Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rampage Ripples

On the half-month anniversary of the NIU shootings, the volume of rampage-style shootings and school violence stories have been on the increase. Yesterday, February 27, 2008, was no exception, with new incidents in Tennessee, Arkansas, and California, sweeping across the nation, from time zone to time zone.

Here is a summary of yesterday's events:

At Bristol, Tennessee, at 11 a.m., on Wednesday, February 27, Rusty L. Rumley, 26, fatally shot four people at a public housing complex, Edgemont Towers on Ash Street, before dying by suicide. The police initially said Rumley was captured shortly after the shooting when he crashed his car about 20 miles away. A short time later they said he was dead and had apparently shot himself. Bristol, considered to be the "Birthplace of Country Music," is on the Virginia-Tennessee border.

At Little Rock, Arkansas, at 2:10 p.m., on February 27th, shots were fired in a parking lot near University Theatre and Stabler Hall, hitting a young man who was walking about 70 yards from the University Theatre. The two suspects who shot the University of Arkansas student left the scene in a "gold vehicle." The victim was transported to a local hospital with injuries.

In South Los Angeles, at 3:15 p.m., on February 27th, at a bus stop, a gunman fired about ten times into a crowd of children and adults. Eight were wounded, including three 10-12 year old girls and a 49-year-old woman who were critically injured. A 12-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy and two men, ages 48 and 68, had minor injuries. The gunman ran away and has not been found.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich asked state lawmakers to spend $40 million to raze Northern Illinois University's Cole Hall where five students were fatally shot on Valentine's Day. He suggested it be replaced with a new classroom and memorial building.

"Cole Hall will be torn down, but what happened there will never be forgotten," Blagojevich said at a news conference at the university in DeKalb, Illinois.

NIU President John Peters said he talked to Blagojevich the day after the shooting about what should be done with the building. In subsequent days, Peters said, students and others urged him to push for the building's removal to "consecrate" the site.

Further news yesterday came from MacNeil Environmental. The company is named in lawsuits by Red Lake school shooting survivors, and it denies allegations it failed to provide an adequate crisis plan for the Red Lake School District. Jeffrey James Weise, a 16-year-old Ojibwa who lived on the Red Lake Reservation and attended the school, opened fire at Red Lake High School, killing seven people before shooting himself on March 21, 2005. He had previously killed his grandfather (a tribal police officer) and his grandfather's girlfriend (also a tribal police officer) before going to the school. Fifteen people were wounded during and survived the Red Lake shooting.

Thanks to Todd and Richard for news items and links.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NIU Ripples

As the half-month anniversary of the Valentine's Day shootings approaches on February 28th, a potential date for copycats, campus alerts have occurred in the wake of the Northern Illinois University event. Two-week, one-month, first-year, and then on-going annual anniversaries are worthy of extreme caution for educational and law enforcement officials.

Here are examples of a few recent campus scares:

At Jersey City, New Jersey, St. Peter's College locked down its campus for several hours on February 20, 2008, after the discovery of a message threatening violence at the Jesuit school. At 10:40 a.m., campus security became aware of the handwritten note, taped in the stairwell of an administration and classroom building on the 3,000-student campus. The note referenced the Virginia Tech killings. No danger was found in a massive search of the campus, and an all-clear was called shortly before 3:00 pm.

In Louisville, Kentucky, also on February 20th, Fern Creek Traditional High School was locked down for a few hours after a student told officials she thought she saw someone with a gun on campus. No weapon was found after a campus-wide room-by-room police search, but police said they were looking for a former student based on the witness's description.

At Long Island, New York's Stony Brook College, on February 25th, officials sent out a text message alert at 1:58 p.m., 21 minutes after university police reported to the scene of a sighting. The message said: "There is a report of an armed perpetrator on the academic mall. Remain alert and follow directions of emergency personnel. Go to the Stony Brook Web site for updates." But the first Web site update providing more details was not posted until 2:51 p.m. No one was found.

Confusion occurred, however. Some of Stony Brook College's 23,000 students were told to stay in buildings; others were not told what to do. Campus police responded to complaints about the lack of a lockdown by saying: "It's almost impossible to lock down a city of 40,000 people."

At Decatur, Mississippi, a student was found shot to death in his Neshoba Hall dormitory room at East Central Community College on February 26th, an apparent suicide. The shooting led to a brief lockdown before authorities determined there was not a security concern. Mark McEachern, 23, of Ridgeland, was enrolled at the Decatur campus as a cosmetology student, ECCC President Phil Sutphin said. (Condolences to his family and friends.)

In Fargo, North Dakota, classes were canceled in a downtown building used by North Dakota State University after a man with a gun was reported there on February 26th. Fargo and university police said a 28-year-old suspect was later arrested a few blocks away on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon. Minnesota officials said the man had recently been released from prison, where he served time for robbery and burglary.

At Ferrum, Virginia, a campus lockdown took place on February 26th, and classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week at Ferrum College after a young man with a gun was seen by the housekeeping staff in a residence hall. A search by police was not able to locate the individual. More than 800 of the school's 1,000 students live on campus, but most left for an early spring break.

Ferrum College, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, is less than 50 miles from Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, where a student gunman killed 32 people and died by suicide on April 16, 2007.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Signal Stabbings

Hours before school stabbings left two students dead in China, coincidentally in California, two people were stabbed at a Fullerton theater during a film about brainwashed killers.

The stabbings took place approximately 45 minutes into the showing of the R-rated suspense/horror motion picture, The Signal. The suspect, who was described as a white male, fled out of one of the back doors. The assailant was noted to be a heavy set white man in his late to mid 20s, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with black hair.

"The suspect is still outstanding," Fullerton police Sgt. Jason Schoen said early Tuesday.

The Signal

Orange County Register reporter Denisse Salazar wrote:

Two men were stabbed and injured Sunday night while watching a horror film at the AMC Theater in Fullerton during what appears to be a random attack, police say. Shortly before 7:30 p.m., officers were sent to the theater at 1000 S. Lemon St. after someone reported finding a bag with what appeared to be illegal substances, said Fullerton police Lt. Tom Basham.

While the officers were at the theater, people started running out of the theater showing "The Signal," including two men with blood on them, Basham said.

Just before people started running out in a panic, two men sitting in separate areas of the theater were randomly stabbed by an unknown man, Basham said.

"He started stabbing at the theater seat and then he stabbed the victim," Basham said. "As he fled, he stabbed another victim sitting near the exit."

Basham said the victims did not know each other or the attacker.

One man suffered a stab wound to the arm, which also punctured his chest, and was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange. The other man was also stabbed in the arm and was taken to St. Jude Medical Center. Both are expected to survive.

The attacker, who is believed to have been kicked out of the theater earlier, escaped.

No arrest has been made, but police are following some leads.

"The Signal," a horror-comedy, is told in three parts from three perspectives, in which a mysterious transmission invades every cell phone, radio and TV, turning people into killers. One character estimates that "one out of every two people" are impulsively murdering the other one, according to reviews of the film.

Basham said the film was paused while police conducted their investigation. When it was resumed, the first scene was a stabbing, he said.

What I find remarkable is that people remained to watch the rest of the movie after the attacks!

The Signal's three perspectives were written and directed by first-timers David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry. The film opened in limited theaters starting around Halloween on October 26, 2007.

Considering the underlying behavior contagion theme occurring in the suicidal-homicidal mayhem being triggered by the media, The Signal's plot that citizens are besieged with radio, television, and other broadcast signals that distort reality and turn them into hyper-violent killers is downright chilling.

Thanks to Richard Hendricks for alerting me to this event.

Web Sleuths & NIU

"I call it the death cult of Columbine," Loren Coleman, author of The Copycat Effect, said to The Chicago Tribune. "It lives on in YouTube, in MySpace, in special sites and in all kinds of ways we might otherwise call inappropriate."


This is the era of a new kind of suicide note, pushed along in cyberspace by keyboards and by texting.

Steve Johnson, the Internet critic of the Chicago Tribune, interviewed me extensively last week about Steven Kazmierczak's presence on the web. We discussed how I discovered more about the NIU killer than was being released in the mainstream press, including his identity, his reviews, his work background, his possible teenage abuses, and other items mentioned here at this blog or others. I talked about how this has created another dimension to the copycat effect phenomenon among school shooters.

Hastily and sometimes harshly written goodbye paper notes by someone dying by suicide, research has shown, have been found to exist only 20% of the time. However, Internet tracks of the suicidal school shooters nowadays seem to be evident in almost 90% of the cases.


The Tribune's Johnson interviewed other web detectives, of course, about this topic, and his thoughtful column appears in today's paper:

Within hours of the shootings at Northern Illinois University, Web searchers, working from a couple of details in a media account, had correctly identified the gunman as Steven Kazmierczak.

The assailant, who had not been officially identified at that time, was a former vice president of an NIU student organization, according to an article published on the Tribune's Web site after the Valentine's Day murders, and he had co-authored a scholarly paper on self-injury in prison.

It didn't take much work on the Internet to pin those two details to only one person: Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old from the Chicago suburbs who killed five and then himself in an NIU classroom in DeKalb.

Loren Coleman, a Maine author who has written books about suicide clusters and the "copycat effect" in mass killings, thinks the Web may play a bigger role than many people realize. He may have been the first to name Kazmierczak, at 2:59 a.m. Feb. 15, according to the time-stamp on his blog, well before authorities officially released the name.

But what he wrote next was, in a way, more telling.

"I expect an in-depth examination of Kazmierczak's visible Internet life within hours," Coleman wrote in the post on The Copycat Effect (

And indeed, it happened just like that, because the search for Internet traces has become such a predictable part of the mass-killer story line. They may get rid of their computer's hard drive, as Kazmierczak appears to have done, but most people, especially people of the Internet generation, leave bits and pieces of themselves around the Web.

"Once you're out there, you're out there," said Gary Price, director of online information resources for the search engine, "and even the smallest amount of information that you might not even know is out there" can linger forever. In the wake of an incident, anyone with an Internet connection can go looking for the information, and judging by the traffic spikes reported on sites that bear any connection to killings, tens of thousands do.

Seeing such traces for themselves "gives people more of a feeling of immediacy than four or five paragraphs in an AP article. It's a fast way to get some depth in the story," said Steve Huff, an Atlanta-area writer who turned his Internet hobby of researching crime into a writing gig with Radar magazine and a popular blog, True Crime Weblog (

A blog, such as Coleman's or Huff's, will publish information about an incident early on; the blog gets cataloged by the search engines and then the "comments" area in the blog becomes an important arena for additional information, ranging from wild speculation and slander to other, reliable links.

The rise of semi-public social networks MySpace and Facebook, where people can chronicle their actions, tastes and desires, has only deepened the trend.

Although much of the Web sleuthing that goes on is very good, Huff raises an important point.

"For a magazine like I write for now, we've got fact checkers," he said. "As annoying as the fact checking is, it's saving your butt. Bloggers don't have fact checkers."

And another characteristic of the Web is that once bad information is out there, it, too, tends to stay out there, believed by at least some proportion of the people who miss subsequent attempts to correct it.

In the Kazmierczak case, for instance, one Web site, People You'll See in Hell, misidentified a MySpace page as belonging to the killer.

"Bad information can get spread very, very quickly," said's Price, a leading Internet librarian who also runs the site. "You get excited that you found something and then you start spreading it."

While tracking a killer's traces can seem voyeuristic or ghoulish, it is important to pay attention to the Web, Coleman said, because it is also being used to enshrine killers and, he believes, perpetuate their deeds, especially the high school shootings in Columbine, Colo.

"I call it the death cult of Columbine," Coleman said. "It lives on in YouTube, in MySpace, in special sites and in all kinds of ways we might otherwise call inappropriate."

In some cases, he said, the Web becomes part of the homicide-suicide plan.

"The Internet has become really the new way for these people to get the attention they're seeking, the romanticized, really irrational attention," said Coleman. "As opposed to nice, cool suicide notes, they're leaving Internet footprints deliberately as their suicide notes, as their way to be immortal."

~ by Steve Johnson, Hypertext, "Web sleuths track killer's cyber-prints" Chicago Tribune, February 26, 2008.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Asian School Stabbings

To place the breaking news of today's school stabbing in context, I have created a summary list of recent Japanese and Chinese stabbings. A significant cluster occurred in China during the last half of 2004.


June 8, 2001 ~ Ikeda, Osaka, Japan
8 dead, 15 injured ~ Osaka school massacre. Armed with a kitchen knife, a 37-year-old former janitor Mamoru Takuma trespassed into Ikeda Elementary School attached to Osaka-Kyoiku University and stabbed school children and teachers. Eight children were killed and 15 wounded, among those were 13 children and two teachers.


June 1, 2004 ~ Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan
1 dead ~ An 11-year-old student, identified only as "Girl A," killed, with a knife, a 12-year-old classmate, Satomi Mitarai, at the Okubo Elementary School.


August 4, 2004 ~ Beijing, China
1 dead, 17 injured ~ Xu Heping, a 51-year-old doorman with a history of mental illness, stabbed several students and teachers in Beijing University's Number One Hospital, killing a child and wounding 17 others, 14 of whom were children.

September, 2004 ~ Suzhou, People's Republic of China
28 injured ~ A man armed with a knife and homemade explosives attacked 28 children at a daycare center/kindergarten.

September, 2004 ~ Shandong, China
24 injured ~ A man stabbed 24 children with a knife at a school.

October, 2004 ~ Beijing, China
2 dead ~ A five-year-old boy and his teacher were killed at a Beijing kindergarten by an adult intruder.

November 26, 2004 ~ Ruzhou, Henan, China
8 dead, 4 injured ~ Yan Yanming, 21, an intruder stabbed eight students to death and injured four others at Ruzhou's Number Two High School in the sixth such incident in China in a four month period. The attacker attempted to take his own life after the killings.

February 17, 2005 ~ Neyagawa, Osaka, Japan
1 dead ~ A teacher was stabbed to death and two officials were injured at Chuo Primary School in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture.

May 15, 2007 ~ Maoming, China
2 dead ~ Wu Jianguo, a 17-year-year at Maoming's Number Three Middle School in the Guangdong province killed two classmates.

February 25, 2008 ~ Leizhou, Guangdong, China
3 dead, 4 injured ~ A young man, Chen Wenzhen broke into Leizhou No. 2 Middle School and killed a boy and a girl of Senior Two with a knife and injured four (three students & a teacher) before he stabbed himself and jumped off the fifth floor, dying by suicide.

China: Fatal School Attack

A school attack has occurred Monday in China that has left three dead and four injured. It ended in the suicide of the attacker, as frequently happens in North America.

But unlike USA school shootings, the event was carried out through the use of a knife. Knives and hatchets are a common method for lethal Asian school invasions of suicidal individuals, as gun control laws preclude firearms being employed.

The attack took place this evening, February 25, 2008, at a Guangzhou school in the Leizhou city of south China's Guangdong Province.

The news agency Xinhua gives these further details, via editor Yan Liang:

A young man named Chen Wenzhen broke into Leizhou No. 2 Middle School at around 7:35 p.m. [on Monday] killed a boy and a girl of Senior Two with his knife and injured four before he stabbed his own abdomen and jumped off the fifth floor, said Zheng Jiu, the school headmaster....The four injured, including three students and a teacher who tried to stop the killing, were being treated in Leizhou People's Hospital, local authorities said....The suspect, described as mentally disturbed, was also a Senior Two student. He left school half a year ago for he often suffered from headache and could not concentrate on his study, according to Zheng.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

NIU Killer's Web Tracks

Revealing of the hidden and the covert, the twilight language of school shooters, could prevent future tragic incidents.

Late in the afternoon of February 20, 2008, Mike Nizza posted at his blog, "The Lede: Notes on the News" at The New York Times, a short essay entitled "After Illinois Shooting Rampage, a Cold Digital Trail."

Nizza wrote, in part:

The hunt for digital clues in the latest school shooting got off to a promising start last Friday. Hours before the police or news organizations identified the gunman, Loren Coleman of the Copycat Effect took tidbits plotted by a Chicago Tribune article and quickly connected them using the Web.

“Matching the two, you find it is Steve Kazmierczak,” he wrote. “I expect an in-depth examination of Kazmierczak’s visible internet life within hours.”

But the trail went cold without any major discoveries. No hints to Mr. Kazmierczak’s motive, no explanation for why a well-liked graduate student decided to open fire on a lecture hall full of students and then kill himself.

So far, bill of Web particulars includes:

– A small folder of nondescript images uploaded to Photobucket.
– A chat room complaint about
– His pitch for a top post in a student group.
– His former girlfriend’s MySpace page.

The police investigation has also hit a wall. Chief Donald Grady of the university police force told the Tribune today that Mr. Kazmierczak also “didn’t tell people what he was going to do” and his computer turned up without a hard drive, along with a cell phone missing its main memory chip.

The conclusion was obvious: Mr. Kazmierczak was covering his tracks. Why did he hide it? What’s on that hard disk? What made him do it? The answer may well be lying where everyone first thought to look: buried on a hard disk. Unfortunately, it’s just out of reach, and seems likely to stay there.

Nizza continues on, talking about Virginia Tech's Cho, but I want to stop here and address the "messages left behind" and the alleged Internet invisibility of Steven Kazmierczak.

Kazmierczak did leave his footprints on the Internet, but it may have not been in "manifesto" form, as with the Finnish school shooter or the Virginia Tech killer. It also was not like the Red Lake school gunman or Dawson College killer, both of whom left overt exchanges in online hate and neo-Nazi forums.

No, Kazmierczak was more subtle, visiting sites, such as, and leaving reviews or critiques.

In a forthcoming Chicago Tribune article next week, more will be revealed. Stay tuned.

I agree with the editorial decisions being made to slow down the nature of the information-sharing that occurs after a school shooting. There is absolutely no reason to rush to print this material in the mainstream media immediately after such an event.

But the unfolding of the twilight language to be revealed in all of this, in the long run, assists in predicting future shootings.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kazmierczak on O'Reilly


Bill O'Reilly (on the right) who only recently has thrown around the word "lynching" in conjunction to Michelle Obama, may allegedly have been part of the reason for the rage inside the man who turned his guns on the students at Northern Illinois University on Valentine's Day.

Apparently undiscovered by most investigators or even Bill O'Reilly observer Keith Olbermann (on the left, above) of MSNBC's "Countdown," the NIU shooter Steve Kazmierczak wrote a critique of O'Reilly's book Culture Warrior online, giving a clue as to things that set him off.

Kazmierczak did leave behind some Internet footprints, after all. He was a reviewer of a few items, such as the O'Reilly book, at

Here is what Kazmierczak wrote on January 1, 2008, about O'Reilly's tome, which campus shooter Kazmierczak gave just two stars out of five:

The main problem I have with Culture Warrior is that O'Reilly writes like he talks-in short talking points and with a harsh tone. This is not to say that this is a bad thing, but it can grow annoying at times, particularly since even though O'Reilly has several advanced degrees, he writes like a first year undergraduate.

O'Reilly starts off by claiming that the contemporary culture war in this country cannot be framed in terms of liberals and conservatives. He then proceeds to claim that there are many shade of gray, and that boiling down such a complex issue into two sides is essentially a misguided approach to understanding the underlying issues at stake here.

However, O'Reilly immediately begins to frame this 'battle' in terms of secular-progressives (or SP's, O'Reilly abbreviates them since he uses the term probably more than 100 times in this book) versus traditionalists. In other words, he apparently he has done the very thing that he claimed he wouldn't do in this book which is essentially to frame this issue in terms of mutually exclusive aims, goals, and categories. Rather than use liberal v. conservative, O'Reilly substitutes these categories with SP and traditionalists, respectively, despite his claims to the contrary. By the end of the book, he flatly states that one side is just and the other is not, which is quite bizarre. O'Reilly's success with this book and with his show is due to his mastery of the cardinal rule of politics... you have to pander to all sides, even while twisting the knife into the back of the side you wish to defeat. In more pragmatic terms, the use of smoke-screens to cloud your ambitions and allegiances is always the safe and most successful route to traverse.

Despite O'Reilly having earned two master's degrees from prestigious universities, he must have skipped out during his statistics and research methods courses, as his use of anecdotal evidence is appalling and dishonest. Refraining from footnotes or any type of citation format, O'Reilly attempts to portray isolated events as epidemics and anecdotal stories as the universal truth. The most disturbing thing of all is that O'Reilly understands the power he wields, and abuses it to further his sales and unclear and somewhat contradictory agenda.

Yes, it's an enjoyable read, but O'Reilly is quite devious and makes use ad-hominem attacks more often than not, often against the usual suspects, (i.e. the ACLU, Howard Dean, Vermont judges, socialists, etc.). Seriously, smear merchant this, smear merchant that--it gets old after the first few chapters. Truly, the genius is O'Reilly is that he is a captivating media figure, often distorting politics and social issues through his manipulative posturing on countless issues. The same can be said of this book.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dates & Dark Matters

On February 9th, I wrote: "Look for major surprises in school shootings and similar mass rampages...."

On February 14th, the NIU campus shooting occurred. More events are coming.

Will an assassination attempt be next? Another rampage shooting?


I have a strong track record for predicting.

What do I see on the horizon?

Few take notice.


A blogger at Circle of 13, however, quoted me heavily on Sunday, February 17, 2008, in "Valentine's Massacre (Again) In Illinois":

Loren Coleman...noticed a change in pattern. “Change is in the air. And danger,” he wrote on Feb. 9, 2008. There have been “shifts in rampage shootings.” And, warned Coleman, “Look for major surprises in school shootings and similar mass rampages for this spring, unfortunately. Look again, too, to the months of March and April, with the red zone of the ten days from April 16 through April 26, 2008, as especially dangerous.” (“Shootings Shatter Gender Barrier,” by Loren Coleman. )

Coleman's “Red Zone” of ten days between April 16 and April 26 coincides with the April 19 special marker. On that day, in 1993, the Waco Massacre final event occurred. Also on April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City Bombings traumatized the nation.

Of course, the patterns are hiding in plain sight.

"Circle of 13" remembers Oklahoma City and the Waco Massacre, but April 19th is also Patriot's Day (Revolutionary War) and the date the Nazis entered the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

April 20th is Hitler's birthday; Hitler died by suicide. Also, it is the anniversary of the Columbine school massacre, which ended in two suicides.

In 2008, April 16th will be the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech killings of 32 and the suicidal death of the shooter Cho. Vulnerable suicidal individuals who are thinking about homicide will be triggered by all the repeats on cable television as April 16th gets closer, and for ten days, through the anniversary of Columbine. The days through April 26th could be a dangerous time.

The ending date I penciled in for this year's red zone is April 26th. That date is Hitler deputy Rudolf Hess's birthday, still celebrated by neo-Nazis in some locations in Germany. Hess officially died by suicide in 1987.

On April 26th, 2002, in Erfurt, Germany, the school shooting with the highest body count before VA Tech occurred when Robert Steinhauser, 19, went to the Johann Gutenberg Gymnasium (a secondary school), stalked the halls, and killed 12 teachers, an administrator, two students, one policeman, and wounded 10 other people before he killed himself. Seventeen people died.

Dark Matters

Now some concern must be expressed about other new dates: February 22 and April 11th, 2008.

Double digit dates always seem to be attractive in this new age of domestic terrorism, which is only, after all, another label for school shootings, mall rampages, and urban bombings.

February 22nd, 2008, is the release date for a presidential assassination film, Vantage Point. What concerns me is the obvious worries in the air in this year when some politically unique choices exist. Due to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, assassination fears are being expressed on the internet rumor mills.

It will be noted that before John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the book and movie Manchurian Candidate (film, 1962) were popular. (Director John Frankenheimer's birthday is February 19, 1930.)

The idea of a brainwashed assassin ~ literally a Manchurian candidate ~ gained much favor among theorists by the actions of Sirhan Sirhan before and after the Robert Kennedy assassination.

Will the release of Vantage Point cause a more overt discussion of assassination in the USA? Will it trigger some unfortunate behavioral reactions from someone on the edge? February 22nd is rapidly approaching, at week's end. No doubt, the U.S. Secret Service should take note.

April 11th, a Friday, will see the wide release of a new indie film, Dark Matter, starring Lui Ye, Meryl Streep, and Aidan Quinn, by New York-based Chinese opera director Chen Shi-Zheng. The movie was originally delayed last year because of the killings by a Korean-American at Virginia Tech. Dark Matter stars an Asian character, a graduate student, who goes on a "shooting rampage" at a Midwestern university. It was announced after the NIU shootings that the movie was going ahead with its originally scheduled release date.

Dark Matter is more powerful than most narrative fiction films because it is based in reality. It is loosely the story of Gang Lu, born in Beijing, China in 1963, who was a graduate student in physics at the University of Iowa. On Friday, November 1, 1991, using a .38 caliber revolver and also carrying a .22 caliber handgun, he shot and killed five people on the Iowa campus in Iowa City, seriously wounded another, then died by suicide.

Writer Jo Ann Beard later wrote an acclaimed personal essay based in part on the Gang Lu killings. The article "The Fourth State of Matter," was originally published in The New Yorker in 1996.

The Sundance award-winning film Dark Matter will now appear on the 11th of April, at theaters around the country. The 11ths of the months are already touchy, so this "school shooting" movie coming out on this date, considering what just happened at NIU, has to be viewed as a new red flag.

Dark movies. Steven Steve Kazmierczak (kaz-MUR'-chek) seems like he stepped out of Donnie Darko. River Phoenix's last movie, Dark Blood remains unfinished. I've already noted that July 18th, 2008, when The Dark Knight opens, the cultural spill over from Heather Ledger's final Joker may have some kind of unknown impact. I don't really know.

ledger joker knife

Dark Forces

Dark forces move these people who kill in our midst.

A former professor says Steve Kazmierczak was a "gentle" and "quiet guy." Yes, the "nice guy next door" story is one we've heard before. There are two sides to every story, and some of them are very dark. Dark matters. Dark nights. Dark knights, indeed.


A woman who worked at a Chicago psychiatric center where Kazmierczak was admitted after high school says Kazmierczak used to cut himself. He wrote a paper on self-injury (parasuicidal behavior) in prisons. His cutting himself was parasuicidal; he was in that mental health facility for a year.



Kazmierczak came to NIU with his gun in his guitar case, yet another scenario seen in the movies, such as Desparado. Karzmierczak, the dark knight dressed all in black, felt, it appears, he was in a movie.

Let me just end here with the chilling tattoo from the arm of this Northern Illinois University shooter. (Let me hasten to mention I am not anti-tattoo, as I merely see the practice as a new cultural reflection of many creative young people.) I only wish to point out that with this specific shooter, Kazmierczak decided to obtain on his right arm the pictured tattoo, depicting a character in the horror movie, Saw. Tattoo artist Jason Dunavan said Kazmierczak got it in the last five to six months.

It may be significant that the "Jigsaw Killer" in these Saw movies requires horrific self-mutilation (an extreme extension of Kazmierczak's own cutting and interest in prisoner self-injury) of his captives:


In these dark days, it appears we all are becoming captives of the suicidal mutilation of our culture.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

NIU Blame Game

The NIU shootings have caused an outpouring of wall-to-wall coverage, complete with conflicting theories about the shooter being on drugs, off drugs, abusing video games, practicing with a specific game, and, of course, about less guns in general vs more guns (as in students being defensively armed).

In the beginning, everything from shouting the breaking news to screening archival footage of Columbine, VA Tech, and even Charles Whitman at the Texas Tower on your television set were thrown at you in this visual mix. Then the "blame game" began in earnest, especially at faux news locations. (The videos below are mere examples of the recent state of affairs.)

Despite all the claims you will find on television or in blogs that (1) "every school shooting" since Columbine has involved young men on meds, (2) only since drugs being used for psychological problems have there been school shootings, and (3) all these drugs make people suicidal, none of those absolute claims can be proven. The reality is (1) suicidal people are suicidal before meds, (2) not all the shooters have been on medications, and (3) school shootings existed long before the advent of pharmaceuticals being used for psychiatric interventions.

Short-term memory seems to be at work here as most "blame game" advocates make factually incorrect statements, like "school shootings began ten years ago." Most drug and video game theorists and their supporters seem to generally tie the beginning of school shootings to Columbine in 1999, or only mention the "celebrity" school shooting events of the last decade. There is no sense of history, reality, or data with most of these pronouncements of blame.

Blaming drugs, blaming video games, and arguing about gun control are all blind dead end alleys.

Of course, we saw this forced blaming before, during VA Tech, for example:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Welsh Cluster Continues

Remarkably, authorities have increasingly ignored the obvious links between the suicide cluster deaths sweeping Bridgend, Wales.

Reporters from the UK have talked with me often about the situation. Last Monday, I was interviewed by Times Educational Supplement correspondent Madeleine Brettingham, who is writing an essay on the situation.

Other articles continue to appear as the sad toll of death mounts.

On 17 February 2008, Scotland On Sunday published an article entitled "As the suicides of these two cousins brings the toll to 16 in one small area, a shocked community is asking why them?" by Dani Garivelli.

The article reads, in part:

It was the news the people of Bridgend least wanted to hear. In a town where suicide seems to be spreading like a contagion, two more young people had taken their own lives within hours of each other.

Kelly Stephenson, 20, was found dead in a locked room on holiday in Kent on Valentine's Day. She had just been told her cousin Nathaniel Pritchard, 15, was critically ill in hospital after "self-harming" and was unlikely to pull through. Pritchard died on Friday, when his life support machine was turned off. The pair lived just 14 houses from one another and were said to be "very close".

They seemed to have everything to live for. On her Bebo site, Stephenson, who called herself Baby-Girl-Kelly, says: "I just love to live life to the full. Always up 4 a laugh and I don't like takin things too serious," although she did admit her greatest fear was losing those she loved. A keen footballer, she had just signed for Porthcawl Lightning Strikers.

Pritchard, too, seemed to have plenty of friends around him.

Their deaths – just a week after 18-year old Angeline Fuller killed herself – bring the grim toll of young suicide victims in Bridgend to 16 in the last year. All were aged between 16 and 27 and all hanged themselves.

The scale of the deaths, and the similarity in their execution, has sparked panic in the 40,000-strong town.

Terrified of fuelling the phenomenon, those in authority have increasingly sought to deny any link between the deaths. Both Mark Walters, coroner for Bridgend and the Glamorgan Valleys, and South Wales Police have played down the notion that the spate is any more than a freak coincidence.

Campaigners, too, have lowered the shutters in the face of the tragedy, with the suicide prevention charity Papyrus going so far as to urge newspapers to stop reporting the deaths.

Yet, it takes an act of supreme will to see such a high number of suicides in such a short space of time as anything other than a sign that something is seriously amiss in the Welsh town.

Although there is no common denominator connecting the 16 people who have taken their own lives, most have been a friend or acquaintance of at least one of the previous victims. Stephenson, for example, knew both Gareth Morgan, 27, and Liam Clarke, 20, who hanged themselves last year.


After some of the suicides, remembrance walls made up of virtual bricks were erected on dedicated sites, leading some to speculate that the thought of securing "virtual immortality" was driving some of these vulnerable young people to take their own lives.

Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon is not one of those who wants the deaths to be played down, although she would prefer it if they were reported in less sensational terms. But she believes her constituency is like a microcosm of Wales at large, where the suicide rate has been disproportionately high for many years.

"This is not the time for delay," she has said. "This is the time for action. I do not want to be talking to journalists about further deaths. (I] want to talk about success and how wonderful Bridgend and Wales are to live, to work and raise a family in."

There is nothing in particular about Bridgend that marks it out as likely to have more than its share of teenage suicides. Like most towns in South Wales, it suffered economically as the coal mines closed, but recovered more quickly than some, with job opportunities opening up as multi-nationals moved in.

But then, there is often no obvious reason for the suicide clusters which have cropped up from time to time throughout history. Researchers have long acknowledged that suicide can be "catching", with those who have lost a loved one in this way more at risk of taking their own life.

Sigmund Freud held a conference on the phenomenon in the 1920s, researcher David Phillips christened it "the Werther effect" after Goethe's book, The Sorrows Of Young Werther, which is said to have inspired several young men to shoot themselves in the 18th century, and sociologist Loren Coleman wrote a book on it in the late 1980s.

In the last six months alone, two distraught mothers have committed suicide months after their teenage daughters killed themselves. Suicide clusters are also common in closed communities such as prisons, psychiatric hospitals, military barracks or schools, or in small towns where people are more likely to know each other. Four friends in Cromarty, in the Black Isle, killed themselves within the space of 12 months in 2004-05.

What is less clear is what lies behind such clusters. Dr Stephen Platt, of Edinburgh University's Research Unit in Health and Behavioural Change, says research suggests a large number of factors have to combine in specific circumstances for a spate of copycat suicides to occur. Underlying social problems, the way people interact and the poor mental health of those involved may all play a part.

"There is certainly evidence the risk of imitative behaviour after a suicide can be affected by the community response to it – if suicide is romanticised or normalised in any way it can lead to imitative behaviour," says Platt. "Studies of non-fatal suicidal behaviour (self-harming), initiatives that allow the victim to gain either extra attention or services by their action has increased rather than decreased the problem."

Shortly after Bonnie McClelland's son Timothy killed himself, two of his friends followed suit. "As a parent, your heart is already shattered. But then, to look into the eyes of your friends and see the pain that your child has caused, is something you carry in your heart forever," McClelland, who lives in Tampa, Florida, said.

In the year following Timothy's death there were 29 teenage suicides in her local area. "When a suicide happens, it's like a book has been taken off the library shelf. They open that book and it gives them the direction of what to do."

The 16 young people who killed themselves in Bridgend came from very different backgrounds. Eighteen-year-old Dale Crole, the first suicide victim, had recently been freed from a young offenders' institution and lived with his father, with whom he was said to have a volatile relationship.

Zachary Barnes, 17, had left school to work on the Amelia Trust Farm near Barry, but hoped to become a fitness instructor. Natasha Randall, also 17, who used the name sxiwildchild, studied care and childhood studies at Bridgend College.

What united them, beyond individual friendships, was that they all came to see suicide as a viable solution to whatever difficulties they were experiencing.

With no evidence whatsoever that these youngsters encouraged each other to commit suicide, it would be irresponsible to refer to their deaths as a pact or a cult. The personal circumstances of those involved are too disparate – and the links between them too tenuous even to refer to them as an epidemic.

Yet, it is clear from the Bebo messages sent in the wake of every tragedy – many of which could be seen as normalising or glamorising suicide – how the self-inflicted deaths have impacted on the entire community.

There can now be few young people in Bridgend who do not know someone who knows someone who has died; and few parents who are not frantically worried about their own teenage children's emotional well-being.

It is easy to see how mounting publicity and hysteria could leave the vulnerable at greater risk of following suit. Yet, those closest to the tragedy – from parents to politicians – seem at a loss as to what is happening or how to stop it. "It's like a craze – a stupid sort of fad. They all seem to be copying each other by wanting to die," said Melanie Davies, whose son Thomas killed himself in February following the deaths of his friends, Dale and David.

...Bridgend braces itself for more tragedy.

Valentine's Killer


Lots of attention, needless to say, is being given by the media to the Northern Illinois University shootings on Valentine's Day. I've posted my thoughts about that so-called "rampage": here, here, and here.

Besides all the other "Valentine's Dangers," there is another case worth mentioning that centers on this date.


It will be recalled that Stayner carried out his initial murder spree (or at least the one we know about) over Valentine's weekend in 1999, and used Bigfoot to talk to the park ranger he killed.

The following was sent to me by a relative (I'll withhold the name) of Yosemite Killer Cary Anthony Stayner. Stayner said he saw Bigfoot and sent me drawings of it.

This following note, at some level, is downright chilling:

I would like to add as a family member to Carey Stayner, as long as I could remember Carey was out running [and] climbing mountains. I remember when he first had told me and my brother of what he had seen [the Bigfoot], he would go very blank in the face as if he was being very serious or like somebody was watching him. He would tell us about the smell the creature had and that it was alot bigger than him. We were very young but we knew he wasn’t playing a joke on us. I remember when I went to Camp Green Meadows in the 6th grade he told me to stay close to all the teachers and no matter what don’t go out at night. He never really seemed the same to me after he had seen Bigfoot. So to me, maybe that’s what drove him mad? You never know.


For another one of those strange coincidences, please note the significance of Valentine's Day in the legacy of the Stayner family, a Mormon family who had been touched before on Valentine's Day:

Stayner family's woeful history
San Francisco Examiner 26 Jul 1999 L5
By Zachary Coile and Matthew Yi: Examiner Staff

Merced, California ~ When an FBI agent called Assistant Sheriff Henry Strength on Saturday morning looking for a criminal record of a possible suspect in the murders at Yosemite, he asked for the name Cary Stayner. Knowing the name sounded familiar, Sheriff Strength went to work. He had been a young patrol officer in l972 when 7-year-old Steven Stayner was kidnapped from the streets of Merced only returning home on Valentine's Day in 1980, when he walked into a Ukiah police station along with another 5-year-old abductee, Timothy White.

Steven Stayner was an instant hero and the l4-year-old later became the subject of the NBC miniseries "I Know My First Name Is Steven." "It was a shock," Strength said. Steven's brother, Cary, 37, was the prime suspect in the killing of a Yosemite naturalist and an FBI prime suspect in several other murders.

Shock was a familiar reaction to residents of Merced, a San Joaquin Valley city 100 miles from San Francisco. It was here that Steven Stayner was considered a hero for escaping from a child molester in l980. He later joined the LDS Church, married and had two children, only to die at age 24 in a motorcycle accident, nine years after he escaped.

When 7-year-old Steven was approached by Ukiah hotel clerk Kenneth Parnell, the boy was asked if he wanted to donate something to a church. "I said, 'Well, yeah. I think my mom might donate something.'" Steven told authorities years later. "He said, 'OK,' and gave me these booklets and he asked me if I wanted a ride home." "And I said, 'Well, it's just a little ways, I can walk.'" "He goes,'OK. Don't worry. I'll just give you a ride home.' "And I go," 'Well, OK,' "and so I got in the car."

This began the seven-year nightmare in which Parnell held and sexually molested Steven. He forced the boy to call him "Dad", telling him that he was no longer wanted by his parents.

Years later after returning home and putting his life back together, Steven Stayner married at age 24. With two children, he and his family joined the Mormon Church. Assistant Sheriff Strength said Stayner was on the waiting list for a job as a county jail guard.

On September 20, 1989, Steven was riding his new Kawasaki motorcycle without a helmet in the rain. He skidded trying to avoid a car and fatally struck his head. After Steven's death, his parents sold the family home and moved.

"They did mention about finally getting a chance to get out of here," said Ennis Mayberry, 36, who bought the house from the Stayner 10 years ago. "They said they wanted to get away and wash away some bad memories."

In December of 1990 the family was dealt another blow, but not its last. Jesse "Jerry" Stayner, 42, Cary and Steven's uncle, was shot to death in his Merced home. The murder remains unsolved.

"I was just talking to someone about this. We were talking about the Kennedy family, and all the bad things that have happened to them," Sherriff Strength said. "Then you have Steven Stayner get kidnapped, and then he comes back and gets killed in a motorcycle accident. Then his uncle gets killed in a homicide. And now this. It happens to all families, I guess."

These are the facts as noted by the media, although they may be confused in their correct chronology, as you can see from the comments below.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Dangers

My book, The Copycat Effect, is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, who died in a Valentine's Day murder-suicide.

I penned that dedication this way:

Nellie Gray,
The grandmother I never knew,
as she was killed during a murder-suicide
on Valentine’s Day, 1940.


In my book I wrote an entire section entitled the "Significant of Dates," and began with one special example, St. Valentine's Day. I reprint below what you will find in my 2004 book about February 14th on pages 246-247:

Dates are important, anniversary events especially so. Suicides, murder-suicides, murders tend to clump around dates of loss for at-risk victims.

One such date is one that most people assume should be associated with happy feelings, but it is not. That is Valentine’s Day. For many people, it’s a day that speaks more to emptiness and loss than to joy and love.

One cultural event seems to point to this feeling: the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” of February 14, 1929, in Chicago. On this day the alleged henchman of gangster “Scarface” Al Capone murdered seven members of the George “Bugs” Moran gang in a North Clark Street garage. Colorful names, a memorable day, the windy city, a grand crime, and huge headlines have made this event enormously “infamous” in history. Books and movies have fueled the copycat effect of this date.

A year after “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” Ben Hecht...authored Scarface(1930), which was made into a Howard Hughes produced, Howard Hawks directed movie (1932) about the North Clark Street killings. Hughes supposedly asked that Scarfacebe "realistic, as exciting, as grisly as possible." Censors blocked Scarfacefor two years before Hawks got it to theaters.

How does culture make a 1929 event into currency for a future generation? Through the movies and other media, of course. Some Like It Hot(1959) had Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis playing two Chicago musicians who witnessed the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and are forced to cross-dress as women in order to hide from Al Capone. The St. Valentine's Day Massacre(1967) starring Jason Robards portrays the event in docudrama style.

But beyond fiction, real murders and murder-suicides have also been linked to the specific Valentine’s Day 1929 gangland murders. The gangland and other ripples from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre certainly demonstrate an awareness of the twilight language of the event.

The individual most often identified as the organizer of the Moran gang killings was Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, one of Capone's most trusted men. McGurn (whose real name was James DeMora), an expert with the Tommy gun who had an “eye for the ladies,” especially for blonde women, was killed on the eve of Valentine’s Day, 1936. A nickel was put in McGurn's right hand and, next to his body the killers left a humorous valentine card.

Sometimes personal histories reinforce the negative Valentine’s Day link. My grandmother was killed by her second husband on Valentine’s Day, 1940, in Illinois, in a murder-suicide, as my future mother, a 12 old girl, looked on in horror. The copycat effect sometimes hits close to home.

During the 1980s, St. Valentine’s Day was a focus of teen suicide clusters around the United States, and many families felt the impact of the day.

Earlier in the book, I described a teen suicide cluster in Peekskill, New York. I mentioned on February 4, 1984, Robert DeLaValliere, 13, hanged himself in Depew Park, and then I wrote:

Did another teen then imitate DeLaValliere? Ten days after his suicide, 14‑year‑old Justin Spoonhour picked a tree in back of his home and hanged himself. Spoonhour lived in Putnam Valley, five miles north of where DeLaValliere died. His mother graphically described in a People magazine article how she found her boy. "I turned my light on and saw Justin hanging from a tree,” she wrote. "His eyes and mouth were open, and his tongue was swollen and protruding." As we have noted, this was Valentine’s Day in Peekskill.

Elsewhere in The Copycat Effect, Valentine's Day figures as a touchstone for understanding the context of violence in which we find ourselves. I noted:

In 2002, National Review online editor Jonah Goldberg, a conservative, commented on liberal Senator Patrick Moynihan’s 1993 essay, “Defining Deviancy Down,” to make some points about the media’s normalizing of terrorism. Goldberg’s and Moynihan’s insights apply here, in understanding how the media makes “celebrities” of events, which then serve as cultural icons that are held up for emulation by followers. In this way, copycats are produced. Calling the essay “one of the most influential articles of the last decade,” Goldberg notes that “Moynihan argued that deviancy - crime, mental illness, out-of-wedlock births, etc. -- had become so rampant, had so thoroughly soaked into the culture, that we simply had to redefine the abnormal as normal to cope.”

“Moynihan's most famous example was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre,” noted Goldberg. “That event was a major turning point in American history, credited with helping to convince Americans to abandon prohibition…The actual details? Four gangsters murdered seven gangsters. In the early 1990s, Moynihan noted, Los Angeles suffered from the equivalent of one St. Valentine's Day Massacre every weekend. And, of course, we can say much the same about suicide bombings in Israel.”

Now, the events at Northern Illinois University at Cole Hall, by a man who lived in Urbana, Illinois, will be a new marker of sorts, sadly.

We are slowly moving to the point in our American cultural history in which a school shooting every month during the academic year is seen as normal, with some even more dangerous times of the year when they come in waves. Why are we settling for this? Why has a sense of inevitability in copycat campus, mall, and other "rampages" come into these times?

Certainly, for some of us, St. Valentine's Day, named after a mystical martyred saint of ancient Rome, will always be seen as a potentially dangerous date ~ and perhaps future scholars will point to Columbine, VA Tech, and NIU as the most unfortunate of milestones.

NIU Shooter: Steve Kazmierczak

From hints of information noted in the media, the NIU shooter must allegedly be the former Academic Criminal Justice Association Vice-President Steve Kazmierczak.

In an overnight Chicago Tribune article, you will find that it gives enough data about the shooter, without giving his id away, for anyone using the net to find his true identity.

The shooter, we are told, was the VP of the above association and the coauthor of a paper on prison self-injury (what is called "parasuicides" in my field).

That paper is:

Thomas, Jim, Margaret Leaf, Steve Kazmierczak, and Josh Stone. 2006. "Self-Injury in Correctional Settings: 'Pathology' of Prisons or of Prisoners?" Criminology and Public Policy 5(1):193-202.

Matching the two, you find it is Steve Kazmierczak.

The paper describes Steve Kazmierczak thusly: "Beginning graduate work at Northern Illinois University. In addition to his interests in corrections, political violence, and peace and social justice, he is co-authoring a manuscript on the role of religion in the formation of early prisons in the United States with Jim Thomas and Josh Stone. He is also develops content for online education and is an executive board officer of the NIU student chapter of the American Correctional Association."

I expect an in-depth examination of Kazmierczak's visible internet life within hours.

It is ironic that Kazmierczak would have been involved in writing a paper on parasuicidal behavior.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Another painful anniversary created: Six people are dead in February 14th's Northern Illinois University shooting, including the shooter. There have been 22 casualties in all.

Updated information has clarified some details. The gunman turned the gun on himself on the stage at Cole Hall.

All of the victims are students, including the instructor of the class, who is a graduate teaching assistant.

The class being taught was a course in the Geology department, an introductory section in ocean science. A total of 162 students are enrolled in the course, but only 100 or so were in the 400-person lecture hall (later reports say 200-person) at the time of the shooting.

Witnesses say the gunman came from behind a curtain at the front of the hall and started firing from the stage, targeting the instructor first.

Police have identified the suspect but have yet to name him, as of 10:00 pm ET on February 14, 2008. During Spring 2007, the shooter was enrolled as a graduate student in sociology at NIU, but based on a student id found on his body, authorities think he was currently attending another Illinois university.

(An overnight update notes the shooter was a current graduate student in social work at the University of Illinois.)

The assailant was described by several witnesses as a tall young man, apparently college-aged, dressed in black or dark clothes, with a black or dark knit cap on his head. He reportedly first fired the shotgun before turning to the handguns and inflicting several head wounds, according to media reports.

Early reports said three weapons were found with the man’s body — two handguns, including a Glock, and the shotgun. (One cable news outlet said there may have been a third handgun, based upon the ammo discovered that did not match the two recovered handguns. This report appears to be unconfirmed. Later, police confirmed there were four weapons used.)

This is truly a tragic event, happening on St. Valentine's Day, a day of some infamy already in Illinois because of the St. Valentine's Massacre in 1929, which took place in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago's North Side.

Personally, this day is a powerful and deadly one in my own family. My maternal grandmother, Nellie Gray, was killed in a murder-suicide in Decatur, Illinois, on this 14th day of February in 1940. The bullet that killed Nellie was fired through a picture window, whizzed by my 12-year-old mother-to-be ironing clothes in the middle of the room, and hit my mother's mother on the front room davenport. The shooter (Nellie Gray's estranged husband, my mother's stepfather) then took the rifle, went around to an alley, and killed himself.

As I was growing up, Valentine's Day was always treated differently in my family than the way I saw other people experience it.

I empathize with all the families that shall never be able to go through another St. Valentine's Day without reliving this tragedy.

Anniversaries are important. All holidays are not joyful.

NIU Shooting

I began writing a blog this morning about "school shootings", and was adding more as this just came in...

This Thursday afternoon, CNN is reporting that at least 15 people have been shot and several injured at Northern Illinois University outside Chicago.

The gunman who opened fire in a lecture hall is dead according to DeKalb police, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The lecture hall is Cole Hall, reports say. The shooting occured shortly after 3 p.m. ET. The shooter was carrying a shotgun and a pistol.

The University has ordered its student body to seek shelter and canceled classes on this Valentine's Day, 2008.

"Its has been confirmed that there has been a shooting on campus and several people have been taken away by ambulance," the school said in a posting on its DeKalb campus Web site. "All classes are canceled on the DeKalb campus. People are urged not to come to campus."

DeKalb is 65 miles west of downtown Chicago and 45 minutes southeast of Rockford.

I was just preparing a new blog saying I expected some more shootings due to the increased media drumbeat because of the mislabeling of the killings at educational settings in Memphis and Oxnard, California, last week as "school shootings."

It seemed the media is getting bored. Slowing election news and eighteen debates mean that "school shootings" are going to be used to break the boredom. This is a reality, even if last week's "school shootings" were incorrectly labeled as such.

Recent events have been building to this, kicked off most recently by the Louisiana Technical College at Baton Rogue killings during a horrible week of violence (see past blogs here).

At the end of last week, news quickly spread of two "school shootings."

But wait.

"Classic school shootings" are of a suicidal individual invading a school and randomly shooting people, even if he seems to be targeting specific groups (e.g. athletes, girls, teachers, school officials). The ones last week were different.

Two separate cases of individual boys going into two separate schools, after conflicts with one specific individual each, and shooting one chosen victim in each site. In neither case did the two shooters act suicidal, but only revengeful. They both surrendered immediately after they shoot their single target. Nevertheless, both were reported graphically by the media as "school shootings." But they did not really deserve that description, although they technically were attempted murders in schools.

Today, this Valentine's Day morning, the wire services told that the young man who has been shot in Oxnard had died.

Now this Northern Illinois University shooting occurs, and the typical suicidal pattern appears to be repeating itself with this event. It copies the Louisiana Technical College shooting, in many ways.

{See an update that follows.}

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Shootings Shatter Gender Barrier

Change is in the air. And danger. The Louisiana Tech killing of two nursing students destroys the recent truism that male shooters were the only ones who have carried out fatal rampages in schools and colleges in the last dozen years.

After September 11, 2001, the race and ethnicity of the so-called "classic school rampage killers" have changed from only rural and suburban white youth. Now this new event breaks the invisible gender barrier.

Additionally, in the last two years, a major change in school shootings has been to that of a sprinkling of older males who are using the "fishbowl" of educational settings to carry out their deathly attacks, which often have as a component mass hostage situations, as well. Now a little-acknowledged earthquake has occurred with a woman being the suicidal shooter.

On Friday, February 8, 2008, at Baton Rouge, two Louisiana Technical College students, Karsheika Graves, 21, and Taneshia Butler, 26, both of Baton Rouge, were killed by a schoolmate, Latina Williams, 23, with a .357-caliber revolver.

The two women apparently were shot while sitting in their seats in the second-floor classroom at Louisiana Technical College, Baton Rouge Sgt. Don Kelly said. About 20 people were in the emergency medical technology class at the time.

Williams entered the room briefly, spoke with the instructor and left, police reported. She returned through another door and fired six rounds, reloaded and shot herself in the head, Kelly said. (Not at all surprisingly, since I consider 100% of school shooters as suicidal.)

Officers ran into the building within four minutes of the first 911 call, which came at 8:36 a.m., Kelly said.

"There was mass pandemonium, people running," he said. "One officer -- the first into the classroom -- told me he could still smell gunpowder."

"Why those two women were targeted ... is still an unanswered question," Kelly said.

As noted in great detail in The Copycat Effect, the "modern era" of school shootings began in the USA on February 2, 1996, in Moses Lake, Washington. The new pattern that was shown in that shooting was of a male student (not an outsider) entering the school and killing his classmates and teachers.

In the Moses Lake event, Barry Loukaitis, 14, in this Columbine precusor, dressed all in black, including a long coat (apparently more of a Western duster than a trenchcoat), held his algebra class hostage, killed two students, wounded another severely, and killed his algebra teacher by shooting her as she wrote on the blackboard.

Loukaitis then turned to the class and said "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" The quotation was directly taken from a Stephen King book, Rage about a school shooting of an algebra teacher that Loukaitis allegedly used as the model for his attack. (King withdrew the book from publication three years later, after Columbine.)

From 1996 until 9/11, school shootings profiled by the mass media and cable news in their wall-to-wall coverage were of white males. After 9/11, Natives, African-Americans, and other ethnicities began to show up as the shooters. Nevertheless, all were still males.

In the worst school shooting rampage in modern U.S. history, a male student, Cho Seung-Hui, whose family had moved from South Korea when he was a youth, killed 32 people at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, before turning the gun on himself.

Before 9/11, this pattern of the fatal shooters being rural and suburban Caucasian males held. But following a year of quiet, while young white males are still shooters, an international flavor to the personalities and locations of the shooters and shootings occurred - with a German (Erfurt, Germany), a Native American (Red Lake, Minnesota), an East Indian Sikh (Dawson College, Montreal, Canada), and a South Korean (VA Tech), being some notable and prominent examples mentioned by the media. During the nine school shootings of the fall of 2006, the element of "outsider" was most definitely an underlying theme, with a mix in of some sexually disturbed and disruptive male adults.

The shifts in rampage shootings has been in evidence too. A year ago, 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.

All the old models and profiles have been falling apart.

Now, with Louisiana Tech, the gender barrier has been broken.


Above, Brenda Spencer, after her arrest.

Media accounts may try to compare this week's Baton Rouge shooting with the horror and rampage of January 29, 1979. That was the date on which 16-year-old Brenda Spencer stuck her rifle out her window and began firing not at her own school, but at her San Diego neighborhood's Cleveland Elementary School, across the street. Before it was over, she had killed two, the school's caretaker and the principal, as well as wounding nine students. When arrested by the police and asked why she did it, Spencer infamously said: "I just don't like Mondays." That quote became an anthem of the era, via a song written by Bob Geldof, and sung by his Boomtown Rats.

Twenty years ago, on May 20, 1988, in Winnetka, Illinois, Laurie Dann, 30, walked into a second grade classroom at Hubbard Woods Elementary School carrying a pistol and two revolvers and began shooting children, killing eight-year-old Nicholas Corwin and wounding five others before fleeing. She entered a nearby house where she shot and wounded a 20-year-old man before killing herself.

Both the Spencer and Dann incidents were of female outsiders invading the safety of schools to carry out their outrages. Neither were of them being members of the student body, the pattern of the "modern school shootings," in which the shooters have taken out their homicidal-suicidal rage on their schoolmates. That is the familiar scenario of the 1990s and this decade.

But the Louisiana Tech killings change all that. A woman as a classmate has now been involved in a fatal assault.

If we have learned anything from the recent past, awareness of the shifting patterns are often instructive in predicting the near future. Look for major surprises in school shootings and similar mass rampages for this spring, unfortunately. Look again, too, to the months of March and April, with the red zone of the ten days from April 16 through April 26, 2008, as especially dangerous.

Be aware. Be alert. Be safe.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Copycat Rampages?

Two mass shootings, a school invasion, and overseas rampages in the last 24 hours appear to indicate something is in the air, and now this...

BULLETIN: Woman Opens Fire at LA College ~ BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A woman shot at least two people then turned the gun on herself Friday morning at Louisiana Technical College, police said. Few details were available. Cpl. L'Jean McKneely said he did not know how many people were shot or whether any of the shootings were fatal.

More details: At 8:30 am., a female went into a classroom and began firing. Two females were killed, and then the shooter killed herself.

Update: Saturday, February 9, 2008. See the blog following for more on the Baton Rouge shooting. Later on Friday, it was learned that a Greenville (South Carolina) Techical College student wounded himself with a self-inflicted gunshot. Officials said 19-year-old Chris Ronoke shot himself in the leg in a dorm room. When he is released from the hospital, he'll be charged for the self-inflicted shooting. Campus police say he violated school policy and the law by having a gun on campus.
[I had written the following before the Louisiana and South Carolina news.]

I was called very early this Friday morning to come onto a news radio program in Canada to discuss the "Kirkwood rampage." Such a request is always an indication to me that the media output is working at a high volume with a new wave of killings.

Before my appearance, I did some research. I was startled to find out the full extent of what had occurred yesterday Thursday, February 7th, and now early today.

Most stories were about the gunman who had gone on a "rampage" in the suburban St. Louis, Missouri city of Kirkwood (pop. 25,000), shooting dead two police and three officials at a local city council.

The shooter was Charles "Cookie" Thornton, 52, a contractor engaged in a dispute with local officials. He killed one police officer in the parking lot, a second officer, and then two council members and a city engineer. Kirkwood mayor Mike Swoboda was shot in the head and was in a critical condition. Another reporter suffered a hand wound.

"He kept saying something about 'Shoot the mayor' and he just walked around shooting anybody he could," said Janet McNichols, a reporter covering the council meeting.

Thornton was shot dead by police, after his violent outburst into the city council meeting in Kirkwood, St Louis.

It was the second mass shooting in the US in 24 hours. Earlier Thursday, a mass killing that received major cable news coverage had occurred in Los Angeles, when a man shot dead a policeman and three relatives before the police killed him.

In the California "rampage," police were called to a house when a gunman phoned to say he'd shot dead three relatives. A shootout left officer Randal Simmons, 51, dead, the first fatality in the 41-year history of the LA police SWAT unit. The standoff ended when police fired teargas and flash grenades inside, possibly triggering a fire.

The shooter died in a further exchange of shots.

Los Angeles deputy police chief Mike Moore said the gunman had no communication with police during the siege, despite pleas from family members outside to give up.

"What we were faced with was a barricaded suspect who had apparently murdered three other individuals," Mr Moore said. "Unfortunately, the suspect had absolutely no contact with us, made no effort to surrender."

Even earlier, a man charged into an Ohio primary school where his estranged wife was a teacher, firing a gun before stabbing her in front of her class. She was in a critical condition.

As a final chapter of the Portsmouth, Ohio, incident, William Michael Layne was found dead in his home after apparently shooting himself following his attack on his wife at Notre Dame Primary. Christi Layne was in a critical condition. Police said Layne stabbed and wounded another woman in an alley five blocks from the school. Stephanie Loop, 22, was also critical.

Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon February 7th, in the Philippines, an unidentified man went on a rampage killing a passerby and wounding a responding policeman before hundreds of horrified bystanders in J.R. Borja-Daumar streets. Ronnel Abadiano, 30, a resident of Barangay Carmen, was walking by when he was stabbed by the suspect. Abadiano sustained several stab wounds and died at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center. The suspect was killed later by another responding policeman. The suspect was about 30 years old and was wearing a red t-shirt and denim pants.

In New Zealand, this morning come reports of a woman stabbing two pilots (there on yesterday).

An armed woman who hijacked an Air New Zealand flight demanded the pilots take her to Australia. During the hijacking, the two pilots and a female passenger were injured when stabbed with a knife the woman was allegedly armed with. The suspect allegedly started her attack on the pilots 10 minutes after take-off from Blenheim. She was seated in 1A, directly behind the pilots.

Police arrested the woman, a 33-year-old Blenheim resident originally from Somalia, after she allegedly caused 20 minutes of mid-air terror, stabbing the pilots and passenger on a flight from Blenheim to Christchurch and threatening to blow up the plane.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Joker's Fatal Mistake

Heath Ledger did not officially die of a suicide. However, his method of playing the Joker role in The Dark Knight may have contributed to his need for the sleeping pills that resulted in his fatal overdose.

"Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," New York City's medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said in a statement on February 6, 2008.

ledger joker long

In other words, Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. The drugs are the generic names for the OxyContin painkiller, the anti-anxiety drug Valium, Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom.

One media outlet (CBS) in New York reported that hydrocodone is another name for ibuprofen, but that is incorrect information. Hydrocodone or dihydrocodeinone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from two of the naturally occurring opiates, codeine and thebaine. Hydrocodone is an orally active narcotic analgesic and antitussive. Marketed as Vicodin, Anexsia, Dicodid, Hycodan (or generically Hydromet), Hycomine, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Novahistex, Hydroco, Tussionex, Vicoprofen, Xodol. Bekadid, Calmodid, Codinovo, Duodin, Kolikodol, Orthoxycol, Mercodinone, Synkonin, Norgan, Hydrokon, Hydrocodone is commonly available in tablet, capsule and syrup form.

Ledger was found in his New York City apartment, around the corner from Lafayette Street, last month.

Initial autopsy results were inconclusive.

Authorities have contended since the beginning of the investigation that the death of the 28-year-old Australian-born actor was caused by a possible drug overdose.

Police sources offered strong evidence of that theory to media sources, saying bottles of the prescription anxiety drugs Valium and Zoloft, along with the prescription sleeping medication Ambien were all found inside Ledger's $24,000 a month, three-bedroom loft in New York's City SoHo neighborhood.

Police confirmed that bottles of prescription drugs belonging to Ledger were taken from the apartment.

Ledger was found naked and unresponsive by a housekeeper while he was waiting for a masseuse. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

In the media circus now surrounding his death, many are talking about how moody and depressed the Oscar-nominated actor seemed since September, after he moved out of the Brooklyn home he shared with "Brokeback Mountain" co-star Michelle Williams. The two have a daughter together and were engaged to be married last year.

More significantly perhaps, in Ledger's last interview on November 4, 2007, he told the New York Times he was having trouble sleeping while filming his role as the "Joker" in an upcoming Batman film, The Dark Knight (which is scheduled to open July 18, 2008). He said he had to take the prescription sleep aid Ambien and that he "probably slept an average of two hours a night. I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going."

Of the most well-known 15 films Ledger appeared in, several are remembered most often, including The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, and Monster's Ball. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in Brokeback Mountain, which covered new ground in the discussion of gay relationships within the mainstream cinema. Most recently, Ledger was featured in the Bob Dylan biography film I'm Not There.

Several of Ledger's characters besides The Joker, such as those in the two Terry Gilliam-directed films, The Brothers Grimm and Ledger's forthcoming next film, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, have been extremely edgy.

"I had such great hope for him," said fellow Australian Mel Gibson, who played Ledger's father in The Patriot, in a statement: "He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss."

In 2001, People magazine named Ledger as one of its "50 Most Beautiful People."

According to a quote from Ledger listed on his profile on the Internet Movie Database, the star enjoyed living life one day at a time.

"I'm not good at future planning. I don't plan at all," he said. "I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. I don't have a day planner and I don't have a diary. I completely live in the now, not in the past, not in the future."

Heath Ledger would have turned 29 on April 4, 2008.