear Tuesday what time the message was actually left - it was possible the time stamp was from the Central Time zone, meaning it might actually have been posted at 2:34 a.m. Denver time.

A later post began, Here's the kind of anger when kids get abused and pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed and included a link to the Hitmen for Hire video.

Another post began, This kid went through abuse in christianity just like me and my friends and included a link to the Rodriguez video.

Follow-up messages includes passages in which Murray professed frustration with his religious experiences.

Me, I still believe in a loving God . . . but not the christian god who is full of hate . . . and never did anything at all all these years while I've cried out for answers for spiritual truth . . . your christian God never did one thing about any of the abuse me and my christian friends went through . . . why the f*** should I care about any morals?

Other messages quoted liberally from the diatribes of Harris.

The last, time-stamped at 11:01 a.m., ended simply:





Those words came from the song (Sic) by the band Slipknot.

Posts on the message board match closely with a MySpace page on which Murray appears to have made himself out to be a 23- year-old woman from Englewood.

The MySpace profile has the name "~*Sarah's*~ Chrstnnghtmr," and the user's latest blog entry, left on Saturday, is titled My Prayer and lists the lyrics of the song Among the Flames, by the metal band Setherial.

Among Murray's postings before the New Life Church shootings was an entry titled Prayer, with the same lyrics.

"Chrstnnghtmr" also describes growing up being abused and tormented by christians, and writes about being home-schooled and being part of Youth With A Mission in Denver. One part of the profile begins:

Of course, LOTS of hypocrisy and NO REAL love to be found at YWAM Denver.

Passages are similar

Other nearly identical passages appear on the MySpace page and the message board.

The quote We sold our souls to Rock and roll Mind Control is listed next to the MySpace user's picture; Murray used a similar quote to sign off a Nov. 16 entry on the message board. In that entry he wrote, I sold my soul to rock and roll mind control.

Other similarities include an entry in MySpace called You raped the soul from the child in me, which is part of a posting by Murray on the message board Aug. 5. The words are similar to lyrics of a song called Crwn Thy Frnicatr by Psyclon Nine, with the word raped substituted for the original ripped.

The MySpace page features the song Mr. Crowley.

The Ozzy Osbourne song, covered by a different artist on the page, is a reference to Aleister Crowley.

One of Murray's postings on the message board, left between the shootings, ends simply:

Mister Crowley.~ by Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain News, December 12, 2007, "Murray posted links to Columbine videos between sprees."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Church Shooter: Prophetic Child

Matthew J. Murray, known online as "nghtmrchld26," wrote his Christian family said he was the End Times' "Prophetic Child." He said they believed that he was the "chosen one."

Reporter Sara Burnett of the Rocky Mountain News, on December 11, 2007, was one of the first media sources to reveal that Murray called himself "nghtmrchld26" ("Nightmare Child 26") online.

Overnight most but not all of Murray's writings began disappearing from the ex-Pentecostal forums and message boards he used. This relates especially to the investigation on-going since the FBI pulled the messages that Murray incredibly posted between his shootings at Arvada and Colorado Springs.

Some of these postings, however, remain in the emails of others who express shock in response to "nghtmrchld26," who was also known simply as "NMC."

One such message left by Murray, posted between the shootings, reflects those we have read from other rampage shooters: "See you all on the other side, we're leaving this nightmare behind to a better place "

Several members of one ex-Pentecostal forum engaged in their own detective work, and quickly connected the dots that NMC and Matthew Murray were one in the same person.

Here's a list of the overlaps they discussed:

1. Former member of YWAM. Asked not to join them on a mission trip.

2. Former member of Ted Haggard's church (according to NMC in a private chat room conversation).

3. Often talked about suicide.

4. Often called his mom "psycho."

5. Made references to Ricky Rodriguez, a man who grew up in a cult and went on a killing spree to punish those who were responsible for his life in the cult.

6. Came to the forum and said he was going to kill people, and that they better hide from him.

7. Told us he was going to "a better place."

8. Told us he didn't care if he was killed in "the gunfight."

9. Told us Christians were to blame for "this" happening.

10. Told us "It's time for me to head out and teach these xxxxxxx a lesson."

11. Said "See you all on the other side, we're leaving this nightmare behind to a better place."

12. Said, "God I can't wait till I can kill you people, I'll just go to some downtown area in some big city and blow up and shoot everything I can."

Murray would often sign off as "Mister Crowley........," an obvious reference to Aleister Crowley, the British occultist, writer, philosopher, and mystic (who died on December 1, 1947). Murray perhaps identified with Crowley, because Crowley was raised in a strict religious family as was Murrary.

After the death of Crowley's father, Crowley broke from his religious upbringing and his mother's efforts at keeping her son in the Christian faith. When Crowley was a child, his constant rebellious behavior displeased his mother to such an extent she would call him "The Beast" (from the Book of Revelation), a moniker that Crowley would later adopt for himself.

Murray's relationship with his religious mother, in Murray's mental state, appears to have mirrored that of Crowley.

Murray has left many virtual footprints online, although they are rapidly being expunged from forums. He was very open about his hatred for Christians, his liking for Marilyn Manson, and other cultural artifacts familiar within the suicidal-homicidal subculture he decided to haunt. For Murray, this seemed to be his only choice after a life of what he saw as Christian abuse.

In line with my previous blog about the Finnish music (HIM) admired by Omaha shooter Robert A. Hawkins, intriguingly on August 5, 2007, Murray posted lyrics from an album by the funeral doom band from Finland, Shape of Despair.

Murray's wording and posts reflect the same phrasing left by Columbine killer Eric Harris.

The writing, first reported by Denver's 9News, was confirmed as Murray's work by investigating authorities. He posted the message at 11:03 a.m. on a website for people who have left organized religion, almost 11 hours after the Arvada shooting and two hours before the Colorado Springs attack.

"You christians brought this on yourselves," Murray writes in his 452-word harangue. "I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill.

"Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don't care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world."

In his notebooks, Harris proclaimed: "I'm coming for EVERYONE soon, and I WILL be armed to the (expletive) teeth, and I will shoot to kill."

The only substantive change Murray made to the Harris writing is replacing the name of Harris' target, classmate and neighbor Brooks Brown, with "Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world."

Murray's childhood seems to have been remembered by him in a fashion that reinforced his suicidal thought patterns. One thread Murray wrote about was of him being the "Prophetic Child."

"Prophetic Child"

Since I was at least age 6 my mother and her church friends have always told me about how my birth was "foretold." They say that while I was still in my mother's womb a "prophet" told my mother that I was to be, quote, "a prophet to the nations" and something along the lines of the next Billy Graham/Peter Wagner.

They said that the following verses applied to me: Mat. 12.18 and Ezk. 36:26-28

Basically, they believe that I am their "chosen one" for "the end times" and according to the Ezekial passage they believe that I am going to go back to their church/system.

The problem right now is the fact that it appears that they are always going to pursue me throughout life (and they have said so), as I am supposedly the "chosen one." As far as I can tell they did not treat the other youth the same way.

Well, I don't want to be their "chosen one" at all. I just wish I could find some way to wake up from this nightmare. ~ nghtmrchld26, 9/7/07 9:13 pm, on the Ex Pentecostal Forums - Message Board -

And later...

9/8/07 3:01 pm
You break my back, but you won't break me
All is black, but I still see
Time's going to wash away all pain ~ nghtmrchld26.

9/8/07 3:46 pm
I was supposed to keep this "calling" completely secret from outsiders. Like even other christians were not supposed to know if they were not a part of the "church elite" at that church and with my mother. ~ nghtmrchld26.

None of this justifies anything that Murray did, but it may assist in explaining why he didn't care if he was shot dead. What we find is yet another example of a killer full of suicidal rage directed at a group of people who could not have known what was coming their way.

Late update - Tuesday, December 11, 2007: Matthew Murray, 24, was struck multiple times by a security officer at New Life Church on December 9th, but his death was ruled a suicide, the El Paso County Coroner's Office concluded after an autopsy on December 11th.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Church Shootings

No one who is aware of the copycat effect should be surprised by what took place this weekend in the wake of the Westroads Mall massacre in Omaha, Nebraska, where eight were killed on December 5, 2007.

I was interviewed by Columbus Dispatch reporter Amy Saunders shortly after the Omaha shootings, for her Friday, December 7, 2007, article, "Nebraska shooting raises awareness."

One insight I shared with the reporter was that the coming weekend (December 8th-9th) could be an especially dangerous time. I said this in terms of the usual timing of the cycles that happen in the wake of major media-covered shootings. She did not put that in her article. Saunders merely quoted me as saying that events similar to what happened in Omaha are becoming more common.

The only direct quotations from me that Saunders used were these: "It's not an isolated incident. In this new age of suicide, these people decide they're going to kill themselves and they want to take people with them. Unfortunately, it's a growing trend."

My sense of what would happen apparently came true again on Sunday, December 9th, with the occurrence of two more mass shooting sprees, this time twice in one state, Colorado.

One event was the shooting of four at Arvada, Colorado's Youth With a Mission Center, where two staff members died as a result. Arvada Police Chief Don Wick said the shooter escaped on foot through the snow.

Then approximately 12 hours later, another incident happened at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 70 miles away. The Arvada missionary group said the organization had an office on the Colorado Springs campus of the New Life church. At that site, four people were shot, two churchgoers were killed, and the shooter was killed by an armed female security guard. (This seems to have been a classic "suicide by cop" scenario.)

Law enforcement authorities were not saying if there is any overlap between the two shootings Sunday evening. (In an update: Monday, December 10, there appears to be a link in the shootings that is being investigated.)

The dead shooter at Colorado Springs was described by an eyewitness as dressed in black, wearing combat boots and holding an assault rifle and at least one handgun. The shooter at Arvada was described as being a white male with black clothing, a skullcap or hat, with glasses or a beard.

These Colorado shootings, sadly, fell into the expected timing pattern seen after a major shooting.

Below, I list some other places of worship where there have been contemporary shootings. But as I have written, the copycat behavior crosses locations and the ripple effect jumps from schools to malls, from malls to churches, from schools to workplaces, from churches to fast food sites, and back and forth, during a cycle. What is certain is the copycat effect does have wildfire moments, and we are in the midst of a mini-one right now.

Other recent church shootings include the following:

Aug. 12, 2007 - Neosho, Missouri - First Congregational Church - 3 killed - Eiken Elam Saimon shot and killed the pastor and two deacons and wounded five others.

May 21, 2006 - Baton Rouge, Louisiana - The Ministry of Jesus Christ Church - 4 killed - The four at the church who were shot were members of Erica Bell's family; she was abducted and murdered elsewhere; Bell's mother, church pastor Claudia Brown, was seriously wounded - Anthony Bell, 25, was the shooter.

Feb. 26, 2006 - Detroit, Michigan - Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church - 2 killed + shooter - Kevin L. Collins, who reportedly went to the church looking for his girlfriend, later killed himself.

March 12, 2005 - Brookfield, Wisconsin - Living Church of God - 7 killed + shooter - Terry Ratzmann opened fire on the congregation, killing seven and wounding four before taking his own life.

July 30, 2005 - College Park, Georgia - World Changers Church International - shooter killed - Air Force Staff Sgt. John Givens was shot five times by a police officer after charging the officer, following violent behavior.

Oct. 5, 2003 - Atlanta, Georgia - Turner Monumental AME Church - 2 killed + shooter - Shelia Wilson walked into the church while preparations are being made for service and shot the pastor, her mother and then herself.

June 10, 2002 - Conception, Missouri - Benedictine monastery - 2 killed + shooter - Lloyd Robert Jeffress shot four monks in the monastery killing two and wounding two, before killing himself.

March 12, 2002 - Lynbrook, New York - Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church - 2 killed - Peter Troy, a former mental patient, opens fire during Mass, killing the priest and a parishioner. He later receives a life sentence.

May 18, 2001 - Hopkinsville, Kentucky - Greater Oak Missionary Baptist Church - 2 killed - Frederick Radford stood up in the middle of a revival service and began shooting at his estranged wife, Nicole Radford, killing her and a woman trying to help her.

Sept. 15, 1999 - Fort Worth, Texas - Wedgewood Baptist Church - 7 killed + shooter - Larry Gene Ashbrook shot dead seven people and injured a further seven at a concert by Christian rock group Forty Days in Fort Worth, Texas before killing himself.

April 15, 1999 - Salt Lake City, Utah - LDS Church Family History Library - 2 killed + shooter - Sergei Babarin, 70, with a history of mental illness, entered the library, killed two people and wounded four others before he was gunned down by police.


The alternative title for this blog is "Brokaw Blames Blogs." Read on, for more about that.

The twilight language of the copycat killers is initially only vaguely revealed in the media accounts. The news organizations' first reactions are ones of sensationalism and pop-psychology, often in ways that may trigger the next rage-filled killing spree.

Only through more reasoned pondering may some deeper meanings be known. The "connect the dots" deciphering of these shooters exposes their symbolism from the cult of Columbine, which may assist as a source of future prediction and prevention.

"I'm gonna be (expletive) famous." - Robert A. Hawkins.

It does not take much analysis to understand that the Omaha mall killer figured he was creating a page for himself in infamy. We know not what influence the Omaha attention had on the shooter of four at Arvada, Colorado's Youth With a Mission center, where two staff members have been left dead, on Sunday, December 9, 2007. Or now at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 70 miles away on the same day.

It is too early to really know what Robert A. Hawkins was thinking, as if we ever will, for his major goal was suicide. But as I've written often, the new suicide model for school shooters, mall killers, and rampage murderers is to take people with them as they race to their own deaths, either by their own hands or by "suicide by cops."

"I just want to take a few peices [sic] of (expletive) with me....Just think tho I'm gonna be (expletive) famous." - Robert A. Hawkins, in his suicide note to his friends.

Therefore, underneath all the media-driven Robert Hawkins biographical profiles' of him going in and out of state wardship, foster homes, and treatment centers, it is what was his experience of his life that counts. And his concept of dying.

How do the Hawkins' dots connect to Columbine? No one really knows, but I felt the need to record some of the following hints, before they vanish from the record.

As Robert A. Hawkins goes through the Omaha mall he is shown wearing what appears to be a black tee-shirt underneath a black hooded sweatshirt ~ the Columbine death cult uniform, if you will.

"It shows Hawkins as he walks into Von Maur, wearing a stocking cap and an unzipped, blackhooded sweat shirt over a black Jack Daniels T-shirt. A design on the sweat shirt appears to be the logo that is shared by skateboarder and MTV personality Bam Margera and the Finnish alternative rock band HIM. The band played Sokol Auditorium the day before Halloween." (Source: Omaha World Herald, "Von Maur's cameras show Hawkins toting AK-47," by Lynn Safranek, December 7, 2007).

The group HIM did perform at the Sokol Auditorium in Omaha, on Tuesday, October 30, 2007, at 8:00 PM. (Source: Ticketmaster records.)

HIM is a rock band from Finland formed in 1991 by vocalist Ville Valo, guitarist Mikko Lindström, and bassist Mikko Paananen. They have released six full length albums to date. As of 2007, they are the first and only Finnish rock band to go Gold in the United States.

Apparently, the Omaha World Herald has seen on the Hawkins's sweatshirt the HIM heartagram, which is their trademarked symbol, best described as a combination of a heart and an inverted pentacle (love & hate), created by Ville Valo the day after his twentieth birthday.

"According to Ville Valo, lead vocalist for Finnish rockers HIM, 'It's very hard to sing about sunshine and ice cream and birds in fast cars.' So he doesn't even try. Instead, song titles like 'Cyanide Sun', 'Dead Lovers' Lane', and 'Song or Suicide' populate his band's latest CD, Venus Doom. The 30-year-old Valo discovered his affinity for the darker side of rock as a kid, when he heard a few bars of Blue Oyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) the Reaper' while watching John Carpenter's Halloween....[In 1999, HIM] scored a breakthrough hit in Germany with the single 'Join Me in Death'. Like 'Reaper' before it, that song drew flak from folks who believed it glamorized suicide. (Source: Music Features by Steve Newton, November 8, 2007.)

No one knows what the influence of the Finnish group HIM's music was on Robert A. Hawkins, but that, in some ways, is not the point. It reflected an insight into how he viewed the world.

Intriguingly, are there any dots that connect from this music to the Finnish school shooter Pekka-Eric Auvinen? Auvinen (a/k/a NaturalSelector89, Natural Selector, Sturmgeist89 and Sturmgeist), also wrote in his "press release" that he was using the "pseydonym Eric von Auffoin internationally."

As I point out on this blog on December 6th, the Omaha mall shooting came exactly one calendar month after the school shooting in Finland, which was exactly one calendar month after the school shooting in Cleveland, Ohio. The last three months, remarkably, therefore, have had precisely four weeks to the day between each of these dangerous Wednesdays.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen uploaded a home-made video entitled "Jokela High School Massacre - 11/7/2007" to YouTube announcing the "massacre" hours prior to the shooting. KMFDM's "Stray Bullet" was used as background music. Many of his videos were about other shootings and violent incidents, including the Columbine High School massacre, the Waco Siege, the Tokyo sarin gas attack, and bombing during the Iraq invasion.

Auvinen left a media package on Rapidshare, a hosting site, explaining his actions and his motives for the shooting. It includes details of the attack, a manifesto, his "loves & hates," some images of himself and a video of him firing a handgun. "I am prepared to fight and die for my cause," read a posting by Sturmgeist. "I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection." Sturmgeist means "storm spirit" in German. His words sound chillingly like the Omaha mall shooter and the Virginia Tech killer. It is a mindset we have grown, unfortunately, to know.

Various media outlets pointed out the similarities between and inspirations for Auvinen's actions in the Columbine shootings. Auvinen's YouTube videos included footage related to Columbine. The KMFDM track used in his video, "Stray Bullet," was also used on the website of Columbine shooter Eric Harris.

"Police said material seized from the computer of Pekka-Eric Auvinen suggests the 18-year-old communicated online with Dillon Cossey, 14, who was arrested in October [2007] for allegedly preparing a possible attack at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in suburban Philadelphia. Tipped off by a boy Cossey tried to recruit, Pennsylvania authorities searched his home last month. They found guns, swords, knives, a bomb-making book, and videos of the 1999 Columbine attack." (Source: San Jose, California, Mercury News,, November 13, 2007.)

School shooter Dillon Cossey "recognized the screen name and recalled having contact by email," said J. David Farrell, who represents Cossey, 14, of Plymouth Valley, Pennsylvania. Farrell said Cossey was "very distressed" to learn that Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, of Tuusula, Finland, had gunned down six students, a nurse and the principal at his high school, located about 30 miles north of Helsinki. Auvinen then killed himself. Cossey told Farrell that Auvinen "gave no indication he was going to do anything violent," and that Cossey "offered nothing in the way of encouragement" to pursue violence.

The teens shared an interest in a video game called "Hitman," Farrell said, adding that they may have also had a mutual obsession with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the students responsible for the Columbine massacre. (Source: "Teen charged with Plymouth plot communicated with Finnish shooter," Philadelphia Inquirer,, November 12, 2007.)

The movie Hitman based on the videogame was released on November 21, 2007. It was not a commercial success.

"Not only were Dillon Cossey and Pekka-Eric Auvinen YouTube buddies but it seems they belonged to the same pro-Columbine groups on MySpace. Police do not believe this to have been a coincidence. The two youths are thought to have made contact over two MySpace groups, 'RIP Eric and Dylan' — a reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 schoolmates at Columbine — and 'Natural Selection'." (Source: The Times, London, November 10, 2007.)

The links are there, the warning signs were all over the place, and awareness still is the key.

Am I agreeing with recent comments by a famed newsman that such things are to blame for the actions of these young men? Actually, no, for all I am pointing out are signs that seem covertly to be available for us to read. Tom Brokaw's "blame-game" is more direct, if slightly off-base in its reasoning.

In the recent interview between talk radio host Hugh Hewitt and Brokaw, the exchange occurred.

Brokaw incredibly said about Cho: "It was not what he, what people saw of him on the air that will drive them, it’s what they read in blog sites, and what they see in video games. It’s that kind of stuff that I think is cancerous."

While broadcaster Tom Brokaw blames blogs and the video games, it is time to realize that it is an incorrect decision such as made by NBC to broadcast the hate-filled video "media press release" of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung Hui, which goes to reinforce the next round of shootings. Next spring 2008 may not be a pleasant time at college campuses, as vulnerable suicidal youth prepare their media packets and plan attacks based on the celebrity of Cho.

But Brokaw appears blind to this.

HH: The Times of London noted just a couple of weeks ago after the berserk shooting in, I think it was Norway (actually it was Finland), that the pictures the man left of himself were eerily reminiscent of the Virginia Tech shooter, and raised the possibility that the NBC decision had incentivized him.

TB: Now that’s their speculation… But I can pick anything that goes on, and say that was a copycat crime of some kind… You’re really indicting a network and saying if there’s some kind of a mass murder, NBC’s going to be responsible…

HH: Does what appears on television influence people, is what we’re asking, and I think it does, quite decidedly.

TB: I think it’s not just television. What I said earlier is what we ought to be addressing, the whole fabric of the place of violence in our society…

The broadcast media spokespeople such as Brokaw have had a difficult time understanding that they are part of the problem, and not merely observers.

"I'm gonna be (expletive) famous." - Robert A. Hawkins.

The VA Tech killer didn't send his video press packet to a website or a video game company. He had it express delivered to NBC News.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Shootings Monthly Cycle

In the book, The Copycat Effect, a clear anniversary cycle is noted in well-publicized shootings, which can serve a predictive function. Often these patterns follow a monthly cycle. Currently, there is a strong indication the shootings are following that specific model.

The Omaha mall shooting came exactly one calendar month after the school shooting in Finland, which was exactly one calendar month after the school shooting in Cleveland, Ohio. The last three months, remarkably, therefore, have had precisely four weeks to the day between each of these dangerous Wednesdays.

The SuccessTech Academy shooting took place on Wednesday, October 10, 2007, at SuccessTech high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The shooter, Asa H. Coon, 14, wounded at least four people, including two teachers and two students; another student was injured fleeing from the school. He killed himself at the end of his shooting spree. He was attempting a copycat of Columbine.

The Jokela school shooting occurred on November 7, 2007, at Jokela High School (Finnish: Jokelan koulukeskus), a public secondary school in the town of Jokela, Tuusula municipality, Finland. The gunman was 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen, and the end result was nine people were dead. Auvinen was a known Columbine copycatter.

Then on Wednesday, December 5, 2007, at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, Robert A. Hawkins, 19, killed nine (counting himself). He used a hooded black sweatshirt to sneak in the AK-47 he used. It is too early to know how much inspiration he got from Columbine.

The desire to seek media attention was high in all three of these teen shooters, and they all left behind various "media packages" to be remembered.

"Now I'll be famous," wrote Robert Hawkins in the note he left behind before he went off to shoot people to death at the Omaha mall.

This, of course, sounds all too familiar, especially as the unfolding media melodrama of Virginia Tech was planned out by the shooter himself. The Columbine killers, I was not surprised to hear, were noted in the VA Tech shooter's materials. Cho Seung-hui called Columbine's Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold "martyrs."

I thought perhaps North America could have a quiet winter, but it appears that the hot zone of the Columbine-VA Tech week of April 2007 will be carried, at least with this monthly cycle, through the winter of 2007-2008.

I think the next two weeks could be a vulnerable time for those that wish to copycat the routine pre-Christmas pattern of shootings that is beginning to develop at malls and other group settings in this country. These events are rare, true indeed, but everyone should walk into group situations with their eyes wide open.

Also, look to the spring of 2008 to be dangerous, with some attention and awareness to large gathering spots like school/university cafes and mall food courts, from late March into April, until early May 2008.

Contact the authorities if you know of anyone talking about such attacks, even jokingly, and heighten your own level of alertness.

Mall Shootings

SWAT teams were able to respond quickly to Omaha's Westroads Mall shooting because they were on high alert due to President Bush's quiet visit to the Nebraska city.

President George W. Bush was in Omaha, Nebraska, on the morning of December 5, 2007. While in Omaha, Bush visited the OneWorld Community Health Centers, a clinic that provides medical, dental and nutritional aid. However, Bush was mainly in Omaha to support candidate Mike Johanns for the United States Senate. The Johanns fundraiser was held at the large estate of billionaire businessman and philanthropist Walter Scott Jr. It was closed to the media. Soon after Bush departed, a mall shooting occurred at a mall in the city.

The Westroads Mall shooting occurred on December 5, 2007, beginning at 1:42 p.m. (local time) at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska. The main location of the shooting happened at the Von Maur customer service desk.

The gunman was identified as Robert A. Hawkins, 19, who was armed with an SKS assault rifle. Hawkins dropped out of Papillion-La Vista High School two years ago.

Hawkins stated in a suicide note that he wanted to "go out in style." It is reported there were nine fatalities (two customers and six employees) including Hawkins who reportedly took his own life. Five other people were injured, two of them remained in critical condition on December 6.

Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren reported that video showed Hawkins was hiding something in a black sweatshirt as he entered the mall. Warren speculated that at least 30 rounds were fired from an AK-47 rifle, which was stolen from Hawkins' stepfather. Warren said the gun had two 30-round magazines with the ability to fire off rounds quickly.

Hawkins apparently left two suicide notes and a will, prompting Warren to call the shootings premeditated. The chief said people may never know why he went on a rampage, and that the victims were chosen randomly. He said it also appears the mall was picked because it's a large public place where Hawkins could get a lot of attention.

It was the deadliest shooting spree in the state of Nebraska since a rampage by Charles Starkweather in 1958, who is usually described as a "mass murderer."

The Omaha shooting was one of several shootings at a mall or shopping center so far in 2007.

November 2007: Two people were wounded after a gunman fired several rounds at a mall in Douglasville, Georgia, near Atlanta. Police say that case was an attempted robbery.

June 2007: Two employees were killed in the Greenbriar Mall, Atlanta, Georgia, parking lot. The shooter later killed himself.

April 2007: David Logsdon, 51, stormed the Ward Parkway Center parking lot in Kansas City, Missouri, killing three and injuring 7, on April 29. He was shot and killed by police.

Feburary 2007: 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.

Christmas Eve 2006: Jesse Cesar, 21, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in a fatal Christmas Eve gang shooting at a St. Petersburg, Fla., mall that sent shoppers running for cover. Cesar was accused of firing the shots that killed Berno Charlemond, 23, and of shooting at authorities, according to the arrest report. No one else was injured. (Source: St. Petersburg Times)

December 2006: Gunfire at Eastland Mall in Charlotte, N.C., sent Christmas shoppers ducking for cover and left one man shot in the neck. The shooting erupted in the busy mall about 8:15 p.m., after an argument between two groups of men. Investigators believe four shots were fired from two guns. One struck a 27-year-old man in the base of his neck, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. The man had been involved in the argument. (Source: Charlotte Observer)

September 2006: Gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the Mall of Georgia after five suspected shoplifters fled a department store.

November 2005: The Tacoma Mall shooting occurred on November 20, 2005 at the Tacoma Mall in Tacoma, Washington. The gunman, Dominick Maldonado, entered the mall with a semi-automatic Norinco MAK-90 rifle and a pistol and instigated four armed kidnappings. Six people were injured but no deaths resulted.

September 2005: A gunman shot a security guard to death inside the Mall West End and made off with a bag filled with thousands of dollars in cash.

Februray 2005: At the Hudson Valley Mall, Kingston, New York, on February 13, 2005, Robert Bonelli of Glasco, New York, entered with a replica of an AK47 and began firing his weapon inside the Best Buy located at the mall. Bonelli, age 24, caused a panic as employees and shoppers began to flee the mall. The mall was evacuated and Bonelli was taken into custody. No one was killed in the shoot-out and only two people (a National Guard recruiter and a 56 year old man) were wounded with one making a full recovery and the other still facing limitations today. Ulster County investigators searched Bonelli's room at the home he shared with his father, and found what Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams described as "Columbine memorabilia". Officials described the young man as being fascinated by the Columbine High School massacre.

December 2004: Holiday shopping turned deadly when two men were shot - one fatally - inside of their car in the Quail Springs Mall parking lot, police said. Police received several 911 calls about 11:40 a.m. reporting that shots had been fired in the parking lot and that both victims had fallen out of their white Oldsmobile and onto the lot. Police said they did not believe Christmas shoppers were targeted. (Source: The Daily Oklahoman)

December 2004: A Boston boy in his early teens was shot in the stomach just outside the Cambridgeside Galleria's east entrance as hundreds of holiday shoppers packed the mall, police said. The shooting, which frightened shoppers, neighbors, and mall employees, was the third inside or just outside the mall in less than a decade. (Source: The Boston Globe)

December 2003: A shooting inside the Caribbean's largest shopping mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico, wounded one man and created panic during the height of the Christmas season. Thousands of shoppers were in Plaza Las Americas mall when a man fired at Manuel Villanueva Carrasquillo in front of the Sears store, police said. They were unsure of the motive. Villanueva was in stable condition at a hospital with two gunshot wounds to the neck and chest, police said. (Source: Orlando Sentinel)

December 2001: A fatal shooting outside Owings Mills mall prompted questions yesterday about mall security and whether the incident would scare off shoppers during the last week of the crucial Christmas shopping season. But some shoppers said the violence, which appeared unrelated to any mall activity, would not force them to change their habits. (Source: The Baltimore Sun)

Christmas Eve 1999: A former Roxbury man was convicted of fatally shooting a 20-year-old Roslindale man at the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall on Christmas Eve was sentenced to 15 to 18 years in state prison for the slaying, authorities reported. The shooting occurred in the parking garage in front of stunned shoppers who were streaming out of the mall with packages and bags. (Source: The Boston Globe)

February 1993: Three people were wounded in a shooting at Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America in a dispute over a jacket.

December 1993: David Mack Flinn fatally shot two people and injured three in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Hugo, Okla.

April 1987: William B. Cruse gunned down six and wounded ten at a Winn-Divis supermarket in Palm Bay Florida.

October 1985: Sylvia Seegrist, 25, dressed in combat gear and firing a semiautomatic rifle, killed three and injured seven at Springfield Mall in Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Finland Shooting's Columbine Links

The Finland school shooter of November 2007 exhibited several ties to Columbine and other recent school shooters. Hauntingly, the Finland shooting came exactly one calendar month after the school shooting in Cleveland, Ohio, four weeks to the day of another dangerous Wednesday.

The SuccessTech Academy shooting took place on Wednesday, October 10, 2007, at SuccessTech high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The shooter, Asa H. Coon, wounded at least four people, including two teachers and two students; another student was injured fleeing from the school.

The Jokela school shooting occurred on November 7, 2007 at Jokela High School (Finnish: Jokelan koulukeskus), a public secondary school in the town of Jokela, Tuusula municipality, Finland. The gunman was 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

The incident resulted in the deaths of nine people: five male students (ages 16-18) and one female adult student (age 25); the school principal, Helena Kalmi (age 61); the school nurse (age 43); and Auvinen himself, who was also one of the school's students. One other person suffered gunshot wounds, and eleven people were injured by shattering glass while escaping from the school building. The day before the incident, Auvinen posted a video on YouTube predicting the massacre at the school.

This was the second time that a school shooting occurred in Finland. The previous incident occurred in 1989 at the Raumanmeri school in Rauma, when a 14-year-old fatally shot two fellow students.

At approximately 11:44 local time (09:44 UTC) gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen fired his first shot. Most victims were found in the entrance hallway of the school. At 11:44, following the first shot, school principal Helena Kalmi had ordered all students and teachers to barricade themselves in their classrooms. Instead of doing this herself, the principal placed herself in the way of the gunman and tried to compel him to surrender. Watching from their classroom window, they saw Kalmi first fleeing the attacker, but later she went back. She was shot seven times in front of a group of ninth graders (last grade in junior highschool) in the school yard. Later the school nurse, 43, tried to help injured students, but Auvinen shot her too.

The gunman then began walking around the school, knocking and pounding on classroom doors, then firing through the doors and shooting people at random. He shouted orders at some of the students, proclaimed revolution, and urged the students to destroy school property. Witnesses described a scene of mayhem at the school in this lakeside community, saying the shooter prowled the building looking for victims while shouting slogans for “revolution.” He pointed his gun at some people whom he did not shoot. The victims had sustained multiple injuries to the upper body and head.

A police patrol arrived at 11:55, followed later by some hundred police officers, including the Karhuryhmä special operations unit, and even off-duty police officers arrived and surrounded the school. When the police tried to start negotiations the gunman answered by firing a shot at the police at 12:04 local time. No officers were hit.

The attack ended after 40 minutes when Auvinen turned the gun on himself, inflicting an ultimately fatal wound to his head. He was found in a school toilet still alive but unconscious at 13.53 local time. However, the police, as a precaution in case of other gunmen, were not able to secure the building until before 16:00. The police officers did not open fire at any time.

Auvinen was taken to the Töölö Hospital of the Helsinki University Central Hospital at 14:45, but died the same evening at 22:15 from his injuries.


Auvinen had received his licence to own a gun three weeks before the school shootings. He was a registered member of the firing range at the Helsinki Shooting Club. A spokesman for the club revealed that Auvinen had only ever attended a one-hour training session.

The weapon, which has been described by the media as a "small-calibre handgun", was a SIG Mosquito .22 calibre pistol that had been legally obtained and registered to Auvinen on October 19, 2007. He had been given the licence since he was a member of a local shooting club and had no previous criminal record.

In Finland the police usually require a shooting hobby to begin with a .22 calibre weapon. The police cannot mandate that sports shooting should take place in a club, or even in any kind of company; in the case of relatively low risk weapons, the permit decision can be based entirely on information provided by the applicant. Membership in a shooting club is nevertheless considered a risk control. Auvinen himself wanted to buy a more powerful Beretta 9 mm pistol, but the application was rejected by police.

Auvinen described himself as "a cynical existentialist, antihuman humanist, antisocial socialdarwinist[sic], realistic idealist and godlike atheist" on his YouTube user page Sturmgeist89. In the investigation by the police it was confirmed that he had been a victim of school bullying for years.

According to one of his teachers, he was above average academically, and took an interest in history, philosophy and both extreme right and left wing movements.

The Auvinen family lives in Jokela. The family comprises a father, who is a part-time musician, a mother who was a deputy member of the Tuusula municipal council, and an 11 year old brother.

Movies and writings

Pekka-Eric Auvinen uploaded a home-made movie entitled "Jokela High School Massacre - 11/7/2007" to YouTube announcing the "massacre" hours prior to the shooting. KMFDM's "Stray Bullet" was used as background music. Movies of him shooting his new gun had been uploaded weeks prior to the shooting. One video, titled “Jokela High School Massacre,” showed a picture of what appeared to be the Jokela school and two photos of a young man holding a handgun. Electronic music played in the background with a growling voice singing “I am your apocalypse.”

Another video clip showed a young man clad in a dark jacket loading a clip into a handgun and firing several shots at an apple placed on the ground in a wooded area. He smiled and waved to the camera at the end of the clip.

A third clip showed photos of what appeared to be same man posing with a gun and wearing a T-shirt with the text “Humanity is overrated.”

Several hours after the event, YouTube suspended some videos belonging to the username Sturmgeist89 due to relations with the shootings. This may very well be a reference to KMFDM, as Sturm had been a member of the band. Dylan Klebold, and Eric Harris (Columbine's shooters, were also KMFDM fans and Eric wore a KMFDM hat during the shooting) may have idolized by him. His previous YouTube account name was "naturalselector89", which he used from March until it was suspended in October. Many of his videos were about other shootings and violent incidents, including the Columbine High School massacre, the Waco Siege, the Tokyo sarin gas attack, and bombing during the Iraq invasion.

According to his YouTube profile, his interests were natural selection and hate for humanity. This is also reminiscent of Harris and Klebold. He did not want anything or anyone to be blamed for the shooting, and had planned it "in [his] own head".

He left a media package on Rapidshare, a hosting site, explaining his actions and his motives for the shooting. It includes details of the attack, a manifesto, his "loves & hates", some images of himself and a video of him firing a handgun. "I am prepared to fight and die for my cause," read a posting by Sturmgeist. "I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection."

Sturmgeist means "Stormspirit" in German, and was the YouTube username of the Tuusula killer.

Police said Auvinen left a suicide note, “saying goodbye to his family and a message ... indicating his will against society.” They said he appeared bent on causing maximum bloodshed as he opened fire inside Jokela High School in Tuusula, about 30 miles north of Helsinki.

Police said they also seized books and other printed material that suggested Auvinen had “radical thoughts” and was planning an attack, Haapala said.

Investigators believe Auvinen revealed plans for the attack in postings on YouTube in which he urges revolution and grins after taking target practice.

One posting called for a popular uprising against “the enslaving, corrupted and totalitarian regimes” and appeared to anticipate a violent attack.

Several newspapers suggested similarities between and inspirations for Auvinen's actions in the Columbine shootings. Auvinen's YouTube videos included footage related to Columbine. The KMFDM track used in his video, "Stray Bullet", was also used on the website of Columbine shooter Eric Harris.

Criminal investigation

The police found 76 shells and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at the scene. Flammable liquid was found poured on the walls and floors of the second floor, suggesting Auvinen had attempted to set the school on fire. They also found Auvinen's suicide note and have begun analysing his Internet postings.

Spokesman for the cyber crime department of Helsinki police has stated that "it's highly probable that there was some form of contact between Pekka-Eric Auvinen and Dillon Cossey." The 14-year-old Cossey was arrested in October 2007 on suspicion of planning an attack on his school in a suburb of Philadelphia.

Copycat effect

A few copycat incidents occurred in the wake of the Finland shootings.

On November 9, 2007, the Finnish police rushed to three schools due to threats of attacks posted on the Internet. One of the schools was in Tuusula and the others in Kirkkonummi and Maaninka. The 16-year-old boy who posted a video titled "Maaninka massacre" on YouTube was arrested on November 11. The suspect has stated that the video was a joke.

Some three weeks after the Jokela shootings, the Finnish police, flooded with hoax threats, made a public plea for threats against schools to cease. The police reminded prospective perpetrators of severe judicial consequences as well as of the feelings of the families touched by the Jokela events.

In neighbouring Sweden, two boys, aged 16 and 17, allegedly inspired by the school shooting in Finland, were arrested in Stockholm on November 9, 2007, for conspiring to murder their school's principal and janitor. According to the principal, "they had spoken about and glorified Columbine High and what happened in Finland."

The boys, 16 and 17, were arrested in Stockholm after police received information that they were planning murder, Karin Solberg, a police spokeswoman said. One of them was also suspected of making threats.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cleveland's Coon: A Columbine Copycat

The Cleveland school shooter Asa H. Coon was Caucasian. He was a "death Goth" Columbine copycat in a trenchcoat.

You won't read or hear about that too many other places. I've not seen one photograph of the shooter anywhere on the web in the 24 hours since he tried to kill his teachers and fellow students, then ended his own life.

Buried in a Yahoo News story on October 11, 2007, you will find his one line:

"Coon, who was white, stood out in the predominantly black school for dressing in a goth style, wearing a black trench coat, black boots, a dog collar and chains...."

Is it important? I think so. It is not about "causes" and "blaming." It is about understanding the evolution and changing landscape of school shootings.

School shootings follow predictable patterns, and this one was no different. Coon was suspended, and was a suicidal young man, full of rage, ready to go off. This is common.

On October 10, 2007, Asa Coon, a 14-year-old student at SuccessTech Academy high school in Cleveland, Ohio shot four people, including two teachers and two students. Coon had been suspended for fighting two days previously, and returned on October 10 with a .22- caliber revolver and .38-caliber revolver shooting. He had a duffel bag filled with ammo and three knives. (SuccessTech is a 250 mostly African American student specialized school that concentrates on math and technology, funded by a Gates Foundation grant.)

The four shooting victims who were seriously injured (none died) are identified as:

Michael Peek, 15, shot in the left side;
Darnell Rodgers, 17, wounded in the elbow;
Michael Grassie, 42, shot in the chest; and
David Kachadourian, 57, shot in the back.

Teachers Kachadourian and Grassie, as well as 15-year-old Peek, remained hospitalized in stable condition on October 11, 2007. Additionally, a 15-year-old girl sustained a knee injury while fleeing.

Coon killed himself.

Reports of Coon being in and out of mental health treatment, slapping his mother in 2000, and being a twin are in the news. That his 19 year old brother was arrested the day after the shooting is inexplicable, so far. Digital video recordings of mass confusion in the halls are being playing unedited on Fox News. Other cable channels are mixing in the Cleveland shooting with Iraq and politics, the day after. At least, the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs haven't been mentioned as being a factor. But thoughtful analysis is lacking and understanding is hardly there.

I've written in recent years of the diverse and ethnic underpinnings that must be acknowledged in these school shootings, and the shifting trend from white rural to white suburban to more ethnicities taking on the mantle of Columbine, over and above their own cultural background. This school shooting cries out for further analysis on that level too.

The shooter had a name that hardly can be ignored, and must have been a burden to carry. "Coon" is an insulting term for a black person. "Coon" is known as a derogatory term for African Americans, and is similar to the n-word. Its origins are traced back to a shortened form of the word "raccoon," used in reference to the animal. The black eye masks and noctural habits of the animal paralleled the characteristics of typical robbers and thiefs. The stereotype was then applied to black people. It was used extensively in the South, but then followed blacks into the Northern urban areas where they settled.

This young man named Coon was a white student living alone with a Goth Columbine mentality among AfricanAmericans. He is said to have liked Marilyn Manson versus God. Allegedly, the fight that resulted in his suspension was related to an argument about his Devil worship. Simplistic ways to describe a life, I know, but that is what you get from the media after a shooting.

No one that was shot was killed, other than the shooter. One hundred percentage of educationally-based school shooters are suicidal. Are we surprised this young male walked into the lion's den the way he did?

The media has grabbed this shooting with a second tier fantastic overkill they did with the Virginia Tech killings of 32 + 1 (i.e. the Korean-American Columbine copycat shooter). The news about Coon will last out the week, to be replaced by other news, while the wait is now for the next shooter.

The fingerprints of the copycat effect are all over this shooting. Beside the long-term behavior contagion from the Trenchcoat Mafia of Littleton, there's the short-term media effect of other recent shooting rampages.

On September 21st, two 17-year-old students were wounded when they were shot by a gunman at Delaware State University. Delaware State is a historically black college established in 1891. It was an atypical "school shooting."

Over this last weekend, on Sunday, a "school shooting" occurred in every detail but the fact it wasn't in a school. On October 7, 2007, Crandon, Wisconsin's Tyler Peterson, an employee of the Forest County Sheriff's Department and a part-time officer for the Crandon Police Department, shot seven people, wounding one and killing six in the town. The supposed reason was a broken relationship and the fact he was belittled. The dead ranged in age from 14 to 20 years old. All were current or former Crandon High School students. Peterson killed himself.

When school shootings begin to increase their frequency, so do workplace rampages. Suicidal people are triggered, forgive the pun, by these events. In Alexandria, Louisiana, on Friday, October 5, police shot and killed a man who shot five people in a downtown law office, killing two of them. On Tuesday, October 9th, two people were killed and two were in critical condition after a shooting at a tire store in Simi Valley, California, northwest of Los Angeles. The gunman was also dead.

"Suicide by cop" is merely another form of suicide.

Then, in the scheme of things, Asa Coon, with black trenchcoat, having told people what he was going to do, with black-painted fingernails, walked into the darkness. He found a way into the school, undetected, decided to go into a bathroom, changed his outfit apparently, and came out with guns in his hands, to kill. His suicidal rage ended in only his death, but it may push someone, somewhere over the edge in its wake to kill others. Perhaps even another Columbine cult copycat.

The fall of 2005 had several of the nine school-related incidents that got widespread media attention. People especially remember Montreal's Dawson College shootings (an Indian Sikh-Canadian Columbine copycat) and the Amish School killings. Then in the spring of 2006, other school shooting events preceded the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16th.

The "warm" fall, "cold" winter, and "hot" spring pattern may be at our doorsteps again for 2007-2008, in a shifting sea of culturally diverse shootings that may surprise even the seasoned law enforcers and newspeople.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bomb Threat Copycats

The Daily Pennsylvanian has published an article on September 5, 2007, written by Katie Karas on the wave of bomb threats that are sweeping across the United States. Is copycatting behind what is occurring?

The bomb threats have been received for three months, but in a concentrated fashion between August 24th and 27th, and in the days afterward. Media this week are reporting that 13 colleges and universities have been the targets of the threats. I've tracked more than 13, including Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middle Tennessee State University, Princeton University, Cornell University, University of Iowa, University of New Hampshire, University of Alaska at Anchorage, Oregon State University, University of Akron, Clemson University, Western Illinois University, William & Mary College, Clarkson University, and Swarthmore College. There are probably several others.

This comes during a time when threats and extortion attempts against U.S. stores, banks, and businesses continue with more bomb threats being called in nearly every day, according to U.S. officials and the FBI. By last count yesterday, at least 24 threats have been received by businesses in more than 17 states.

The university bomb threat itself doesn’t mention any college by name, and lists the sender of the e-mail as George, an Italian Web site. No bomb has been found in any situation, and the threat has been considered a hoax in each case.

I mentioned to Karas that in the cyclic nature of school shootings, there are often waves of bomb threats occurring afterward. For example, during the month after Columbine, over 400 false bomb threats were reported, mostly in high schools, across the United States. If this current wave is any indication of what is going to present itself in the wake of the Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia) shootings of April 16, 2007, we all may have to be prepared for a busy fall and spring on the campuses of the nation.

The following is the text of the Karas' article:

Over a dozen American universities received bomb threats within the past ten days, though no explosives were found at any of the threatened sites.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is still examining the apparent hoaxes.

"We're working with the college and university police and the local police to investigate these matters," FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said. "Due to today's world, none of these threats can be taken lightly."

Schools have been especially on edge since last April's shootings at Virginia Tech, and many universities - including Penn - have instituted emergency alert systems in the event of a scare.

The Massachusetts Instiute of Technology and Princeton, Cornell and Carnegie Mellon universities were among the campuses targeted.

Kolko declined to comment on whether the FBI thought the threats could be related.

It is not unusual for so many threats to be received in such a short period of time, said Loren Coleman, the author of The Copycat Effect.

"I think what we generally find is there are waves of these situations where copycats do occur, and they come in clusters," Coleman said.

Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush said Penn rarely receives bomb threats.

The last one occurred last fall, when certain buildings of the Quadrangle were evacuated while police specialists responded to a bomb threat in the SEPTA line that runs underneath the area.

In the case of a threat, Rush said, building administrators and the police would be notified by PennComm, and police would then determine the level of threat and decide the appropriate course of action.

"We always err on the side of caution," Rush said, "but we try not to be trigger happy."

Police and security forces responded to the recent threats by sweeping certain buildings and sometimes evacuating them, though many of the threats did not specify which buildings were being targeted.

At M.I.T., for instance, the threat received did not mention any specific location on campus.

Officials at Princeton said the number of threats actually allayed their fears.

"After learning that there were other universities [that received threats, it] actually reinforced in our minds that it was not a credible threat," Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said.

Mario Scalora, a professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert on threat assessment, agrees that in many cases the threats are not worthy of a full-fledged response.

"If someone really wants to hurt you, they're not going to tell you in advance," he noted. "You take them all seriously because the threat still could materialize, but you have to take a bigger-picture look at things."

But with the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching, Scalora suspects that the flow of hoaxes will not abate anytime soon.

Source: "Several universities receive bomb threats: Princeton, Cornell, others threatened, but safety officials find no explosives," by Katie Karas, The Daily Pennsylvanian, September 5, 2007.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Snow Closes Colleges: Why Not Shootings?

Universities close down schools all the time. They do it on "snow days." The VA Tech Report is in and you should be upset.

To say that a widespread message to the college community is difficult to broadcast, far and wide, is a mistruth. I find it incredible that there seems to be some kind of gray area in the current "school shootings prevention" debate about whether or not colleges have any control over the ebb and flow of information to their students, staff, and professors.

The Virginia Tech report was released late on the evening of August 29, 2007, as the new college and university academic year begins anew across North America.

"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference ... so the earlier and clearer the warning, the more chance an individual had of surviving," said the report.

The eight-member panel, appointed by the Virginia governor, Timothy Kaine, said the Virginia Tech police "erred" in not issuing a campus-wide alert after the first killings, urging all students and staff to be cautious.

No kidding!

"Senior university administrators, acting as the emergency policy group, failed to issue an all-campus notification about the WAJ killings until almost two hours had elapsed. University practice may have conflicted with written policies," the report said.

However, we are told by the report that a lockdown of the campus could not have stopped the mass shootings. "There does not seem to be a plausible scenario of university response to the double homicide that could have prevented a tragedy of considerable magnitude on April 16," it said. "Cho had started on a mission of fulfilling a fantasy of revenge."

Frankly that last paragraph sounds like a psychological cop-out. It reminds me of the "lone nut" posturing that occurs after a presidential assassination when we hear that "he was so insane that if he really wanted to kill the president, he was going to find a way." Useless words employed to relieve someone's guilt.

If there is a shooting in one part of the campus, in the age of Columbine, I find it unbelievable nothng is done immediately. At VA Tech, the two hours of inactivity were unexcusable. No two ways about it.

I'll say it again: "Snow days" close campuses at the drop of a hat, all the time. Email messages are sent out, information phone messages are changed, messages are written on chalkboards, printed sheets are posted on glass windowed doors, and other methods to get the word out are used. A college campus can look like a desert in 15 minutes after a "snow day" is declared. Give college students a chance to sleep in, and they will. Tell professors they can stay at home or in their offices to catch up on their research, their correspondence, and their papers to grade, and they will. Let campus security and local law enforcement officers do their jobs, and close the campus. Keep people safe.

From the beginning, this whole lame excuse that the community of 35,000 people at VA Tech was "too large" to notify has never flown true in my mind. I've worked as an instructor, associate professor, visiting professor, and fulltime research staff at a half dozen New England colleges and universities for over two decades. I've never seen a situation where a "snow day" notification wasn't almost instantly communicated throughout a wide area encompassing commuter and residential students.

Sorry, I don't buy what happened at VA Tech. The lapse in notification at VA Tech should not have happened. There is no excuse not to close down campuses, if there is any hint of a wider event occurring.

Frankly, for all educational institutions to also ignore the impact of the copycat effect on other potential school shootings is part of what must be considered. The VA Tech incidents happened in a predictable pattern, for God's sake, during the temporal window of intense predictable activity I had shared widely that would be occurring around the anniversary time of Columbine.

It does not surprise me what has been revealed in this report about the VA Tech's shooter's initimate relationship with Columbine.

In 1999, following the Columbine shootings, Seung-Hui Cho's schoolteachers observed suicidal and homicidal themes in his writings and recommended psychiatric counseling, which he alleged received. He also received medication for a short time.

Privacy laws do not apply if there is danger to others or the person who may kill or harm himself or herself. When will universities receiving new students with a history such as Cho's be notified of their incoming new members' dangerous pasts?

The panel was critical of the university for failing to pick up the various alarm signals about Cho's mental state.

"During Cho's junior year at Virginia Tech, numerous incidents occurred that were clear warnings of mental instability," the report said.

"Although various individuals and departments within the university knew about each of these incidents, the university did not intervene effectively. No one knew all the information and no one connected all the dots."

Start connecting the dots, folks. Look more broadly than your own campus. I did. I predicted a "Columbine" with a bigger body count (which today we would call a "VA Tech") would take place during the week it did. Who at VA Tech was listening?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

McDonald's & Luby's

Called the "San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre," the mass shooting incident resulted in 21 deaths and 15 injuries at a McDonald's restaurant in the San Ysidro section of San Diego, California, on Wednesday, July 18, 1984. The "rampage murders" were carried out by James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old former welder from Canton, Ohio. In January 1984, Huberty had moved to San Ysidro with his wife and children, where he worked as a security guard until his dismissal one week prior to the mass shootings.

Despite the media at the time telling us that Huberty used a 9mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action twelve-gauge shotgun, and a 9mm Browning HP in the restaurant, to kill 21 people and wound 19 others, such details didn't change the gun laws; instead they created immediate and long-term copycats.

Huberty's victims were predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American and ranged in age from 8 months to 74 years. The massacre began at 4 p.m. and lasted for 77 minutes. Huberty had spent 257 rounds of ammunition before he was fatally shot by Chuck Foster, a SWAT team sniper perched on the roof of a nearby post office.

Now in 2007, we see a seemingly coincidental mirror of this July 18th date has surfaced in a situation in which a McDonald's employee died after being shot at a drive-through window.

On Wednesday, July 18, 2007, Shawnee M. Koch, 40, of Reading, Pennsylvania, an assistant manager at a McDonald's restaurant was shot in the head while working at the drive-through window, and later died at a hospital.

Koch was the second person to be shot dead while working in the drive-through window of the McDonald's restaurant at Ninth and Spring streets in Reading, Pennsylvania. The previous one was a man killed in 2004.

No suspect has been identified or caught. Sgt. Guy S. Lehman said: "It doesn't appear there was any dialogue between the two. She was standing at the cash register, the car pulled up and 'bam.'"

The copycat effect regarding the case of San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre and the Luby's Cafeteria Massacre has been discovered to be rather apparent and clear.

On October 16, 1991, George Hennard drove a 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck into Killeen, Bell County, Texas’ Luby's Cafeteria. He jumped out and screamed: “This is what Bell County has done to me!”

Hennard shouted this while opening fire with a Glock 17 and then a Ruger P89, shooting to death 23 people, and finally killing himself with a shoot to his head. At the time, this was the worst mass murder in US history, only to be surpassed by the Virginia Tech shootings of April 16, 2007.

On Hennard's dead body police found a ticket for The Fisher King, a 1991 Robin Williams movie. The film stars Jeff Bridges as a shock radio DJ Jack Lucas, who has a fan that takes the character Lucas's rants literally and goes to a restaurant with a gun, murdering guiltless diners. The motion picture’s massacre resembles the one carried out by Hennard.

Before George Hennard crashed his truck into Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, on October 16, 1991, he had watched a documentary (on videotape) at his home about a similar mass murderer, James Huberty, who killed 21 people at the San Ysidro California McDonald's on July 18, 1984. Some reports indicate Huberty viewed the tape several times.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dark Days of May

What has May shown us before, as far as shootings tied to specific dates? Is there a reflective copycat effect in store for this May?

As opposed to the usual listing of school shootings and community violence incidents by years, I have reshuffled this chronology by type and by calendar date – in order - regardless of what year.

It is a myth that more suicides occur in December. The number one month for suicides in North America is May, for all ages.

One hundred percent of the school shooters are suicidal, and their rampages issue from their suicidal states of being. Homicide is suicide turned outward. These suicidal-homicidal rages must be viewed thusly to give some insights into what the projected plans for most are - to end in suicide or suicide-by-cop.

Look at the data below. An interesting pattern revolves around the 19th through the 21st of May. What anniversary syndrome may be at work for this coming week?

After Columbine, exactly a month to the day, the Conyers, Georgia, incident occurred. Will the cult of Columbine continue forth into this month? What will the temporal-twilight-language dates be for this May, in the wake of the VA Tech massacre? What copycats will happen from May 16th through May 21st?

Here are the listings for May:

Type of Event | Date | Location | Total Dead (# Suicide) Others Wounded

Key = GP (going postal situation), SN (school rampage by non-student), SS (school shooting), FR (other fatal rampage), W (total others wounded). Please note the “Total Dead” includes those that have died by suicide by their own hand or by suicide-by-cop, in the cumulative number.

“Going Postal” situations

GP | May 6, 1993 | post office, Dearborn, MI | 2 (1) W 2
GP | May 6, 1993 | post office, Dana Point, CA | 2 (0) W 4
GP | May 9, 1989 | post office, Boston, MA | 1 (0) W 0
GP | May 31, 1985 | post office, New York City, NY | 0 (0) W 1

“Fatal Rampages”

FR | May 24, 2000 | Wendy's Restaurant, Queens, NY | 5 (0) W 2

“School Shootings”

SN | May 1, 1992 | Lindhurst H. S., Olivehurst, CA | 4 (0) W 10
SN | May 13, 2003 | Case Western Res. U., Cleveland, OH | 1 (0) W1
SN | May 18, 1927 | elementary school, Bath, MI | 45 (1) W 58
SS | May 19, 1998 | Lincoln Co. H. S., Fayetteville, TN | 1 (0) W 0
SN | May 20, 1988 | elementary school, Winnetka, IL | 2 (1) W 6
SS | May 20, 1999 | Heritage H. S., Conyers, GA | 0 (0) W 6
SS | May 21, 1998 | Thurston H. S., Springfield, OR | 4 (0) W 26
SS | May 21, 1998 | high school bus, Onalaska, WA | 1 (1) W 0
SS | May 21, 1998 | high school, suburban Houston, TX | 0 (0) W 1
SS | May 26, 1994 | family + Ryle High School, Union, KY | 4 (0) W 0
SS | May 26, 2000 | Lake Worth M. S., Lake Worth, FL | 1 (0) W 0

Sunday, May 13, 2007

TV Violence Researcher Dies

The New York Times published an obituary, "Leonard Eron, 87, Is Dead; Researcher on TV’s Tie to Violent Conduct" by Jeremy Pearce on May 12, 2007.

Here is an excerpt:

Leonard D. Eron, a psychologist whose pioneering studies of youth violence led him to conclude that television had a significant role in prompting destructive behavior in later life, died on May 3 at his home in Lindenhurst, Ill., near Chicago He was 87.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his family said.

In 1960, Dr. Eron (pronounced EE-rahn) began a long-term study of aggression in more than 800 children living in upstate New York. With two other clinical psychologists, Monroe M. Lefkowitz and Leopold O. Walder, and additional researchers, he interviewed 8-year-old children and their parents, evaluating behavior and opening a database to follow the children into adulthood. That work, which continues, became known as the Columbia County Longitudinal Study.

Rather than relying on asking the children about their own habits, Dr. Eron and his colleagues questioned their peers and asked them about threats, pushing and other violent tendencies. They also interviewed parents about the television programs most often watched by their children, and rated the programs for their level of violence.

The Columbia County subjects were studied again in 1970, 1980 and 2000 (the most recent results followed 61 percent of the original participants), and the researchers found a correlation between the viewing of violent television shows in youth and the expression of violence in adulthood, in terms of criminal records and other measurements.

“Television has great teaching potential,” Dr. Eron told The New York Times in 1993. “It’s just been teaching the wrong things.”

Dr. Eron and his collaborators also identified violent parents as another important factor in the development of overly aggressive children, and found that a long-term association between early exposure to violence, whichever the source, and aggression in later life held true for both sexes.

The study’s findings have been widely cited, and though some critics pointed out that he had limited data on some of the long-term outcomes, Dr. Eron became a recognized voice on the subject. He was president of the International Society for Research on Aggression from 1989 to 1991, testified before Congress on youth violence in 1992 and was co-editor of an influential 1986 research report, “Television and the Aggressive Child: A Cross-National Comparison.”

L. Rowell Huesmann, a professor of communication studies and psychology at the University of Michigan, said Dr. Eron had became interested in ways to mitigate violence and the harmful effects of television. In the 1980s and ’90s, he helped prepare school programs in Chicago, neighboring Oak Park and other cities to counsel children about how to deal with violent images. He also advised teachers and parents about the usefulness of encouraging positive behavior in students without placing undue emphasis on punishment for unwanted behavior.

Jeremy Pearce, "Leonard Eron, 87, Is Dead; Researcher on TV’s Tie to Violent Conduct," New York Times, May 12, 2007.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Scientist on Copycats

The New Scientist magazine published on May 9, 2007, an article by Michael Bond entitled "Can media coverage of suicides inspire copycats?"

The opening paragraphs of this treatment reviewed the recent thoughts on the matter after the Virginia Tech shootings. (The publication employed the incorrect spelling of "Cho Seung-hui." The family has been clear that they use the Americanized version of the name, "Seung-Hui Cho.")

The article says, in part;

On 28 April, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, Pedro Ruiz, did what many of its members wish he had done earlier. He wrote an open letter to the news media asking editors to stop airing photos, video clips and writings of Cho Seung-hui, the student who killed 32 people and then himself at the Virginia Tech campus on 16 April. Ruiz warned that the publicity would inspire copycat suicides and killings.

Sounds far-fetched? It isn't. There is compelling evidence that extensive media coverage of a suicide is followed by an increase in the number of people taking their lives the same way. This pattern has been observed across the world. In a report released in 2000, the World Health Organization warned that repeated coverage of suicides tends to encourage suicidal preoccupations, particularly among young people.

What especially concerns the APA is that the effect applies equally to suicides that are preceded by mass murder. In the months after teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed a teacher, 12 students and themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999, police received reports of hundreds of related incidents, including bomb threats and shootings. Students mimicked the killers' behaviour and style of dress, and praised them on the internet.

Cho himself invoked the Columbine killers before his murder spree, hailing them as "martyrs" in the video he sent to the NBC television network. Loren Coleman, who researches suicides and school violence and has written on "suicide contagion" in his 2003 book The Copycat Effect and elsewhere, claims the unrestrained media coverage of the Virginia Tech killings has made a repeat incident very likely. "Publicity about a celebrity murder and murder-suicide serves as the spark to send a vulnerable, questioning, suicidal person in one of many directions," he says.

The APA president in his letter said the media has a responsibility to limit the power of tragedies to trigger copycat acts by "choosing not to sensationalise them". He has a battle on his hands. Attempts to limit freedom to publish on such matters tend to be shouted down, mainly by the press itself, as undemocratic or dangerous. Yet with suicides and violence, it is clear that the media can have a dangerous effect on behaviour. To publish or broadcast unrestrainedly in the face of such strong scientific evidence now seems reckless. Even pictures like the one of Cho published in New Scientist may be ill advised.
Michael Bond, "Can media coverage of suicides inspire copycats?" New Scientist, 9 May 2007, Issue 2603, page 22.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rage Survivor Writes

I never expected to hear from a school shooting survivor in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, but the following arrived late last week.

"I came across your book The Copycat Effect today, and I was blown away. I have lived through a terrible tragedy and relive it every time after hearing about another school shooting. Your depiction of the copycat effect is what I have known for many years. You put things so eloquently and I thank you for all of your research on the subject. I want to say thank you for taking into consideration the exploitation of victims. Anyone that would take that into consideration has my respect." - Natalie Hintz, 1996 school shooting survivor.

I was very moved by Ms. Hintz's email, and appreciate that she took the time to contact me.

I did write about Ms. Hintz and the 1996 incident that changed her life. No doubt the events at VA Tech brought memories rushing back for her:

America’s “first” modern school shooting took place on Groundhog’s Day, February 2, 1996, 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 had planned the shootings carefully, getting ideas, he said, from the Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) book Rage (1977). In it, a troubled high school boy takes a gun to fictional Placerville High School, kills his algebra teacher “Mrs. Underwood,” another school adult “Mr. Vance,” and takes the algebra class hostage. Police would find a collection of Stephen King's books in Loukaitis' bedroom, including his well-worn copy of Rage.

Stephen King discussed the role of Rage after the Loukaitis shootings and eventually King apologized for writing the book, saying he penned it during a troubling period in his life. He said he wished it never had been published. Finally in 1999, he told his publisher to pull it from publication and took it out-of-print. He told the Today Show’s Katie Couric: “I took a look at Rage and said to myself, if this book is acting as any sort of accelerate, if it’s having any effect on any of these kids at all, I don’t want anything to do with it, regardless of what may be the moral and legal rights and wrongs. Even talking about it makes me nervous.”

Unfortunately, the explosive media attention to Loukaitis’ school shooting triggered a series of similar events.

...various passages in The Copycat Effect

In imitation of Rage and other popular cultural motifs, what followed was the real-life model fashioned in blood, death, and media-frenzy from Moses Lake. Then three years later, after other media-driven rural and suburban encores, the milestone was to be Columbine.

Today, the copycats from Moses Lake and Columbine have been expressed all too vividly at VA Tech, with the "outsider" evidenced as being "inside" more than ever before.

I can't thank Ms. Nintz enough for writing.