Victoria Soto, shot and killed after saving her first graders by hiding them in closets and cabinets at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Often we think that a killer goes beserk and snaps, shooting randomly, but attacks like the one at Sandy Knoll are well planned attacks, performed in public, motivated by a need for personal revenge, says James Allen Fox, news analyst and international expert on the psychology of mass murder. The murderer is dressed in warrior gear, armed with a powerful arsenal of weapons, and have made no escape plan.
Shooters share seven similar characteristics:
1. They are boys
2.They are “loners”
3.They are increasingly withdrawn from their community
4. They have recently lost interest in doing things that they used to like to do. For instance, they stop playing the guitar.
Of course, the majority of the people fitting this profile will never become violent. When a person meeting these characteristics is isolated by their peers and lose interest in their activities, they are at risk of moving from disconnected to dangerous.
Social media has changed the game. Often, potential murderers provide clues in their social media outlets like Facebook and texting. In January of this year, officials in Utah were able to thwart a bombing after being alerted about a concerning text message. In August of 2011, police in New Orleans were able to prevent a school shooting by acting on a Facebook message. Later that same month, another school shooting was prevented in Florida. In November of 2011, another shooting was prevented in Oregon, all through tips obtained from Facebook and texts.
The impact of increased awareness has been significant. In 1992, there were 40 fatal school shootings. In the past seven years, there were half that number.
If you know someone who is marginalized and increasingly withdrawn, reach out to them. This is not a police or medical issue. This is a neighbor keeping an eye out for a neighbor, families helping families. We are all in this together. Your children’s success directly impacts my children’s success. If my tax dollars go to pay for prison, they can’t go to pay for better schools and medical care. Prayers and hugs solve problems and prevent tragedy, every day.
But peace will never triumph until we stand up to the accepted marginalization of so many Americans, because of race or gender or religion or sexual orientation, or mental illness. And we must have the courage to end the insane, selfish gun culture that thrives in our country, which allows these boys the opportunity to act out a revenge fantasy on their helpless victims.