Wednesday, March 28, 2007

School Shooting Seasons

A deadly trend has developed in recent years. If there is a significant series of school shootings in the autumn, the copycat behavior contagion effect appears to trigger a ripple of incidents that occur in the spring. Based on such an acknowledgement of history, I have to be open about telling you, there may be terrible times ahead.

Here is my prediction of what to expect in the next two months: There will be new school shootings with increased violent outcomes by "outsiders." Plots will be discovered, and students, especially girls and women, will be targets, victimized by adults using the vulnerable landscape of schools to work out their bloody and brutal homicidal-suicidal plans in a greater mirror of the scenarios of last fall.

During the spring of 2007, school professionals and paraprofessionals, law enforcement officials, and mental health personnel should be aware we are entering the most active "School Shooting Season" since 9/11. From the end of March through the end of May, this window of time could be very deadly. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

If past patterns are repeated, however, these next two months could ignite wildfires of deadly outbursts in school settings that are similar but radically more violent than in recent memory.

For the years 1996 through the spring of 2006, the specific trend was of a suicidal member of the student body of their own school or university taking out their rage on their fellow classmates. This is documented extremely well within my book, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines (NY: Paraview Pocket - Simon and Schuster, 2004).

In several cases, the student shooter would end up dead, often by their own hand. In general, this pattern was repeated over and over again, with the fall-spring repeats occurring during high profile examples of the copycat effect.

Last fall 2006, something shifted. In the nine school shootings' most publicized situations, individuals from "outside" the school or college systems came into the schools to victimize young people. Indeed, it is true that in the lesser noted cases by the media, the shooters were former students, and suspended or expelled students. These "students" were still outsiders.

To the point, however, the events that got the most publicity were of adults coming into schools to use the easy targets there to achieve their suicidal fate. This was especially true with four extremely violent incidents that received the most wall-to-wall television coverage and thus had the deepest copycat impact.

The wave of fall violence began on Thursday, August 24, 2006, in Essex, Vermont, with two dead (two teachers) and three wounded (two teachers, plus the shooter who turned the gun on himself). The shooter was a male, all victims were female. Christopher Williams, 26, of Essex, attempted to kill his former girlfriend, first-grade schoolteacher Andrea Lambesis. The dead were Lambesis' mother, Linda, 57, the first victim, and veteran Essex Elementary School second-grade teacher Alicia Shanks, 56, of Essex, slain in her classroom at the school at about 2 p.m.

The shootings occurred on Wednesday, August 29, 2006, in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with one dead (father of teenage shooter) and two wounded (two students), when the shooter showed up in a trench coat, with guns, pipe bombs, in a copycat of Columbine at Orange High School. Asked by police why he did it, Alvaro Rafael Castillo, 19, responded: "Columbine. Remember Columbine."

On Thursday, September 7, 2006, in Paris, France, a 19-year-old man was detained after opening fire with a pistol at a school in Paris. There were no injuries. The next day, Friday, September 8, 2006, also in Paris, France, a 16-year-old boy fired a shotgun inside a school in the southern outskirts of Paris, lightly injuring a teacher and a student, police said.

The first incident that got the most direct, visual coverage, in Canada and the USA, however, happened on Wednesday, September 13, 2006, in Montreal, Quebec. Based on the pattern I see behind this shooting, Quebec was a logical next location (near Vermont and French-linked). Kimveer Gill, the 25-year-old shooter, a self-described atheist Goth with an Indian Sikh heritage, wearing a trenchcoat, dark clothing, and a Mohawk haircut, came to Dawson College, fully armed. He appeared to target what students call the "Jew Caf" and opened fire, killing Anastasia de Sousa, 18, and wounded 19 other students.

Police fired upon Gill, and then Gill turned the gun on himself. Gill was obsessed by the Columbine massacre. He mentioned online being a fan of several computer games (e.g. Super Columbine Massacre) and movies (e.g. Natural Born Killers, Matrix) with violent themes that have been played out in several school shootings. Videos of helicopter footage over Dawson College after the attacks reminded viewers of Columbine. Repeats of Dawson students running across the street were shown, while cable news narrators talked about Columbine and screened reruns of Columbine footage from 1999.

In the following days, Columbine plots were discovered across the country, with the media pinpointing plans for violence on Thursday, September 14, 2006 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at Green Bay East High School and exactly a week later on Thursday, September 21, 2006 in Montgomery, Alabama, at Robert E. Lee High School.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2006, the horror of school shootings returned to Colorado in the tragic unfolding of a pattern that would not wait long to be repeated. On that date, in Bailey, Colorado (39 miles from Columbine), Duane R. Morrison, 54, (DOB 7-23-1953) walked into an English classroom at Platte Canyon High School, and took six young female students hostage. After releasing four hostages, one at a time, the students told the police that sexual assaults were occurring. As the situation neared a 4 p.m. deadline and discussions broke down, a police SWAT team blew open the door to Room 206 with explosives. Morrison fired a handgun at entering SWAT officers, and then at 16-year old Emily Keyes, fatally wounding her. The gunman then killed himself. The last hostage was saved. (A suicide note from the shooter was found on September 28th.)

The next day, on Friday, September 29, 2006, at Cazenovia, Wisconsin, a recently expelled student Eric Hainstock, 15, arrived at school at 8 am with a shotgun. A custodian, teacher, and students wrestled the shotgun away, but Hainstock broke away and pulled out a revolver. Principal John Klang, 49, was then shot with a handgun, three times, once in the head. Klang later died at the hospital. Hainstock was arrested alive.

Sadly, in the end of the fall school shooting series, the blueprint of Bailey, Colorado was used on Monday, October 2, 2006. At Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Charles Carl Roberts, a 32-year-old milkman, entered a one-room Amish school (usually attended by 27 students) early at the beginning of the school day. He brought into the school three guns, a stun gun, two knives and 600 rounds of ammunition - as well as restraints, boards, and other items to molest or sexually abuse the children. He told the boys and adult females (some with infants) to leave; one girl apparently escaped with the boys. He took ten hostages, all young females. Then, after the police arrived, he began shooting all of the girls, killing five.

Roberts is said to have died by suicide when he shot himself. He left behind suicide notes for his wife and children; he told his wife this was "self-hate" because he had molested two extremely young female relatives 20 years ago (when he was 12 years old).

Unfortunately, we only have to look to what happened last fall 2006 to see what we might expect in this current School Shooting Season, this spring 2007. I hope not, but ignoring this pattern will not make it go away.

As the US Secret Service found in their study of school shootings, the vast majority, 80% of these shooters, are suicidal. Frankly, I think all of them are suicidal. Homicide, as Freud said, is suicide turned outward, and that's exactly the model that is being followed. Suicide is also homicide turned inward. The new wave of homicides-suicides are not just the ones occurring via suicide bombers in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. We only have to look to the coming news here in America to see that something sinister of a similar nature is happening closer to home.


Anonymous said...

Really interesting post and I'm amazed at the accuracy considering recent events. What are your thoughts on the past week?

Doughboy said...

Damn, I really hate to see you be right on this one.