Important Facts About Mass Shooters From A Highly-Qualified, Retired FBI Profiler

Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole, senior FBI profiler/criminal investigative analyst (ret.), Behavioral Analysis Unit, and Editor-In-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Violence and Gender recently responded to Richard Freidman’s op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Why Can’t Doctors Identify Killers?”

She disputes his conclusion that mass shootings are not predictable.

If these crimes are not predictable, “it forces us to fall back on the “snapping theory– that someone just “snaps,” and we don’t see it coming and we can’t do anything to prevent it.”

Other important highlights from the article about mass shooters include:

Nihilistic/homicidal/suicidal ideation associated with mass murderers evolves over time, and evidence of this is reflected in their planning and preparation for the crime, their interactions with others, how they live their lives, their writings, and their behavior regarding social networking; people don’t just snap

The Association of Threat Assessment Professionals has developed standards for evaluating individuals who make or pose threats; there is the science behind threat assessment

Threat assessment science is based on the biopsychosocial model of medicine and encompasses all aspects of an individual’s life to help identify warning behaviors

If warning behaviors are overlooked or misread, it should not lead to the conclusion that they were absent or that threat assessment professionals have no knowledge, training and expertise to act on those behaviors

The majority of mass shooters are motivated by fame and infamy and when possible the shooters name should be not be used

Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole is a highly-respected individual who has conducted a great deal of research about threat assessment.

The New York Times should consider publishing her response to Richard Freidman’s op-ed in their newspaper.

Op-Eds Around the Net

More views of the latest mass shooting from around the net.

James Garbarino, professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago.

What is most striking about killers is that for the most part, crazy or sane, they believe their acts of violence are justified. Rodger believed he was right to bring death to pretty women who had rejected him and all the others who he felt had treated him unjustly. In this he is like so many killers I have interviewed.

There is widespread justification for violence as a tactic in America. For example, no society that imposes the death penalty can be said to be “nonviolent” in its core beliefs.

Norm Pattis, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer

“Elliot Rodgers looks less like a victim of mental illness than he does the Culture of Narcissism coming to its logical extreme. If all we are is the sum of our desires, then desire frustrated is the apocalypse. We should worry less about this young man’s mental illness and more about the social malaise that made him possible.”

We can point to all the warning signs we missed. But they’re yellow flags. They’re not red flags until blood is spilled,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University who has written several books on mass murders.

Pia Glenn of XOJANE

In a statement to the press, family attorney Alan Shifman spoke on behalf of Elliot Rodger’s father and said of Elliot, “This CHILD was being treated by MULTIPLE professionals. The CHILD was diagnosed at an earlier age of being a highly functional Asperger’s syndrome child.”

Mr. Shifman emphasized the words I’ve put in caps, not doing a very good job of concealing his desire to infantilize and stigmatize Mr. Rodger, because a “crazy Asperger’s kid” is easier translated to “senseless killing” than a 22-year old with a deep-seated hatred of women. The problem is that when you look at the larger issues at hand, unfortunately the senselessness begins to make a little more sense.”

Jeff Yang at Quartz

Rodger grew up in the shadow of Hollywood, a place where terms like “trophy wife” and “arm candy” and “casting couch” are thrown around withglib abandon. It’s a culture that has mainstreamed the notion that women are accessories, party favors, tools for sexual release, not just behind the scenes, but in front of it, particularly within the genres most likely to shape the worldview of young males.

How many “coming of age” movies have supported the idea of loss of virginity as a rite of passage, and used lack of sexual experience as code for subnormal masculinity? How many have underscored the status divide between sexually active jocks, bros and studs and socially invalidated, sexually frustrated nerds, freaks and geeks? I’ve admittedly watched—and enjoyed—many of them myself, from vintage entries like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Revenge of the Nerds to more recent ones like American Pie and Superbad.”

Interesting Array of Opinions About Why Elliot Rodger Did It

Everyone Has an Opinion: Tracking the Responses to this Latest Mass Shooting

Maybe I am a cynic but the rhetoric about mass shootings has become predictable. Common themes to explain these massacres include: lax gun laws, mental illness, misogyny, chronic anger and rage, prescription medications, illicit substance abuse, video games, poor parenting, divorce, bullying, trauma, a mental health system in shambles, isolation and a severe lack of social skills.

The truth is always more complex than any one of these factors. In the case of Elliot Rodger, they probably all played a role, some more than others.

There is also a predictable life cycle of these mass shootings.

First comes the trickle of facts, many of which are initially wrong. Keep that in mind if you are following unfolding breaking news events.

As we speak, reporters are undoubtedly searching for former acquaintances of the shooter to interview, hoping to scoop the latest story. We can’t fault them for doing their jobs.

Next comes the parade of TV experts. It is me or do they say the same thing every time?

Then there will be at least one quasi-celebrity who will make ridiculous statements about what or who is to blame for this mass shooting. Who will it be this time?

We will assuredly hear from the NRA who will pontificate about this latest “crazy killer,” the need for “more good guys with guns” and a revamping of the mental health system (the latter of which I wholeheartedly agree). They don’t typically comment about mass shooting stories until the dust clears a bit.

Also expect to hear from those of whom are convinced of the causal link between mental illness and violence and as a rebuttal those of whom are upset about the connection being made between the two. They are now a staple of every mass shooting news cycle.

Finally, our short attention span and desensitization to violence demands that this story fade from our consciousness by the end of the week or until the next massacre occurs.

Of particular interest are the reactions of others, mostly mental health professionals. Some have balanced opinions and others not so much. I will be highlighting the latter in the coming days.

The TV experts and their opinions are often cringe-worthy. Consider the psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig who said that it was her belief that Elliot Rodger’s rage was due to “homosexual impulses.”

“When I was first listening to him, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s angry with women for rejecting him,'” Ludwig said. “Then I started to have a different idea: ‘Is this somebody who is trying to fight against his homosexual impulses?'”

It is always surprising how many TV mental health professionals are quick to offer a diagnosis of these shooters. Dr. Ludwig said that Rodger’s behaviors may indicate “early schizophrenia.”

There are only a few TV experts who I respect.

What have you heard other “experts” say on TV?

FedEx Mass Shooter Leaves Suicide Note, Insights Into Why He Did It

One of the most recent mass shootings occurred at a FedEx workplace in Kennesaw, Georgia on April 29, 2014. The shooter: 19-year-old Geddy Lee Kramer. He shot six FedEx coworkers and then killed himself. When authorities located his car, they found 55 12-gauge shotgun shells, maps and a suicide note. Clearly the massacre was premeditated.

It’s rare for a mass murderer to leave a suicide note. They are typically killed or kill themselves. They rarely leave direct communication detailing their state of mind.

His main issues seem to have been severe depression and not feeling “like a man.” He was obviously suicidal but decided to take out others with him. He didn’t care who he hurt and even says that directly in his note.

“I’m not sad or sorry for the misery I’ve caused.”

Desperate and angry people, who have nothing to lose, can be quite dangerous.

Most mass murderers do not snap. Kramer did not snap and said so in his suicide note:

“This wasn’t the result of me snapping…It was more of a several month snap. Slow and steady.”

Among the majority of mass shooters, there is a clear path to violence. One can look back, and trace the mental deterioration, the planning, the path to ending it all.

Other signs of Kramer’s preplanning included his digital journal and his gathering of various types of weapons and materials for explosives.

Another common theme among mass murderers is the desire for infamy. Kramer apparently thought the act of mass murder would bring him fame, at least to some degree. He saw that as being better than a “nobody.”

His sexual frustrations are evident in his suicide note. He seemed to have believed that he wasn’t a real “man” because he wasn’t getting “laid.”

Many researchers believe that the ingrained ideas of “boy culture” or rugged masculinity play a role in mass and school shootings. Violence is seen as being normal for most boys. Some see it as a solution to their problems.

Kramer says that he sought psychological help but how much did he try? One session? Two?

He also says that he tried “medication” but was referring to illicit drugs. The drugs probably exacerbated his psychological problems and fueled his descent into violence.

You can read the suicide letter in its entirety. It’s been transcribed below. You could see the original here. Be forewarned. It’s disturbing.

My final thoughts on paper

This wasn’t the result of me snapping. Well maybe it was. But not like “you know what ____it I’LL KILL EVERYONE. “It was more of a several month snap. Slow and steady. This was the result of my own issues; mental instability, depression, frustration, sexual isolation. I know I shouldn’t complain. I’ve got a comfortable place to sleep. Warm food. But the fact that the field of nothingness and unconsciousness awaits me if I put a 12 gauge shell in my brain is appealing. But know this, this wasn’t a result of media brainwashing and subliminal messages. This is my own doing. I’m a sociopath. I want to hurt people. Maybe a part of this is also the fact that a life lived in infamy is better than just another nobody. This is not anyone’s fault but mine. Mine. If my self-esteem was at a point other than negative and I grew a pair to actually get myself laid, maybe I’d be alive now. I’m in my happy place. I’m in my happy place. I’m in my happy place.

Notes: Final requests

I had a much more elaborate suicide note buy it was gagging to read so I made this instead.

-I want whatever is left of my body to be donated for science.

-I don’t exactly have a fortune so anything that’s left of my possessions is to go to whomever wants them.

-It should be noted that my first choice for my massacre would start with anyone who sold me drugs and a few others on my “_______ list.”

-I had a paper journal with plans, attack patterns and recipes for explosives in a digital journal on my phone with much more. I hid them both in different locations within a 35 mile radius of my home. They’re exposed to the elements so you better hurry.

-I want it to be known that I attempted to get help from not only a therapist but I’ve also medicated with several types of drugs, most of which were illegal, and attempted many times to purchase prostitutes. Both of which became impossible to obtain towards the end… What the _______?!?!

-In case anyone is curious, my mattress is soaked in urine for 2 reasons. 1 is I enjoyed indulging in a fetish of mine. 2. I’ve been awoken from countless nightmares in a pool of urine. So there.

-I had notes and reasons in my journals behind the motive for the attack. You figure it out.

I’m not sad or sorry for the misery I’ve caused.

This was not motivated by media, music, video games (both of which [are] media I guess) or any 1 person. This was personally and I guess to a small extent politically motivated.

Belt
Machete times two
Bandolier
Shotgun
Shells
Gas can
String bag
Lighter

Some favorites

Bands:

Rammstein
KMFDM
Slipknot

Entertainers:

George Carlin
Bill Maher
Lewis Black
Bill Burr

Hobbies: video games
_______ off

Evidence That Columbia Mall Shooter Was Suicidal, Idolized Columbine Shooters

The Howard County Police Department recently held a news conference sharing information about the investigation into the January shooting at the Columbia Mall.

The shooting occurred on the morning of January 25, 2014 when Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, entered the upper level of the mall and killed two people and then turned the gun on himself.

The following is what we have learned thus far.

Aguilar spent months researching mass murder and was heavily focused on the Columbine shooters. His Internet research also involved learning learn how to assemble and fire a shotgun and learning how to build a bomb.

He also spent a great deal of time in chat rooms with people who were contemplating suicide.

He kept a private journal and had a blog on Tumblr, in which he took a photo of himself holding a 12-gauge shotgun and wrote this note in a dressing room moments before the shooting:

“I had to do this. Today is the day. On previous days I tried this I woke up with anxiety, regret and hope for a better future this day I didn’t, I woke up felt no emotions no empathy no sympathy. I will have freedom or maybe not. I could care less.”

Investigators do not believe that Aguilar knew his victims. The shooting, they believe based on evidence, was a random act of violence.

They speculate that Aguilar stopped shooting because he ran out of targets. He had 54 rounds of ammunition in his backpack but only fired nine.

The backpack also contained a video camera with images of himself holding a shotgun. Investigators declined to release these images because they believe he intended to use them to gain notoriety.

The shooter graduated from high school in June and had no criminal record. He had been working at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop near his residence. Interviews with classmates revealed that he did not stand out from other students.

Aguilar also had a psychiatric history. On at least one occasion, he sought psychiatric help for suicide. He reported hearing voices to a doctor but “gave no indication that they urged violence.”

His handwritten journals were described by investigators as being disconnected and violent. He wrote about using marijuana and often expressed suicidal ideation. Investigators said that he never mentioned a specific target.

The fact that he had a journal and a blog on Tumblr is evidence of the concept of leakage. Leakage is a type of warning behavior that involves someone intentionally or unintentionally leaving clues of an attack.

Research suggests that leakage occurs in the majority of mass shootings.

Images associated with the investigation, and of the shooter, can be found here.

Aaron Alexis Was Quite Unstable

It’s clear that Aaron Alexis was quite sick. He was paranoid and heard voices. About six weeks ago, he told people that someone had threatened him at an airport in Virginia. Shortly afterwards, he thought that people were speaking to him through the walls, floor and ceiling of the naval base. He also heard voices in his hotel room. These voices used “some sort of microwave machine” to send vibrations through the ceiling and into his body. These vibrations made it difficult for him to sleep. … Read more

Mass Shootings: Failure of the Mental Health System

Mother Jones magazine studied 61 mass shootings, 24 of which occurred in the past seven years.

Of particular interest was this finding:

“Acute paranoia, delusions, and depression were rampant among them, with at least 35 of the killers committing suicide on or near the scene. (Seven others died in police shootouts they had little hope of surviving, regarded by some experts as “suicide by cop.”) And according to additional research we completed recently, at least 38 of them displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings. “

Yes, the expansion of guns laws may be to blame but untreated mental illness is also a major part of the problem.

Mental health system experts who have studied the current system contend that it is in disarray. The most recent group to document this assertion was President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.  In their report to President Bush, the Commission stated that:

 “The mental health delivery system is fragmented and in disarray…lead[ing] to unnecessary and costly disability, homelessness, school failure and incarceration…In many communities, access to quality care is poor, resulting in wasted resources and lost opportunities for recovery. More individuals could recover from even the most serious mental illnesses if they had access in their communities to treatment and supports that are tailored to their needs.”

Understandably, many people are frightened of changing civil commitment laws but there are occasions when forced treatment is required to avert a tragedy. We have a system that often treats people after the fact, after they have suffered tremendously or perhaps harmed others.

Most people have never and will likely never be in the presence of someone who is actively psychotic and thus the argument regarding forced treatment remains abstract. It is a tragedy to watch a loved one decompensate in your presence and to be powerless to help them or to take them to a hospital for treatment. Commitment laws have become more liberal in some states but generally it is still very difficult to forcibly commit an individual to a hospital. Even when they are admitted they are often released before they are truly well and thus little is resolved.

When it comes to mass shootings, relatively speaking there is little empirical research. James Alan Fox and colleagues have written several books on the subject but a review of the scientific literature reveals relatively little in the way of evidence-based solutions regarding how to prevent future shootings.  We still don’t know precisely what leads to mass shootings and we don’t how to stop them. Fixing our mental health system is one place to start. Another idea is the creation of a dedicated center and team of researchers who are singularly focused on the study of mass shootings. It could involve helping employers and the general public identify and effectively defuse a potenitally dangerous situation and or report the behavior of an individual who appears to be a “ticking time bomb,” among other  ideas.

via Mother Jones

Mental Illness and Mass Shootings

David Gomez, president and chief executive of HLS Global Consulting Group, is a retired F.B.I. special agent and a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.”

According to his article in the New York Times entitled: Hate Speech Alone Can’t Lead to an Investigation:

“…I cherish the fact that in America it takes known or suspected criminal activity and not just speech to predicate an investigation of an individual or a white hate group.  But considering the number of mass shooting deaths in recent years, perhaps white hate groups are not as great a threat as the mentally ill.

Rather than worrying about law enforcement investigation of groups of knuckleheads engaged in hateful speech, maybe society should focus on identifying and developing protocols to deal with the mentally ill. Because mental illness and hateful beliefs are a dangerous combination.”

Via The New York Times