Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mall Stabbings in Japan

One person was stabbed to death and at least seven others injured in a stabbing spree at a shopping mall in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, eastern Japan, local media reported Sunday, March 23, 2008.

The 24-year-old man suspected of attacking the eight people with a knife was arrested, reported the Kyodo news agency. One of the victims was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died.

The suspect was wanted for the earlier slaying of a 72-year-old man, police said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SoCal Shooting

Four men were shot to death in a junk yard on March 18, 2008, at Santa Maria, near California's central coast in what police called "a case of workplace violence."

In a wild scene that sent workers and customers fleeing for their lives, police said, the shooter killed the men with a semiautomatic handgun, pausing at one point between rounds to reload. A suspect was later taken into custody.

The shooting at Black Road Auto was reported about 4 p.m., and all four victims were dead by the time police and medics arrived, Police Chief Danny Macagni told the Santa Maria Times.

The victims, whose names were not immediately released, were shot at close range, Macagni said. One victim was found outside the junk yard, and three were found inside.

The gun used in the shooting was found at the scene.

"This is a case of workplace violence," the chief said. "We have a lot of work to do here. We have a very large crime scene."

Police aided by California Highway Patrol helicopters searched the area to see whether there were more victims. Macagni said police believed there was "a sole suspect that entered the premises and fired the shots."

Officers chased the man over a fence, tackled him and took him into custody. Police said witnesses have identified the man who did the shooting.

The junkyard, Black Road Auto, is on the outskirts of Santa Maria, near Black and West Stowell roads. Santa Maria is a city of 92,000 people 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in northwestern Santa Barbara County.

Homicides are rare in Santa Maria, which is in a largely agricultural area. In 2006, there were two homicides in the city; in 2005, there were three.
Lee Isaac Bedwell Leeds of Santa Maria was booked for investigation of murder and was held without bail. Police issued a news release saying witnesses at the scene identified the 31-year-old as the gunman.

At least one of those killed at Black Road Auto was related to Leeds, two were employees and the fourth victim appears to have been a customer of the business, investigators said. The wrecking yard is in the outskirts of Santa Maria, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Cafeteria Carnage

Death at the Wendy's in Florida is cause for a pause. Before the terribly high death toll at Virginia Tech, the largest number of recent "rampage deaths" took place in an eating establishment in 1991, with a direct link to an earlier fast food rage killing in 1984.

"The McDonald's Massacre" incident resulted in 21 deaths and 19 injuries at a McDonald's in the San Ysidro section of San Diego, California, on July 18, 1984.

That massacre was carried out by James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old former welder from Canton, Ohio, who had moved to the area with his wife and children in January 1984. He worked as a security guard until his dismissal one week prior to the rampage.

The McDonald's Massacre began at 4 p.m. and lasted for 77 minutes. Huberty used 2156 rounds of ammunition from a 9mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action twelve-gauge shotgun, and a 9mm Browning HP in the restaurant before he was fatally shot by a SWAT team sniper perched on the roof of a nearby post office. It was a classic "suicide by cop."

Throughout the shooting, which involved the death of mostly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans from 8 months to 74 years of age, Huberty yelled out he had killed thousands in Vietnam. In reality, Huberty had never served in the military.

Fast forward to 1991.

The so-called "Luby's Massacre" was a mass killing that took place in Texas.

On October 16, 1991, George Jo Hennard drove his 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck through the front window of a Luby's Cafeteria at 1705 East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen, Texas. He yelled "This is what Bell County has done to me!", then opened fire on the restaurant's patrons and staff with a Glock 17 pistol and later a Ruger P89. About 80 people were in Luby's at the time. He stalked down and killed 23 people and wounded another 20 before dying by suicide. It remained the deadliest shooting rampage in American history until the Virginia Tech Massacre.

As I wrote on page 163 of The Copycat Effect: "Before George Hennard crashed his truck into Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, on October 16, 1991 and sprayed it with gunfire, he had watched a documentary video at home about a similar mass murderer, James Huberty, who killed 21 people at a California McDonald's on July 18, 1984." (Hennard watched the tape over and over again.)

Hennard had also a used ticket stub in his pocket to the motion picture Fisher King, (1991) directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, in which a fan of a despondent shock rock talk host takes the radio commentator's remarks seriously, goes to a restaurant, and opens fire, murdering numerous diners.

On the 11th of October, 1991, five days before the Luby's Cafeteria massacre, there had been a highly publicized "going postal" situation tied to the US Post Office in Ridgewood, New Jersey, which had left 4 dead. The killer in that case, Joseph M. Harris, was arrested wearing a gas mask and bullet-proof vest, and also dressed in black military fatigues, black combat boots and a black silk Ninja-style hood, with a 9-millimeter Uzi handgun, a .22-caliber machine gun with silencer, a samurai sword, three hand grenades and some homemade bombs.

Now we are at the present and another fast food place has had a "random killing." A shooting at a Wendy's in Florida on Monday, March 3, 2008, brings into focus again that shooting rampages do not merely take place at post offices, schools, colleges, malls, churches, and workplaces. They also occur in large gathering spots where people go to eat, i.e. fast food restaurants and cafeterias.

Brian Skoloff of the Associated Press summarized, in part, what tragically happened at the West Palm Beach Wendy's, around noontime on March 3, resulting in 2 dead (including the shooter by suicide), and 4 injured:

Paramedic Rafael Vazquez left a training course on how to help when several people are hurt at once, and went to lunch at a nearby Wendy's. He became exactly the kind of victim he was being trained to save.

As Vazquez stood at the counter waiting to exchange a promotional toy for his child, he was shot point blank in the back by a gunman wearing a jacket, tie and baseball cap. Four others were wounded by gunfire during the lunch hour rampage Monday, and the 60-year-old gunman - Alburn Edward Blake [a handyman and maintenance worker] of West Palm Beach - committed suicide....Vazquez, the slain off-duty firefighter, "probably didn't even see him," said Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Steve Delai. Vazquez's wife and child were outside in the parking lot when the shooting began.

Vazquez, 42, was on a lunch break Monday and had been attending a course called "Strategy and Tactics," after being promoted to lieutenant in January. Delai said the course teaches officers how to "manage large-scale incidents like we had today."

Witnesses said Blake entered the restaurant and went to a restroom. He appeared nervous when he emerged and killed Vazquez. He died at the scene without ever uttering a word....Josh Maynard, 30, said he and his 20-year-old brother Jerry hit the floor when Blake opened fire. Jerry Maynard said the shooter held his gun sideways, repeatedly pulling the trigger, and said nothing.....

Researcher Richard D. Hendricks has pointed out this additional detail mentioned in Florida's Sun-Sentinel: "Jerry Maynard couldn't believe the irony of the T-shirt he chose to wear that day. The black shirt bears the name of his friend's band: Witness Murder."

Neighbors interviewed by the media described Blake as a quiet man who "kept to himself."

A 1996 story in The Palm Beach Post revealed that Blake accidentally ran over an 18-month-old girl with his van, leaving her seriously injured. The story said he had a young daughter, himself.

Paul Miller, a Palm Beach County sheriff's spokesman, said Blake had no relation to anyone at the restaurant and no suicide note was found. "We don't know why he picked this location to do this horrible deed," Miller said.

It should be mentioned for clarification that the so-called "Wendy's Massacre" on May 24, 2000, was a brutal killing of five employees and the attempted murder of two others at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant at 40-12 Main Street in Flushing, Queens, New York, as an outcome of a robbery of $2,400, by a former employee and his accomplice.

More to the point here, past school shootings have shown that the suicidal-homicidal rampage-styled shooters often focus on in-school cafeterias, for example, at Aarhus University, Denmark (1994), Thurston High School, Oregon (1998), Montreal, Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal (1998), Columbine High School, Colorado (1999), Red Lion Area Junior High School, Pennsylvania (2003), and Dawson College, Montreal (2006).

Even during the so-called "Port Arthur Massacre" by Martin John Bryant on Sunday, April, 28, 1996, in Port Arthur, Tasmania, he killed the most (20 of the 35 dead) at the Broad Arrow Cafe, a tourist cafeteria. Bryant's rampage was theorized to be due to the coverage of the Dunblane massacre (18 dead, including the shooter by suicide), which occurred at the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland on March 13, 1996. The story had received saturation media attention in New Zealand, Tasmania, and Australia, in particular on the perpetrator. It is thought to have provided the trigger for Bryant to act. This causal factor was, according to Dr. Paul Mullen, a forensic psychiatrist, the "copycat effect."

The workplace rampage shooter, nicknamed "The Cafeteria Killer," was, like the Wendy's Alburn Edward Blake, a man in a business suit who walked in and opened fire at lunchtime. The Cafeteria Killer struck on January 27, 1993, killing three people and wounding three others at Tampa, Florida's Island Restaurant. Just days before, the Kentucky's East Carter High School shooting had left two dead and received national media attention in its wake.

Two other instances of recent "rampage-style" fast food murder sprees are worthy of mention. One was on January 20, 2003, at the Burger King, in Pomono, California, with 2 dead, including the shooter through "suicide by cop." The other example was on March 1, 2000, at the Burger King & McDonald's in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, where 3 died and 2 wounded. The day before, February 29, 2000, a school shooting had occurred at the Buell Elementary School, Michigan, with one young student killed by one of her childhood classmates.

All of these types of copycat incidents reinforce each other. Late in 2007 and early in 2008, media attention to group church shootings, mall killings, and school shootings appears to be on the increase again, and thus it should be no surprise that people in cafeterias and fast food locations have become targets anew.

Sigmund Freud conceptualized suicide as the murder of one's self. Karl Menninger in Man Against Himself (1938) extended the concept: "Is it hard for the reader to believe that suicides are sometimes committed to forestall the committing of murder? There is no doubt of it. Nor is there any doubt that murder is sometimes committed to avert suicide."

Suicides underlie each and every one of these "rampages." The copycat effect is the trigger, and suicide ideation is the key to understanding them more clearly, from Columbine to VA Tech and NIU, and from McDonald's and Luby's to yesterday's Wendy's.