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.