By Tatiana Flowers
By Tatiana Flowers
Rabat – As we have just witnessed the deadliest shooting in American history, many questions may arise. Why didn’t anyone see it coming? What could set someone off enough to make them commit such a heinous crime? Do mass murderers have something in common?
Research suggests similarities between mass murderers but these gatherings aren’t the be-all-end-all, since they can be applied to people who would never think about committing such a crime.
Many reports suggest, the killers are overwhelmingly white, single, separated, or divorced males, who are generally reclusive, with high IQ’s, but lacking an adequate support system in times of crises. Poor hygiene, social isolation, frustration, externalization of blame, and a sense of not belonging are prevalent as well. Some may struggle with romantic relationships, resorting to social media or academic writing to express hate and doubt, and mental illness is a reoccurring factor. Almost always, these kinds of mass killings are premeditated. It is important to note though, that very few mentally ill people are violent.
Though we may never have definite proof of what exactly prompts this kind of mass scale violence, we can start by examining the deadliest shootings in American history.
Aurora, Colorado, 12, dead, 70 wounded
On July 20, 2012, James Holmes opened fire in the Cinemark Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado around midnight. Dozens of moviegoers were there to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” a Batman film, popular among superhero fans. Holmes wore a gas mask, body armor, and died his hair red to resemble “The Joker,” a well-known villain in the Batman movie.
James Holmes was born in San Diego, California in 1987, and received a degree in neuroscience from the University of California Riverside. At one point, he had worked at a camp for underprivileged children.
It was reported that he had planned the shooting four months before, ordering preparative documents and magazines, as well as purchasing multiple weapons. Before the shooting, he had mailed his psychiatrist the diary he had used to document his feelings about homicidal thoughts. The notebook wasn’t received until days after the shooting.
Those who knew him described him as a prodigy, excellent in his studies, and one world’s top players of Warcraft III, a video game.
Unlike many of the mass shooters in the following paragraphs, Holmes is still alive and in jail. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The judge overseeing his case pushed for the death penalty, but Holmes’ lawyer asked the judge to accept a plea of insanity.
Washington D.C., 12 Killed, 8 Wounded
Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and injured 8 on Sept. 16, 2013, at the Naval Sea Systems Command inside the Washington Navy Yard. The rampage went on for about an hour before Alexis was killed by police. Though at the time of the shooting, Alexis was a military contactor, he had worked as a petty officer on electrical systems. He was discharged for a pattern of misconduct but had a valid identification card from his previous work, allowing him proper access into the highly secure facility.
Born in Queens, Alexis served in the Navy, and on at least 8 different occasions he was written up for “general misconduct.” He had previously been arrested for discarding a weapon within city limits, malicious mischief, and for shooting out the tires of another man’s vehicle. He had suffered from paranoia, “hearing voices,” and insomnia. Friends described him as a heavy drinker who was sometimes violent, but mostly polite, with a passion for learning about Thai culture.
Littleton, Colorado, 13 killed, 20 wounded
On April 20, 1999, two high school teens, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School, killing 13 of their fellow classmates and wounding 20 before turning their guns on themselves and committing suicide. At the time, this was the worst shooting in American history and prompted gun control, gun violence, and school safety debates across the world.
The two teens drove to school separately that morning, both wearing trench coats. They placed two duffel bags containing bombs in the school cafeteria. When the bombs failed to detonate, they resorted to a shooting spree.
Though there is no proof explaining the reason they carried out the crime, one student’s account convinced many that it was based on religion. She was asked if she believed in God. When she said yes, she was shot to death. Many thought both young men carried out the killing spree because classmates bullied them. Others suggested it was because the boys were fascinated by Goth culture.
Journals left behind by Harris and Klebold led to the publishing of the book, “Columbine,” which describes Harris as a brutal mastermind and Klebold as depressed and obsessed with finding love.
Mark Manes, the man who sold the guns and 100 rounds of ammunition to Harris was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. Philip Duran, the man that introduced the teens to Manes also served prison time.
Binghamton, N.Y., 13 killed, 26 wounded
Jiverly Wong entered the American Civic Association in downtown Binghamton on the morning of April 3, 2009, killing 13 and wounding 26. Before he started shooting, he backed his car into the back door of the building, which police said was a way of ensuring no one could escape. Then he entered the front of the building and began shooting. Many of the people who died were foreigners completing a citizenship exam.
Wong had visited the employment center previously, asking for an appointment, for assistance, because he was laid off from his job. His English was broken and he struggled to communicate with the receptionist. She asked if he needed the contact number to speak with an employee who could communicate in Chinese or Japanese. He grew angry, screaming that he was Vietnamese.
His sister told The New York Times that he was secretive and hid his marriage and love for target shooting from his family. His family was successful; yet, he had lost his job and struggled to learn English, even after living in the States for almost 20 years. He eventually had to move back in with his parents, his sister said. She attributed his resorting to such a mass scale attack to him “feeling small.”
On April 3, 2009, he had a meeting at the Civic Association but he didn’t show up on time. Just a few hours later, he began the shooting spree. He ended the battle with police officers by killing himself.
Killen, Texas, 13 killed, 31 wounded
Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist opened fire at Fort Hood, a military base, on November 5, 2009. Most who were shot were in the military but two were civilians. Hasan had previously worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He had received poor evaluations.
Hasan was to be deployed to Afghanistan, something he wasn’t thrilled about. According to NBC, The Associated Press had quoted law enforcement officials who had suspicion that Hasan had posted about suicide bombings on the Internet. According to The Washington Post, Hasan had trained at a gun range and conversed with Al-Qaeda before the attacks. He took full responsibility for the shooting and called no witnesses to the stand. He explaining had “switched sides,” adding the war had become a war and the U.S. was against Islam.
Edmond, Oklahoma, 14 killed, 6 wounded
On August 20, 1986, Patrick Sherrill, a 46-year-old part-time mail carrier, sprayed the Edmund mail office with bullets. Though America had seen many mass killings before, this was the first of this magnitude to happen in the workplace. To add, he had killed 14 and wounded 6 in just 25 minutes before he pulled the trigger on himself. The saying, “going postal” was derived from this catastrophic event.
He had never had a romantic relationship. Neighbors described him as a loner, who made them feel very uncomfortable. He rode around the neighborhood on a bicycle with two seats, all by himself. According to The New York Daily News, he peered into people’s windows, and children had reported trying to save animals that he’d tie to his fence. Often all that was left was a tail or paws. Sherrill never held a steady job and eventually moved in with his mother. After she died, he grew angrier, and even more withdrawn.
San Bernardino, 14 killed, 22 wounded
On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, opened fire at Inland Regional Center where Farook worked. Both Farook and Malik died in gun battle with police, and during the investigation, law enforcement officials found a lot of ammunition and pipe bombs, which were made by them, in their home. They were parents of a newborn baby.
This massacre sparked a highly publicized quarrel between Apple and the FBI, when the government urged Apple to unlock Farook’s iPhone, in order to ensure he hadn’t conversed with other terrorists. He and Malik had pledged allegiance to ISIS, and had had conversations among themselves in private messages about becoming involved with terrorism.
Nothing significant has been found on his iPhone 5C by the FBI as of yet.
Austin, Texas, 16 killed, 49 wounded
On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman had already killed his mother and wife before he climbed to the top of The University of Texas tower and began shooting students, teachers, and pedestrians, at the center of the college town. Students, professors, tourists, and businesspeople hid, watched, or played dead as he shot passersby with excellent precision for about an hour and a half. Police then gunned him down.
He was a student at The University of Texas, majoring in architectural engineering. In the past, he had complained about severe migraines and depression. He introduced the idea of mass killing in a public space, which sparked the creation of SWAT teams around the country, as many did not exist before that time.
He was previously in the Marines and had once attended the University of Texas before he returned. He had originally dropped out because of poor performance and began gambling. He had admitted to assaulting his wife a few times, and compared himself to his father, who had abused his mother. More information can be found in notes released by his psychiatrist.
San Ysidro, California, 21 killed, 19 wounded
James Huberty was shot down and killed by a SWAT team member on July 18, 1984, after he walked into a McDonald’s and screamed, “freeze!” That day, he shot and killed 21 and injured 19. His victims spanned in age from 8 months to 74-years-old. He left behind two daughters and a wife. That morning, he had told his wife, “I’m going hunting, hunting humans.”
He was an unemployed, former Welder, who had high levels of Cadmium in his blood when he died, a metal that causes brain dysfunction. His daughter, Zelia Huberty said she remembers seeing her father shoot his victims from the car that day. She says today, she relives it and remembers it daily. “If I could go back in time, I probably would have killed my father before any of this would have occurred.
Killen, Texas, 23 killed, 20 wounded
George Hennard drove his pickup truck through a window on October 16, 1991, at Luby’s, an inexpensive restaurant located near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. His 15-minute shooting rampage killed 23 and injured 20. Police described the scene as unthinkable, something out of a movie. Blood, bullet holes, broken glass, and bodies lined the floor. One witness said Hennard slowly walked around the cafeteria as people hid under tables, aiming his gun at them and then firing. At one point, a Fort Hood soldier threw himself through the window, allowing 20 to 30 people to escape.
A friend of his said he had talked before about committing suicide before. Hennard said he didn’t respect his mother and had never had romantic relationships or good friends. His former roommate wasn’t surprised by the murders either.
Two women who lived down the block from him received a letter he had written about a fantasy relationship with them. It read, “It is very ironic about Belton, Texas. I found the best and worst in women there. You and sister are the one side. Then the abundance of evil women that make up the worst on the other side. I will no matter what prevail over the female vipers in those two rinky-dink towns in Texas. I will prevail in the bitter end.” They then brought the letter to the police.
At the end of the shooting, police shot Hennard, injuring him. He then turned the gun on himself.
Newtown, Connecticut, 27 killed
Adam Lanza had killed his mother before he arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. The school had implemented an extra security system at the beginning of the year, prior to the shooting, so Lanza had to literally shoot his way into the Elementary school. The loudspeaker warned that shots had been heard across the school and teachers had begun hiding students in bathrooms and closets.
After Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six teachers, he shot himself. Police brought students out of the school into a firehouse located nearby. As parents heard about the shooting, they rushed there, and it became the gathering spot for those affected.
Two years after the Sandy Hook shooting, Adam Lanza’s mental health profile was released, noting that he had “communication and sensory difficulties, socialization delays, and repetitive behavior.” When he was just three years old, he was placed in an intervention program and after forth grade, he was placed in special education. The report indicated that he had written a very violent book in the fifth grade, and opportunities for intervention had been overlooked.
Blacksburg, Virginia, 32 killed, 17 wounded
Seung Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech gunned down fellow classmates and teachers before killing himself on April 16, 2007. He started the rampage by shooting a male and a female in a dormitory. He then fled to an academic building, killing more students and teachers before he killed himself. While in the academic building, he locked several main doors to ensure no one could get out. The day after the Virginia Tech shooting, NBC received a package from Cho, which included a video of him rambling and complaining about his “bratty” classmates.
Classmates later described him as a loner, who rarely spoke to anyone. His professors had noticed his assignments were angry and sometimes violent.
The University was fined by The Department of Education for failing to promptly warn students of the shooter. It took the school administration more than two hours to send the message and the information was vague and didn’t clearly warn that there was a shooter at large.
Orlando, Florida, 50 killed. 53 wounded
Just a few days ago, on June 12, 2016, the deadliest shooting in American history took place at Pulse Nightclub, a gay discotheque in Orlando, Florida. Omar Mateen, a gay Afghan-American sprayed the dance floor with bullets, killing 53 and injuring 50 more. Law enforcement officials have proof of him calmly calling them during the massacre and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, while praising the Boston Marathon bombers. It was later proven that he had ties to Al-Qaida and also Hezbollah, two opposing terrorist groups.
His wife had described him as an abusive, violent, and unstable man. He had beaten her on multiple occasions, and she had once thought he would kill her. He had visited the nightclub many times before, and never told his wife that he was a gay man. Newer reports say that
Vigils all over the world are held for the Orlando victims. A candlelight vigil will be held here in Rabat at the Moroccan Parliament at 10 p.m.