Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Bridge's Copycats

The Bridge, about the Golden Gate Bridge's suicides, clearly could be a source of copycat suicides.

It is good to see there is already a discussion about this occurring.

The UPI carried an article, on October 21, 2006, "Suicide documentary haunts audiences" that mentions:

Suicide experts say Eric Steel's The Bridge, which shows six people killing themselves, glamorizes his subjects and could trigger copycat deaths.

"All research suggests that showing, in detail, methods of suicide does result in an increase of those methods immediately afterwards, so portrayal of methods of suicide is ill-advised," Professor Keith Hawton of the Center for Suicide Research at Oxford University tells The Times of London.

Steel, 42, says the most popular suicide spot in the world "already has a copycat problem." He says the real issue is dealing with mental illness.

The film, screened at The Times BFI London Film Festival, gives brief portraits of the six people's tragic lives, pieced together from interviews with family and friends.

But it is the footage of the jumpers that haunts audiences long after the credits have rolled, the Times said.

ABC News also published an online article about this new documentary on October 20th, "The Bridge of Death."

Some extracts:

From January through December 2004, Steel used 10-to-12-person crews to train his cameras day and night on this landmark -- using both close-up lenses and wide angle shots to see the full expanse of the bridge.

By the time he finished, he had taped 23 of the 24 suicides that occurred that year. Now he has released a documentary called "The Bridge" that shows some of the jumps. The film has produced both praise and condemnation for his choices.

And ...the documentary has raised hackles over the appropriateness of documenting suicide, and heightened fears that it could encourage copycat suicide acts. Celia Kupersmith, CEO and general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District said that when Steel's film first began to get publicity in festivals earlier this year, there was an increase in suicide attempts at the bridge.

"I don't think it's just his movie," Kupersmith said. "Any sort of press coverage of this phenomenon here causes people to get ideas."

Some critics are also worried because they believe that seeing suicides often prompts others, but Steel doesn't believe that the causal chain is that direct.

"Most suicides are the end product of a long struggle with mental illness," Steel said. "They're not the end product of seeing images of people killing themselves. We don't show anything that people don't already know. The images themselves I don't think are the things that are driving people to the bridge."

Steel seems unaware of the research on the copycat effect.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Candidate Crozier's Crazy Claim

Textbooks Will Stop Bullets? Is this Oklahoma candidate only trying to get media attention?

Sometimes you hear the strangest things from people who obviously have good intentions.

In the wake of the recent school shootings, one of the most bizarre campaign statements comes from a man running for Oklahoma's state superintendent of education. It is so hard to believe that someone would put out this kind of thought, I will quote directly and rather completely from News Net 5's Education page, for October 19, 2006:

Bill Crozier, a Union City Republican going against incumbent Democrat Sandy Garrett, said he believes old textbooks could be used to stop bullets shot from weapons wielded by school intruders. If elected, he said he would put thick used textbooks under every desk for students to use in self-defense.

He gave Eyewitness News 5 a videotape showing he and others shooting weapons, such as an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol, at books in a field near Minco. They conducted the experiment to see how far bullets would penetrate the books.

"We are doing this as an experiment because at Fort Gibson, many young people were shot in the back," Crozier said in the videotape, referencing a December 1999 middle school shooting in eastern Oklahoma, in which a student wounded four students with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun. Crozier's experiment began with shots fired at a calculus textbook from an AK-47 Russian-style assault rifle. The shot penetrated two textbooks at once.

"We need to look at protection of young people that sometimes people may think you are a little smarter than everybody else or a higher IQ or whatever. They need to look at what the end result would be," Crozier said.

However, when the shooters took aim at textbooks with handguns, the books stopped bullets. Crozier said he acknowledges his idea might seem a bit unusual, but he's sticking with it.

"This would be to protect the children in an immediate situation. This is something that any student, any classroom in the country could do immediately," he said.

Crozier said he believes his test was not scientific. Instead, he said, he wanted to demonstrate what might happen if a student used a textbook as protection in the event of a school shooting.

"Not everybody would be saved in that situation, of course. But many of them would, and instead of running away or being lined up ... this is a way for the children to fight back," he said.

Representatives for current Superintendent Sandy Garrett said they had no comment on Crozier's ideas.

Well, I have a comment: This is one of the least intelligent ideas I've heard coming out of the "what to do" discussion, which always occurs after school shootings. It would not work. It assumes, incorrectly, a bullet path pattern of where the school shooters will aim that is predictable. It gives students a false sense of security that they can hide under desks and live. School shootings do not so appropriately comply with Mr. Crozier's example. Shootings in hallways, cafeterias, and now via lineups at chalkboards outnumber the injuries from AK-47s aimed under desks.

My gosh. What was he thinking?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Suicide or School Shooting?

Fox News is reporting on the afternoon of October 17, 2006, that there is a lockdown at a high school at Katy, Texas, which is west of Houston.

According to early reports, there is some confusion about whether the "student shot" is from a school shooting or via an attempted suicide in the school.

As I have mentioned often, 80%-100% of school shootings begin with a suicidal individual, who becomes homicidal in the process of their plan. I am not surprised that such situations are now developing in the wake of the recent wave of school shootings. The copycat effect involves any and all suicidal and suicidal-homicidal vulnerable folks in its wildfire response. The media is confused, but the foundation of every school shooting, I sense, lies in a thought of suicide - whether by "suicide by cop" or suicide by their own hand.


Now's the dispatch, in part:

Oct 17, 2006 11:33 am US/Pacific

Texas H.S. On Lockdown After 17 Year Old Shot

(CBS 13) KATY, Texas A high school in Katy, Texas is on lockdown after a 17-year-old was shot on campus late Tuesday morning. Initial reports indicate that the teen attempted to commit suicide at Seven Lakes High School. Officials are not confirming if the victim is a student at the school.


Unfortunately, the late news is that this young man in Texas has taken his own life:

The sophomore went to a secluded area next to the Seven Lakes High School's cafeteria courtyard around noon and shot himself, said Steve Stanford, a Katy Independent School District spokesman.

The boy left a note, Stanford said. Officials would not release its contents.

A student who witnessed the shooting ran to a school nurse for help, and the nurse and an assistant principal called 911. A helicopter transported the boy to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he later died.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Montreal Gazette on Copycats

Reporter Catherine Solyom has forwarded her permission to reprint the following on this blog. I am happy to see, despite many lockdowns and foiled plots, there were no fatal school shootings this week. There were plenty of "incidents," including the most severe, perhaps, being the Joplin, Missouri, AK-47 firing on October 9th, but no deaths in schools from October 9-13, as far as I have heard. Good.

Why madmen set their sights on schools
Some blame media. Theories include bullying, convenience and the copycat effect
by Catherine Solyom - Montreal, Canada The Gazette

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Beware of Oct. 13 - one month after the Dawson college shooting, something bad is bound to happen.

So predicts Loren Coleman, author of The Copycat Effect, who has tracked school shootings for three decades.

Over and over again, Coleman says, whenever a school shooting is given blanket coverage across the continent, it triggers others to seek notoriety exactly one week, one month, or one year later - often using the same method and leaving similar victims.

"When I turned on my television the morning of Sept. 13 and saw MSNBC, Fox and CNN doing wall-to-wall coverage and saying it's like Columbine, with the helicopters overhead, I knew it would get worse," Coleman said. "And of course then we had Wisconsin, Colorado and Pennsylvania ...

"I know it's eerie to put dates down, but Oct. 11th or 13th will be the end of a month-long cycle since Dawson and that will be a dangerous time. People let their guard down, then one month later pop pop pop we have these school shootings."

Not everyone, however, is so quick to make the link between media over-coverage and clusters of school shootings.

Princeton University professor Katherine Newman says it's difficult to know the true motivation - or inspiration - behind the killings when the shooter almost invariably commits suicide.

"To know a copycat pattern is developing we have to know that shooters are aware of previous incidents and have them in mind while planning their own terrible deeds," said Newman, whose recent book Rampage chronicles 21 school shootings since the 1970s. "We can't ask them when they shoot themselves."

Indeed, while school shootings tend to garner the media's attention longer than shootings in malls or workplaces, instant fame is not the only motivation.

Schools can be locations of opportunity: unprotected, in small towns they are among the few places where large numbers of people can be found in confined places.

In the Colorado and Pennsylvania incidents, the perpetrators were specifically looking for young girls.

James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston, says schools are preferred targets for those wanting to vent their rage at society in general.

"If you want to hurt society in the most profound way, you kill its children," said Fox, author of The Will to Kill: Explaining Senseless Murder. "And where do you find a lot of children all conveniently together? A school."

Finally, a shooter's life history may include traumatic experiences at schools, with bullies and/or teachers, which leads them back to a school to commit their crimes.

A U.S. government study, which examined all major school shootings from 1974 to 2000, found few factors in common other than that many of the perpetrators felt they had been bullied at school.

But despite Newman's caution, there is often evidence that a copycat or contagion effect, spread by the media, is at hand.

In some cases, the perpetrators make reference to previous incidents broadcast by media.

Kimveer Gill, who shot and killed 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa and injured 20 others at Dawson College, is believed to have made several postings on a blogsite called the Trenchcoat Chronicles, revealing a fascination with school shootings.

Two weeks before the Dawson shooting, a 19-year-old in Hillsborough, N.C., when asked by police why he killed his father and wounded two students at school, said: "Columbine. Remember Columbine," referring to the 1999 massacre of 12 students and a teacher in Colorado.

Then there is evidence gleaned from the lack of media coverage at certain times. The period immediately following 9/11, spanning to November 2002, was one such time.

"What happened was a grand experiment in media blackout," says Coleman. "The media had turned their cameras on terrorism, the coming war in Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan. It's remarkable that we began to see large body count school shootings in foreign countries, but not in North America."

"If there is no reporting on it, it doesn't happen," Coleman says. "There is no possibility of a copycat because there's nothing to be copycatting."

The clearest evidence of copycatting, however, might lie in the events themselves, in the setting, time and modus operandi of the shooters.


Much has been made of differences among recent incidents to counter the copycat thesis. Unlike in the 1990s, the latest school shootings have involved primarily outsiders: people, like Gill, with no attachment to the schools they chose as the setting for their crimes.

Of the 400-plus deaths in school violence in North America since 1994, only a handful were at the hands of outsiders. The past month has seen seven more.

But experts point out that before the 1990s, many school shootings were perpetrated by adults, including a string of nine schoolyard snipers.

The most famous, says Fox, was Laurie Dann, who killed one second grader and wounded five others in 1988.

She subsequently made the cover of People Magazine, just as Charles Roberts has made this week's cover after killing five Amish schoolgirls. Four months later, James Wilson, in whose apartment police later found pictures of Dann, went on a similar rampage and killed two 8-year-olds in a school cafeteria.

The other major difference pointed out in some of the recent shootings is the sexual nature of the assaults.

The commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police told reporters he didn't believe the killing of Amish girls was a copycat crime in part because of Roberts's intention to molest the girls.

Both Fox and Coleman dispute that finding, however, pointing out the striking similarities with the sexual assaults of girls and murder in Bailey, Colo., and Roberts's actions a week later in Pennsylvania.

Of course the copycat effect does not explain everything. A well-adjusted individual will not turn into a mass murderer no matter how many times he sees a school shooting on television, Fox said. All other factors, including life circumstances and personality, must be there.

"But in the case of Roberts, had it not been for the Colorado shooting, he would probably have not killed on Monday in a school," Fox said. "It might have been in a shopping mall, city hall or church sometime. So copycatting and contagion tends to influence the form and timing, but not the motivation for murder."


So how does the copycat effect work - and how can it be interrupted?

It takes a vulnerable, disturbed, suicidal and homicidal individual to want to mimic a previous school shooting.

But beyond that, several factors are at play.

Abe Worenklein, a professor at both Concordia University and Dawson College, tells forensic psychology students about the "mean world syndrome": when news reports devote so much attention to extremely rare events like school shootings, they begin to appear normal and common to fragile minds, breaking down the cognitive barriers that would normally stop them from committing such acts themselves.

"Fifty per cent of the news on a given day can be about the Dawson or the Amish shooting," Worenklein said. "The media sends a message that this is what a lot of people do, even though it's the rare exception."

Meanwhile, detailed reports of a shooter's motivation, personality and grudges humanize a shooter and can turn him into a role model for others, said Fox.

"For the copycat effect to be most pronounced, a copier has to identify with the role model. When a 14-year-old white kid from a small town in California learns about a 15-year-old white kid from Jonesboro, he says, 'I understand what he's going through.' A black kid from the Bronx doesn't. It's not his world," Fox said.

He is particularly concerned with the effect of all the continuing retrospectives of Columbine, with their images of fleeing, panicked students.

"While 99 per cent of people will identify with the pain and suffering of the victims and pray it will not happen in their community, there are a few who would very much like to see it so long as they are on the right end of the gun ... They think not only did they have the nerve or guts to get even with bullies or teachers, but they got famous for it."

There is also a practical side to sensationalistic news reports, says Coleman: they often provide too much tactical information on how to do the same thing, but better, including how police got into the building. And school shooters increasingly compete with others to up the body count, he said.

"Why do we want to give them this information?" Coleman asked, comparing the situation to how sportscasters ignore fans who run onto a baseball field so as not to encourage others.

If there is a positive side to media coverage, however, it is that students are made aware of the potential gravity of threats.

Princeton's Katherine Newman believes the hiatus in school shootings around 9/11 is attributable to students reporting threats and foiling plots.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the school year.

"(Shootings) used to happen in the spring, when kids' ability to cope with whatever was happening at school was wearing thin," Fox said. "The end of the school year came mercifully and whatever contagion there was would dissipate over the summer. In the fall, students would be thinking of making the football team or who to take to the prom, not who to kill in the cafeteria. Now they're happening in the fall and there are many more months to go."

Recent school shootings in North America

Aug. 24, 2006 - Essex, Vt. - Christopher Williams, 26, attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend, Grade One schoolteacher Andrea Lambesis. Dead are Lambesis's mother, Linda, 57, and Grade Two teacher Alicia Shanks, 56, slain in her classroom.

Aug. 29, 2006 - Hillsborough, N.C. - One dead (father of teenage shooter) - two wounded students - shooter showed up in a trench coat with guns and pipe bombs in a copycat of Columbine. Asked why he went to Orange High School, Alvaro Rafael Castillo, 19, said: "Columbine. Remember Columbine."

Sept. 13, 2006 - Montreal - Kimveer Gill, the 25-year-old shooter, came to Dawson College fully armed. He opened fire, killing Anastasia De Sousa, 18, and wounded 11 other students. Police fired on him. Then Gill turned the gun on himself.

Sept. 27, 2006 - Bailey, Colo. - (near Columbine) - Duane Morrison, 54, walked into a classroom at Platte Canyon High School and took six female students hostage. After releasing four hostages, the students told police sexual assaults were occurring.

As the situation neared a 4 p.m. deadline and discussions broke down, a police SWAT team blew open the door to Room 206 with explosives. Morrison fired a handgun at SWAT officers, and then at 16-year-old Emily Keyes, killing her. The gunman then killed himself. The last hostage was saved.

(A suicide note from the shooter was found on Sept. 28th.)

Sept. 29, 2006 - Cazenovia, Wis. - A recently expelled student, Eric Hainstock, 15, arrived at school at 8 a.m. with a shotgun. A custodian, teacher and students wrestled the shotgun away, but the student broke free and pulled out a revolver. Principal John Klang, 49, was shot with a handgun three times, once in the head. Klang later died at the hospital. The shooter was arrested.

Oct. 2, 2006 - Nickel Mines, Pa. - Charles Roberts, a 32-year-old milkman, entered a one-room Amish school at the beginning of the school day. He brought into the school three guns, a stun gun, two knives and 600 rounds of ammunition - as well as restraints, boards, and other items to molest or sexually abuse the children.

He told the boys and adult females to leave. He took 10 hostages, all young females. Then, after the police arrived, he began shooting all of the girls, killing five. Roberts is died when he shot himself.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006 Permission to reprint granted.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Amish, Lidle, and Creepy Anniversaries

Has this week's shift in the news caused decreased chances of more school shootings and thus even a slip in safeguards?

Nevertheless, are there temporal signposts that still alert us to possible dates of some concern?

What might occur on Friday the 13th and around Halloween?

As the Canadian Press are reporting on October 12th, the Amish school that was the site of the October 2 school shooting has been torn down.

From Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, reports Martha Raffaelle:
Construction lights glared in the predawn mist as an excavator began removing the porch of the school about 4:45 a.m., and heavy equipment knocked down the bell tower and toppled the walls within a few minutes. The quaint schoolhouse had been boarded up since the killings, with schooling moved to a nearby farm. The Amish hoped to bring some closure to the tragedy by razing the schoolhouse and leaving in its place a quiet pasture.

"It's going to be razed and topsoil brought in and green grass planted," said Mike Hart, a spokesman for the Bart Fire Company.

In general, most people have expressed calmness and respect to the Amish positive, forgiving reaction to what one unidentified Amish bishop called their "Amish 9/11."

With regard to the copycat effect, despite the Joplin, Missouri, AK-47 incident of Monday, October 9th, we may be seeing a diminishing amount of media attention to these events.

On Wednesday, October 11, as opposed to hearing about more new school shooting incidents, the wall-to-wall coverage was of the plane that flew into a New York City building. (Don't ignore the fact that this was on 10/11, and many people had a post-traumatic 9/11 reaction.) When the media discovered it was a Major League Baseball player, Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, all story leads - on news and sports cable channels - as well as on radio and in newspapers - told of the tragic and sad Lidle story.

As sociologist Steven Stack's research has shown, less suicides occur during national moments of mourning after assassinations and during financial depressions. Will less suicidal behavior occur in the wake of Cory Lidle's untimely and well-publicized (apparently accidental) death? If Lidle's death had been a suicide, more copycats would be expected.

The move from media attention about the suicidal-homicidal school shootings may decrease the chances for similar copycats this week and throughout the rest of the month. Still, the Friday the 13th month anniversary looms for Montreal's Dawson College shooting incident tomorrow. The timing for the month anniversary of the copycat cluster of Colorado-Wisconsin-Pennsylvania school shootings overlaps with the lead-up to Halloween. What are we to make from the horrific fact that Duane R. Morrison, the sexual molesting Bailey, Colorado, school shooter was a builder of Halloween "haunted houses"? Should we look for some twilight anniversary outbursts around these creepy upcoming dates - Friday the 13th and just before Halloween in this October 2006?

Is it time to let our guard down or to lower our awareness even a little? Or for the safety of our children, should we keep your antennae up?

Monday, October 09, 2006

AP: Joplin School Shooting

The Kansas City Star on October 9, 2006, has posted a story that "No one injured in middle school shooting" in Joplin, Missouri. Joplin, which has about 40,900 residents, is in southwest Missouri, on the Kansas border about 140 miles south of Kansas City.

Part of the article reads:

No one injured in middle school shooting
Associated Press

Joplin, Mo. - A student armed with an AK-47 assault rifle walked into Memorial Middle School on Monday morning and fired a weapon, but did not hit anyone, police said. No injuries were reported.

The student, who was not identified, pointed the gun at two students and Principal Steve Gilbreth and Assistant Superintendent Steve Doerr and asked them, "not to make me do this," said School Superintendent Jim Simpson.

The 13-year-old male student then raised the gun and fired a shot into the ceiling, breaking a water pipe. After firing the shot, he said again, "Please don't make me do this," Simpson said.

"It was a very close call," Simpson said.

Doerr and Gilbreth persuaded the student to leave the building, where he was confronted by two police officers who had their weapons drawn. The student dropped the rifle and was taken into custody, Simpson said.

Joplin police Officer Curt Farmer said officers found a note in the student's backpack indicating that he had placed an explosive in the school, which has about 700 students. Students in the school were moved to nearby Joplin Memorial Hall, where parents were advised they could take them home.

Simpson said the school will be closed for the day while police search the building.

The student was wearing a makeshift mask, and had been planning an attack for a "long time," Simpson said.

Simpson said authorities did not know whether others were involved in the possible attack.

The shooting happened about 7:45 a.m., 10 minutes before school started.

Tracking The Media

The Canadian media have, more or less, embraced the copycat effect. They are open to exploring the process, the predictive factor it allows, and the evidence, with regard to the triggering impact that occurred when the September 13 events at Montreal's Dawson College ignited the present wave of school shootings. The USA press was not so open, before the mirror events of Bailey, Colorado, and Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, reinforced the notion of a copycat effect on that side of the border.

Various articles about my predictions and insights on the comparative nature between the 2006 school shootings including Dawson College and the latter contagion incidents have appeared in the following:
"Author predicts pattern to 'copycat' crimes"
Ottawa Citizen,  Canada - October 9, 2006

"Copycat slayings coming"
Edmonton Journal, Canada - Oct 8, 2006

"Why madmen set their sights on schools"
Montreal Gazette, Canada - Oct 7, 2006

"Link made between media coverage and copycats"
Regina Leader-Post, Canada - Oct 7, 2006

"Author predicts more violence month after Dawson shootings"
Vancouver Sun,  Canada - Oct 7, 2006

"Expert predicted 'cluster' of school shootings", Canada - Oct 3, 2006

"Six school shootings in less than six weeks"
940 News, Canada - Oct 3, 2006

"'Copycat effect' may explain cluster"
Toronto Star,  Canada - Oct 2, 2006

"Six school shootings in less than six weeks"
Vancouver Sun,  Canada - Oct 2, 2006

"Six school shootings in less than six weeks: experts comment on cluster", Canada - Oct 2, 2006

Also the above "Six school shootings" article appeared in the following:
Winnipeg Free Press, Canada - Oct 2, 2006
680 News, Canada - Oct 2, 2006
Brandon Sun,  Canada - Oct 2, 2006
Macleans, Canada - Oct 2, 2006
News1130, Canada - Oct 2, 2006, Canada - Oct 2, 2006
570 News, Canada - Oct 2, 2006
940 News, Canada - Oct 2, 2006

Televised interviews with me were carried across Canada, twice after Dawson College, via CBC.

Coverage in the USA has been spotty, sketchy, and sometimes skeptical. It has had more to do with Colorado and Pennsylvania, of course, than about my warnings after Montreal:

"Kopel: Only press itself can stop copycats"
Rocky Mountain News, CO - Oct 6, 2006

"Can we root out school violence?"
Daily Inter Lake, MT - Oct 5, 2006

"Are NJ schools secure?", NJ - Oct 3, 2006

"Shooting Season"
Blinq, PA - Oct 3, 2006

"On school shootings" Buzzworthy - Oct 2, 2006

One of the earliest American bloggers (with an international audience) to note my copycat concepts is Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, especially when she wrote on October 2, her "School shootings: malignant, contagious social meme?" and followed it up on the Tibetan college shootings. Because Boing Boing carries her entries, the October 2nd one was copied by many other bloggers.

The copycat effect concept is worthy of spreading.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

An older Caucasian man, who has in the past repressed his pedophilic urges, comes into a school only two days after a suicidal school incident, attacks a classroom, shooting and killing children, then turns his gun on himself. Later there's a copycat incident based on his horrible act.

Sound familiar? Of course it does as at least two of the recent six school shootings follow this pattern. But what I am talking about happened in 1996, not in 2006.

What occurred in Bailey and Nickel Mines is no surprise to those that remember Dunblane.

On Wednesday, March 13, 1996, an unemployed man Thomas Hamilton, 43, walked into an elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, armed with two 9mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith and Wesson .357 revolvers. He was carrying 743 cartridges.

Hamilton, a former scout director who had gotten in trouble for taking photos of unclothed little boys, took his rampage into a classroom of 5-6 year olds, killing or wounding every person present except one student. Fifteen children and a teacher (Mrs. Gwen Mayor) died at the scene.

He then moved onto another room, but the teacher told all her pupils to get under their desks. He shot up the room, hitting 15 more kids and three teachers. He then turned the gun on himself. One of the children in that room died on the way to the hospital.

By the end of what today is known as the Dunblane Massacre, eighteen people were dead (i.e. five boys, eleven girls, one female teacher, and the male shooter). So many children died. So many.

Some earlier hints of the new "modern" era of school shootings in America began on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1996, when Barry Loukaitis, 14, dressed all in black with a long coat to hide a rifle and two guns, walked into his Frontier Junior High's fifth-period algebra class at Moses Lake, Washington State. He killed two students, severely wounded another, and then turned his gun on algebra teacher Leona Caires as she was writing an equation on the chalkboard, killing her. With 15 students in the room crying hysterically, Loukaitis said to them: "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" The line was a quote from the 1977 Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) novel Rage. (Loukaitis said he planned his attack carefully, getting ideas from the King book. In that story, a troubled youth takes a gun to Placerville High School, kills the algebra teacher and another adult, and takes the students hostage.) Loukaitis was taken into custody after he was tackled by reluctant hero Jon M. Lane, a physical eduation teacher.

Chillingly, two days before the Dunblane Massacre, on March 11, 1996, just before taking a quiz in an algebra class - a subtle link to Loukaitis - at the North Stanly High School, New London, North Carolina, Jamie Hurley, 15, took his own life with a 9mm pistol that he had hidden in his coat.

The Dunblane Massacre took place on March 13, 1996.

On April 28, 1996, a month and half after the Dunblane events, Martin Bryant, 28, killed 35 people and seriously injured 37, in the Port Arthur Massacre, at a historic tourist location in Tasmania, Australia. The chief defense psychiatrist in the case revealed that the Dunblane Massacre, and in particular the early treatment of Thomas Hamilton, was the trigger in Bryant's mind for the Port Arthur massacre.

With the consent of Bob Dylan, a Dunblane musician named Ted Christopher wrote a new verse for Knockin' On Heaven's Door in memory of the Dunblane school children and their teacher. The recording of the revised version of the song, which included brothers and sisters of the victims singing chorus and Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler on guitar, was released on December 9, 1996 in the UK, and reached number 1. The proceeds went to charities for the Dunblane children.

Christopher's new lyrics are:

Lord these guns have caused too much pain
This town will never be the same
So, for the bairns of Dunblane,
We ask, please, never again.

These words seem appropriate for these days, don't they?

Bush on School Shootings: 2006 vs 2005

How President Bush is, verbally, responding to the 2006 series of school shootings is in contrast to his silence on Red Lake in 2005.

On Monday, October 2, 2006, five little girls died in Amish country, in a school shooting, the latest of six North American school shootings since August 24. The day after the Pennsylvania outrage, the President of the United States appeared at the George W. Bush Elementary School in Stockton, California, the only school in the United States to ever be named for a sitting President.

[Unmentioned and perhaps unknown to Bush, Stockton was the site of one of the country's worst "outsider" school shootings. At Stockton's Cleveland Elementary School, 20 East Fulton, on January 17, 1989, drifter Patrick Edward Purdy, who had attended this school 15 years earlier, killed five children (four were Cambodian immigrants, one was born in Vietnam) and wounded twenty-nine others and a teacher. This school is only 3 miles from George W. Bush Elementary School, 5420 Fred Russo Drive, Stockton.]

On October 3, 2006, at the school with his name, President Bush read a statement, devoting these two paragraphs to school violence:

You know, being at this school reminds us we have a special responsibility to protect our children. The most important jobs of those involved with schools and government is to make sure that children are safe. And Laura and I were saddened and deeply concerned, like a lot of other citizens around the country, about the school shootings that took place in Pennsylvania and Colorado and Wisconsin. We grieve with the parents and we share the concerns of those who worry about safety in schools.

Yesterday, I instructed Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to convene a meeting next Tuesday, a meeting of leading experts and stakeholders to determine how best the federal government can help states and local governments improve school safety. Our schoolchildren should never fear their safety when then enter to a classroom. And, of course, the superintendent and principal know that.

Then President Bush read three paragraphs, which were about the sex scandal of resigned Congressman Mark Foley and defending Speaker "Denny" Hastert with Bush's now often-quoted "father, teacher, coach" comment.

(Have you ever wondered, who decides who attends such inside-the-beltway quickly called gatherings of experts? I certainly don't know. I have yet to receive my invitation.)

President Bush then on Saturday, October 7, 2006, talked of the school shootings on his weekly radio address, before launching in to a call for passing some of his education bills.

Jennifer Loven, writing for the Associated Press on October 8, 2006, noted:

President Bush yesterday lamented recent "shocking acts of violence" in schools and promised that his administration will do what it can to keep them safe for students.

The White House will convene a conference on school safety Tuesday. Federal officials, school workers, parents, law enforcement officials, and other specialists will gather in Chevy Chase, Md., a Washington suburb noted for exceptional schools.

The conference will be hosted by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. The president and first lady Laura Bush are expected to attend part of it.

"Our goal is clear: Children and teachers should never fear for their safety when they enter a classroom," the president said in his weekly radio address.

In contrast, President Bush was quiet for days after the last major school shooting in the country, the incident at the Red Lake Ojibwa (Chippewa) Reservation School on March 21, 2005. Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, in her March 2005 article entitled "Native Americans Criticize Bush's Silence: Response to School Shooting Is Contrasted With President's Intervention in Schiavo Case", wrote:.

Native Americans across the country -- including tribal leaders, academics and rank-and-file tribe members -- voiced anger and frustration Thursday that President Bush has responded to the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with silence.

Three days after 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed nine members of his Red Lake tribe before taking his own life, grief-stricken American Indians complained that the White House has offered little in the way of sympathy for the tribe situated in the uppermost region of Minnesota.

"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement here. "When people's children are murdered and others are in the hospital hanging on to life, he should be the first one to offer his condolences. . . . If this was a white community, I don't think he'd have any problem doing that."


"I hope that he would say something," said Victoria Graves, a cultural educator at Red Lake Elementary School on the reservation. "It's important that there's acknowledgment of the tragedy. It's important he sees the tribes are out here. We need help."

The reaction to Bush's silence was particularly bitter given his high-profile, late-night intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in a legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be reinserted.

"The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling," said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.

"He has not been real visible in Indian country," said former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.). "He's got a lot of irons in the fire, but this is important."

And finally..

At the Red Lake Urban Indian Office here, volunteer Marilyn Westbrook said she was disappointed but not surprised.

"I don't feel he cares about the American Indian people," said Westbrook, as she collected donations of gas cards and money to enable fellow Red Lake members to make the 260-mile journey to the reservation. "Why hasn't he made any statements about what happened with this shooting?"

Ah, perhaps that's why I've not been invited to Washington D.C. Maybe someone heard that my grandmother that I talk about being the victim of a murder-suicide on Valentine's Day 1940, was an Eastern Band Cherokee?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kopel on Copycats

A good examination of the copycat effect is only hindered by its fogginess on my stance on censorship, which I am against.

Colorado's former assistant attorney general and currently the research director for the Independence Institute in Golden, Dave Kopel has written a thoughtful column, "Kopel: Only Press Itself Can Stop Copycats" in the October 7, 2006 issue of the Rocky Mountain News. Subtitled "Killers, suicides thrive on publicity given those who perpetrated earlier crimes," Kopel asks and answers:

Do the media play a role in causing mass murders in schools and other public places? Certainly. Can anything be done about it? Perhaps.

Kopel highlights the copycat confirmations he sees in the Colorado to Pennsylvania events, and records reinforcing views of recent press statements of Regis University professor Don Lindley and commentary from Clay Cramer's early 1990s Journal of Mass Media Ethics article "Ethical Problems of Mass Murder Coverage in the Mass Media."

Next Kopel writes, "In the 2004 book The Copycat Effect, Loren Coleman documents, in horrific detail, how the publicity about mass murders and suicides leads to more murders and suicides." Kopel also notes I've been talking about the recent school shootings on this blog, and then goes into a summary of some of my book's contents and conclusions, plus his insights:

Copycat violence from media sensationalism dates back at least to 1888, when Jack the Ripper mutilated and murdered five prostitutes in London. Improvements in printing technology, such as typesetting machines, had led to the creation of low-cost, mass-market daily newspapers - "the penny press" - which thrived on lurid crime reporting. The immense publicity given to Jack the Ripper led to many copycat murders and rapes.

Although Coleman does not explicitly say so, his evidence suggests that a Chinese-style system of strict and comprehensive censorship would deprive would-be copycats of inspiration.

However, censoring the American media to prevent school shootings runs into the same problem as banning guns in order to prevent school shootings. An effective gun ban - including confiscation of the more than 200 million guns currently in private hands - would drastically reduce mass murders at schools, since there are no other weapons which are so easy to use and which allow one person to control a crowd at a distance. But it is unrealistic to believe that a gun ban would actually prevent guns from being plentiful on the black market, just as legally prohibited drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin are plentifully supplied on a black market that even a high school student can reach.

Similarly, it is difficult to believe that an official system of censorship in the U.S. could prevent the informal spread of news about school shootings - especially in an era when everyone has cell phones and e-mail. Moreover, official censorship would inadvertently give credibility to false rumors and hoaxes about shootings. (Of course there would also be insurmountable constitutional problems with censorship or gun bans.)

However, we know that media self-censorship does work. Almost all media voluntarily decide not to publish the names of alleged sexual assault victims, and not to show pictures of the corpses of murder victims.

Because, as Coleman details, copycat attacks often take place one month after a previous attack, or on an attack's anniversary, the media should greatly reduce or eliminate anniversary coverage, and thereby avoid giving the date an inflated importance in the mind of a sick or evil individual.

Coleman suggests that every story about a suicide or murder-suicide should include information about hot lines, or other sources of help for suicidal people.

More fundamentally, he writes, "the media has got to stop using rampage shootings, celebrity suicides, bridge jumpers, and school shootings the way it uses tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes to get people to watch their programs." He urges an end to "graphic and sensational wall-to-wall coverage and commentary of violent acts."

Because of the First Amendment, it is up to the media themselves, and not government, to search for ways to reduce the media's role the vicious cycle of copycat murders and suicides. But the evidence produced by Cramer and Coleman suggests that it is long past time for the media to begin the necessary self-examination.

Kopel's column is an excellent overview of many of these issues, and his call for media self-examination joins my own, of course. However, it appears I need to share a bit of clarification on my stance on media censorship, which I am firmly against.

As Kopel must know, in my book, the quotation he extracted comes from the middle of a paragraph that states this fact clearly, on page 256:

No one is asking the media to stop reporting the news. This is not about censorship. It is not about the right or left, conservative or liberal. It is about looking at how the stories are being presented, how the current approach has backfired and triggered the copycat effect. In essence, the media has to stop using rampage shootings, celebrity suicides, bridge jumpers, and school shootings the way it uses tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes to get people to watch their programs. Human behavior reporting impacts future human behaviors. Copycats are a consequence of a thoughtless, sensational media, and denial and ignorance of the problem will not make it go away.


There are two National Public Radio (NPR) programs with interviews with me, to be broadcast on October 6th and October 7th. These will be online for later downloads, as well as on the radio.

On the Media (from NPR)

October 6, 2006

Picturing the Worst

The assault this week in Pennsylvania's Amish country was the sixth deadly school shooting in as many weeks. Media commentators are pointing to the possibility of a copycat effect, but few are examining the media's own complicity therein. School violence researcher Loren Coleman tells Bob that a little more restraint on the part of the media wouldn't hurt.

Weekend America (from NPR)

October 07, 2006

Causes and Effects

Were two school shootings in quick succession, one in Colorado and the other in Pennsylvania, related in some way? They shared several characteristics, but the towns were thousands of miles apart, with entirely different school communities, so it couldn't be more than a coincidence, right? Not so, says school violence expert Loren Coleman. He'll talk to us about why these acts of violence happen at certain times in the year, what the media effect is, and how the two recent school shootings are related to one another.

Friday, October 06, 2006

FBI: Believe Copycat Effect

School Shootings: What You Should Know

October 6, 2006

An unrelated series of shootings at schools in recent weeks has people wondering about the safety of their children and how they can help prevent future attacks. We talked with one of our behavioral analysts, Supervisory Special Agent Mary Ellen O’Toole, Ph.D., to get some insights.

First, be vigilant, especially now, when the events are still generating headlines, says O’Toole, who works in the Behavior Analysis Unit of our Critical Incident Response Group at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. “We do believe a copycat effect takes place after these events.”

That means more than just being watchful and wary of who’s out of place in a neighborhood or school. It also means paying attention to the behavior of the people around you—especially those you know. “Be aware of people’s moods. Don’t depend just on how they answer the question, ‘How are you doing?’”

There can be plenty of signs. Most school shootings are not spur-of-the moment events, she says. They take planning and coordination. Supplies—and weapons—have to be purchased or collected. Some attackers practice firing their gun or scout locations. They often write suicide notes or other correspondence explaining their last acts.

“People who act out violently don’t wake up one morning and snap. There are clues,” O’Toole says.

Second, take all threats seriously, especially those leveled by teens, and have a strategy in place to deal with them. “Adolescents will sometimes alert you ahead of time that they will commit violence,” O’Toole says. “Don’t dismiss it as idle talk.”

In the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School killings, most schools in the U.S. have implemented some kind of threat assessment system. Unfortunately, there is no single profile for a potential mass killer, young or old.

“There is no typical school shooter. They don’t fall within a set of traits and characteristics,” she says. “That’s why it is so important for schools to have a fair, rational, and standardized method of evaluating and responding to threats.”

Third, please know that no matter how watchful we may be, some tragedies may simply not be preventable.

“There may not be a single thing that can be done to prevent a mission-oriented person from committing an act of violence,” she says.

“We all want to believe that if we choose just the right community or just the right neighborhood we won’t be a victim of crime,” O’Toole says. “Unfortunately, school shootings can happen anywhere in the country. There is no one location that’s necessarily immune from this kind of violence.”

“But remember,” she says, “despite the images splashed across televisions, the web, and newspapers, these attacks are relatively rare.”

Source: FBI

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"No Copycat" Statements Challenged

Col. Jeffrey Miller, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, held a widely reported news conference on October 3, 2007, the day after the Amish school shooting.

The public was looking for answers, of course. Miller wanted to communicate some, from his point of view. Many people clearly saw that the Amish attack bore similarities to a deadly school shooting on September 27, in Bailey, Colorado, in which police said an older white man (Duane R. Morrison) molested girls in a classroom before killing a 16-year-old and himself. But Miller said he believed the Pennsylvania attack was not a copycat crime. "I really believe this was about this individual and what was going on inside his head," Miller reportedly said.

The media detailing of the events in Bailey, however, I would point out, very definitely influenced the Nickel Mines shootings - including the over-identification between the shooters (both suicidal sexual molestors), the victims (little girls), the hostage situation (plans carried out), the use of the school (location of opportunity with girls), and the response to the police (which ends badly but with the shooter dead - a probable goal). The overlapping outrage between the sexual assault actions of Morrison in Colorado and the thoughts, feelings, and history of Roberts, the Amish killer, are too obvious to ignore. The eventual outcomes - suicidal thoughts being acted out in a horrible scenario of taking the lives of these young females and then ending the shooter's own through suicide (or if need be, via suicide-by-cop) - are the same.

The media, however, is always hostile to the "copycat effect" and so one spin on information shared by Col. Miller was done thusly:

Investigators also said that Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, plotted his takeover of the school for nearly a week and that the items he brought — including flexible plastic ties, eyebolts and lubricating jelly — suggest he may have been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls before police closed in.

"It's very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself," State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. But Roberts "became disorganized when we arrived," and shot himself in the head.

But if you read much further down, you will see that it is not this simple:

Roberts had planned the attack for nearly a week, buying plastic ties from a hardware store on Sept. 26 and several other items less than an hour before entering the school, Miller said.

So the facts are that the plastic ties, which are produced for many reasons, that would become "hostage restraints," were purchased the day before Bailey. Other items were purchased after the Bailey hostage-school shooting-suicide incident, up to Monday October 2nd's Amish killings. How do we know what Roberts was thinking? He tells his wife in his note that he had been struggling with thoughts about molesting girls again. Perhaps his internal demons were being stirred up? He bought plastic ties to do "something." Then the media's wall-to-wall coverage of the sexual assaults on the six young female hostages in Bailey, Colorado, gave Roberts the canvas to paint his horrible scenario. Yes, something snapped inside of Roberts. To say that Roberts was not influenced by Bailey seems to be a form of denial.

One other point has not been raised in the mainstream media. Has anyone realized that the tactical information being shared by law enforcement individuals in most of these school shootings in 2006 are being used by the next shooter to change the outcome into a much more violent end? The media needs to look at their responsibility in telling us too much about how the police and SWAT teams are ending these school shootings. Unconsciously, the re-telling of the police tactics is supplying insights to the next copycat school shooter that appears to decrease the chances the next school shooting situation will end peacefully. The outcome seems to be an increase in the deaths of students, principals, teachers, and law enforcement personnel - and a progressively higher body count during the immediate cluster.

The Christian Science Monitor shared further thoughts on this, after the Nickel Mines shootings:

News media bear some responsibility for this phenomenon, says James Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston. This is especially the case when attackers' personalities and grudges are exposed to high-profile public analysis - as when two teenage attackers in the Columbine attack were featured on the cover of a news magazine, he says.

"We've seen with school shootings and postal shootings that the shooters can become role models for others," Dr. Fox says. "While most sympathize with the victims, others empathize with the shooters. It's the publicity they get that turns the shooter into a celebrity that spawns more of them."

The copycat effect is going to color the violence we see in the next month or so, and then next spring.

In the wake of the school shootings since August 24, 2006, and especially after all the attention to those in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania between Wednesday, September 27, and Monday, October 2, incidents are popping up all over the country. These have included guns being brought to school, bomb threats, and plot rumors. I am unable to report on every individual outbreak; there are just too many. As examples, there has been rumors of school gun sightings from three locations took place in Arkansas, two school weapon events have been reported in Oregon, two days of bomb threats closed the University of Southern Maine in Portland, and now MSNBC has spotlighted on October 5 that all the schools in Culpepper, Virginia closed due to some kind of threat. This certainly hints that such incidents are becoming widespread.

Not surprisingly, old "school shooting" locations, e.g. Jonesboro, Arkansas and near Springfield, Oregon, have noted micro-eruptions of rumors and/or weapons at those and nearby schools. It is as if these past school shooting sites are still "luke warm" and merely need a new match - a new modeling event - to re-ignite them and they turn "hot." When in the middle of a wildfire, the last thing you want to do is ignore it.

After Columbine, in the wake of the shootings in Littleton, the nation’s schools were under attack by copycats. Some 400 related incidents were reported in the month following the killings.

“Across the nation after the 1999 Columbine tragedy,” noted Court TV’s Katherine Ramsland a few years ago, “other kids called in bomb threats, wore trench coats to school, or used the Internet to praise what Klebold and Harris had done. Only ten days later, on April 30, people feared the eruption of some major event because that day marked Hitler’s suicide in 1945. Schools in Arizona, New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, and DC closed to investigate potential threats. It wasn't Paducah, or Jonesboro, or Springfield that they wanted to imitate; the mantra was ‘Columbine.’”

The shooters historically have been found to have an "internal media clock." Anniversaries are important, not overtly, but covertly oftentimes. That's why I initially discussed the two periods of danger in October. Of course, we all should be aware throughout the month now. Nevertheless, here's what the past tells us about what happened after Columbine.

One week after Columbine, on April 28, 1999, one student, Jason Lang, 17, was killed, and one wounded at W. R. Myers High School in Taber, Alberta, Canada. This was the first fatal high school shooting in Canada in 20 years. The shooter was a 14-year-old boy. Exactly a month after Columbine, on May 20, 1999, at Conyers, Georgia, six students were injured at Heritage High School when classmate Thomas Solomon, 15, opened fire. No one died. Witnesses reported that Solomon placed the revolver in his mouth as if to shoot himself, but he did not pull the trigger.

Commissioner Jeffrey Miller of the Pennsylvania State Police, how can you say that the October 2 event was not a copycat?

Copycats Imitate

More thoughts from a mountain state...

Can we root out school violence?

Daily Inter Lake, Montana - Oct 5, 2006

Children used as human targets in their schools — it’s the worst news a community could imagine hearing.
Three times in the past week, in Colorado and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, communities have reeled with gunshots and death in their schools. Instead of studying history, students have witnessed it in the most tragic way possible.
Part of the agony is that the shootings seem so random. Who would target little girls in a one-room Amish schoolhouse?
Surely, the answer is no more clear than who would strap on a bomb and blow himself up in a busy marketplace in Baghdad or Amman. Terrorism is the institutionalization of random violence, and this epidemic of school violence is really nothing more than a form of private, idiosyncratic terrorism.
The purpose of such attacks is almost unfathomable to a sane mind, but to the sick individuals who wage these private wars, there is a hard, cruel logic that leads inevitably to death. It might have started with some personal trauma, or it might have started innocently.
In some case, the seeds of violence may even be planted by a society that values action movies on the basis of their body counts and which condones video games dedicated to gunning down cops and innocent civilians. Parents who allow their children to ingest such brain food should not be surprised if the “garbage in, garbage out” principle rears its ugly head later in life. If we teach our children that human life is of no consequence, then it follows that some children will take the lesson to heart.
There is also the influence of cable news to be accounted for, as wall-to-wall coverage of shootings and murder could easily sway sick minds to think of killers as culture heroes. Indeed, researcher Loren Coleman believes copycats imitate previous violent attacks on a regular basis. He says school attacks follow a pattern after a media event in a day, a week, two weeks, a month, a year, or 10 years. “Vulnerable humans have internal media clocks,” he maintains.
Coleman names Oct. 11-13 as a “dangerous hot window” for a next wave of shootings, along with Oct. 27-29. Who knows? Maybe nothing will happen then, but we can be sure that more school shootings will follow at some point and that more communities will be devastated.
Since the deadly shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, schools have worked to minimize bullying and ostracizing of students who didn’t fit in, as the two teenage killers in Columbine were described as outcasts.
But there is no easy antidote for whatever festers inside the souls of people like Charles Roberts, 32, who took little girls and a teacher’s aide hostage on Monday, bound them and shot them execution-style before killing himself in Pennsylvania. He, like many other school killers, was an outsider, not a student, and we will never be able to build adequate defenses against all such attacks in all possible locations.
Still, as a society we ought not to surrender to this wave of senseless violence either. That is why it is appropriate for President Bush to assemble a summit on school violence, although critics will probably belittle him for thinking that a summit can change anything.
To those critics we say, believing you can make a difference is the first step to making a difference. Whereas believing that action is pointless and that our problems are beyond solution is the beginning of the kind of despair that eventually leads people to suicidal attacks in the first place.
Yes, we had better pay attention to the horror, and we had better not surrender to it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Learning From The Amish

The Amish's reaction to the tragedy of the phenomenon of school shootings visiting their lives is a lesson for all of us.

This Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Amish community has already:

- refused most interviews to the media, because their image is not to be recorded by cameras,

- forgiven the shooter,

- visited the family of the shooter to see if they need support, bringing food and other comforting items to them, and

- openly said they will be using mental health services.

Also, quite instructively, this Amish community has decided that they will be not using the school (the site of the shooting) ever again, and will be tearing it down so it will not be a permanent memorial to remind their children of their trauma.

Wise people.
Reporter Mike Wereschagin, in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday, October 6, 2006, writes:

To preserve privacy, police and volunteer fire companies set up checkpoints on roads around Amish homes and the cemetery, said Duane Hagelgans, spokesman for the South Central Pennsylvania Task Force, a state emergency management agency. A state police airplane and helicopter patrolled the airspace above, keeping news helicopters away. Journalists were kept in or around Georgetown United Methodist Church, a small, white building bordered by Amish farms and a hamlet of about 20 homes.

Tibetan College Shooting

Tony Fields at NPR's "On the Media" just passed this on to me.

Two Tibetans Dead After College Shooting
Radio Free Asia
KATHMANDU—Two senior Tibetan college officials have died following a shooting incident at a teacher training college in the Amdo region of China’s remote Gansu province.
Separate sources confirmed the deaths of two top school officials in the shooting incident, at the Hezuo Teacher Training College in Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) prefecture during the college’s 20th anniversary celebrations in late September, according to RFA’s Tibetan service.
Lobsang, principal of the Hezuo Teacher Training College, shot Yang Zhihong, head of the school’s Communist Party unit, killing him on the spot, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He then shot himself, and died later from gunshot wounds.
“It is true the incident took place. There were some disputes between these two local officers,” a resident of the Amdo region said.
We don’t know the reason for the shooting. There are no senior officials in the office right now due to a holiday—I am on duty answering calls.

Officer on duty at the Kanlho Public Security Bureau

Reasons for violence unclear
“Lobsang was the head of the Teacher Training College and Yang Zhihong was head of college’s Communist Party,” the source said, adding that Lobsang was a Tibetan from Cho-ne county and Yang Zhihong was also a Tibetan from Tewo county, both in Kanlho prefecture.
An officer on duty at the Kanlho Public Security Bureau, contacted by telephone, confirmed the incident but said the circumstances were unclear.
“We don’t know the reason for the shooting. There are no senior officials in the office right now due to a holiday—I am on duty answering calls,” the official said.
An official at the Hezuo Teacher Training College who also asked not to be named said, “I still don’t know the reasons for the shooting. Right now the college is closed for a holiday.”
It is true the incident took place. There were some disputes between these two local officers.

The reasons for the dispute were unclear, according to several sources.
One source in Amdo said Lobsang was due to be transferred elsewhere following his promotion to a provincial institution. Before his departure, he had to get a clearance certificate from the local Party secretary.
But Lobsang was unable to account for missing school funds of around 30,000 yuan, the source said.
When he asked Yang to show the funds as college expenses, Yang refused. The source said Lobsang owned several properties that would have cost more than what a college principal could afford, and Yang had already reported this to higher officials.
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

CTV on Predictions

CTV, Toronto, Canada

Expert predicted 'cluster' of school shootings
Updated Tue. Oct. 3 2006 11:23 PM ET
Bridget Brown, Special to
Monday's shooting makes six school shootings in the past six weeks in North America, but an expert says it's no tragic coincidence.

Loren Coleman, behavioral expert and author of Copycat Effect, predicted a continued cluster of school shootings after the Dawson College shooting on September 13. 

In a September 18 email to CTV, Coleman said, "I predict that this week or next, there may be another major 'going postal' workplace rampage or school shooting."

While Coleman's email may now seem eerily prophetic, he told his prediction two weeks ago was simply the result of observing patterns among widely-publicized events.

According to Coleman, the first shooting in the current cluster happened August 24, 2006 in Essex, Vermont.  Christopher Williams, 27, went into a school looking for his ex-girlfriend, a teacher.  He never found her, but killed another teacher, and wounded one more.  He ultimately shot himself twice in the head. [He also killed his ex-girlfriend's mother; he survived his own suicide attempt and was arrested.]

The next cluster killing happened in Hillsborough, North Carolina, six days later.  A 19-year-old man was arrested after the shooting death of his father.  Eight shots were also fired in Hillsborough's Orange High School.  Two students were wounded.

Dawson Raised Red Flag
On September 13, a third shooting occurred when 25-year-old Kimveer Gill stormed Montreal's Dawson College, and sprayed students with bullets, killing 18-year-old Anastassia De Sousa before turning the gun on himself.

Coleman immediately began pointing out similarities between that high-profile shooting and the previous two. 

According to Coleman, the size and time of the cluster can depend on the amount of media coverage.  The Dawson College shooting received a tremendous amount of attention.  When he sees an event like that, he immediately considers the possibility of more, as he indicated to CTV. 

His predictions came to life, two weeks later.

On September 27, 53-year-old drifter Duane Morrison entered a Bailey, Colorado high school. He took six female students hostage, and sexually assaulted them before killing 16-year-old Emily Keyes and killing himself.

Two days later, in Cazenovia, Wisconsin, a school principal was shot and killed.  A ninth grader has been charged with that murder.

Then, three days later came the shooting in Amish country, the deadliest of the cluster with five dead.  Coleman says violent offenders, intent on shocking the public, sometimes "compete for the highest body count."

Why Schools?
"Disturbed individuals choose schools because that's the pattern put in front of them, either by reading about it or hearing about it," says Coleman, "it's a location of opportunity.  [Charles Carl Roberts] lived a mile away, he delivered milk there.  It had nothing to do with any hatred of the Amish."

Coleman says most people who encounter adversity will turn to friends, or look for someone to talk to, like a minister.  But because school shooters don't have an outlet for their problems, they mimic a school shooting they see on television as an outlet for their self-hatred.  And the similarities between the perpetrators are significant.

"One hundred percent of these people are suicidal. One hundred percent of these people are male. Most of them are Caucasian. They're outsiders.  They almost always target the same group, authority figures and girls. If you pull suicide so far inward, it turns to homicide."

Coleman says school shootings occurred as early as the 1970s, but the last significant cluster involved the now historic Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, followed by a school shooting in Taber, Alberta, only a week later.

Coleman hopes we've seen the last school shooting, but says it would not surprise him to see more this fall. He says that while the Pennsylvania shootings may not be the last in this cluster, the copycat crimes will likely slow down as we near winter. He says spring, and the anniversary of Columbine, could be enough to spark another cycle of tragedy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Homicide = Suicide Turned Outward

Are N.J. schools secure?
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Tiny surveillance cameras are mounted outside high schools and middle schools from Little Ferry to Ringwood. Staff members in Wanaque carry swipe cards that record who enters and leaves the high school. In Paterson, students are randomly scanned with hand-held metal detectors.

Ever since the Columbine school shootings became synonymous with random violence, districts have spent considerable time and money trying to make their schools safe.

But in the wake of a deadly shooting Monday in Lancaster County, Pa., educators say there is a limit to what they can do.

"I do think you can go too far," said Al Guazzo, superintendent of Lakeland Regional High School in Passaic County.

"I don't want a chain-link fence with razor wire around our campus. If you make it like a prison and treat students like inmates, that's how they'll behave. If you put them in an adversarial environment, they'll respond adversarially."

Last year, districts in Bergen and Passaic counties received a quarter-million dollars in federal grants to buy security equipment for their schools. Some, like Little Ferry and Paramus, bought security cameras hooked up to their town police department. Others, like Hackensack, began closing some school entrances to limit the traffic into and out of buildings.

Police officers throughout North Jersey also began receiving more sophisticated training on how to properly respond to school shootings.

Some believe it takes more than fancy equipment to create a safe environment.

"I've been to a lot of workshops where they talk about metal detectors and all that stuff -- but all that does is provide a false sense of security," said Michael Kuchar, superintendent in Bergenfield. "The best way to prevent another Columbine is to know your kids, have anti-bullying programs [and] create an environment where you have mutual respect. There is certainly no silver bullet, but it really comes down to outreach and respect."

Of course, Kuchar pointed out, that wouldn't have stopped what happened Monday in Pennsylvania, where a 32-year-old milk truck driver carrying three guns and a grudge stormed a one-room Amish schoolhouse, sent the boys and adults outside, barricaded the doors with two-by-fours, and then opened fire on a dozen girls, killing three of them before committing suicide.

At least seven other victims were critically wounded, state police said.

Most of the victims had been shot execution-style after being lined up along the chalkboard, their feet bound with wire and plastic ties, authorities said.

A 20-year-old grudge

Charles Carl Roberts IV was bent on killing young girls as a way of "acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago" said one Pennsylvania police official, who declined to say what that grudge was.

Random acts of violence are as difficult to prevent as they are to predict, experts say.

On Sept. 13, a gunman killed a woman and injured others at Montreal's Dawson College before killing himself. Two weeks later, a drifter in Bailey, Colo., took six female high school students hostage, killing one and then himself. Last Friday, a 15-year-old former student fatally wounded his school principal in Wisconsin.

Although Monday's attack bore similarities to last week's Colorado shooting, experts said it was much too early to speculate whether the copycat phenomenon has taken root.

"Sometimes, it is the graphic media or other things that are blamed. First it was comic books, then video games, then Prozac," said Loren Coleman, author of The Copycat Effect. "But wall-to-wall media coverage spurs these things, as well."

Monday's shooting, Coleman said, is the latest in a recent string of similar attacks involving outsiders whose inner, suicidal intentions "are turned outwards as homicide."

Uniform training

In Bergen County, law enforcement officials have spent the past year training in how to respond to such incidents. Rather than having each municipality carry out its own security plan, the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association released a training guide last year that required all departments to follow the same procedures -- allowing officers in Mahwah, for instance, to know how to respond to a school shooting in Fairview.

The active-shooter program is now a requirement for new recruits, and many departments have required all their officers to go through the daylong course at the Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute. This summer, dozens of police officers from across the county trained at a Ramsey school, where they learned how to breach classroom doors and look for shooters during a simulated exercise.

"Police have a limited amount of manpower, and they really don't have the time to wait for a SWAT team to show up," said New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro, who is chairman of the association's mutual aid committee. "So now if a shooting happens at a school, police officers have learned to at least isolate the shooter or neutralize him. They really can't wait for specialized teams any more."

Ramsey Police Chief Brian Gurney said the training programs have prepared local police officers better in how to deal with a shooting. But he said it is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that anyone -- police, educators or students -- can prevent something like this from happening anywhere.

"Who would have ever thought something like this would have happened in some little schoolhouse in Amish country? Really, who would have thought?" he said. "Nobody is safe. All you need is one deranged person who lashes out and tries to seek revenge."

What's Behind School Shootings?

Six school shootings in less than six weeks: experts comment on cluster

Canadian Press via Yahoo! Canada News Mon, 02 Oct 2006 3:58 PM PDT

By Anne-Marie Tobin

(CP) - It has an all-too-familiar ring to it: at least three girls were killed before a gunman turned his weapon on himself at a school, this time a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa.

The tragedy Monday brings to six the number of school shootings in the United States and Canada in recent weeks, and experts say it's not surprising that we're seeing a cluster.

Wade Deisman, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, has given the subject some thought - both in and out of class - since gunman Kimveer Gill stormed into Dawson College in Montreal on Sept. 13, killing Anastasia De Sousa, 18, and wounding 20 people.

He's not certain that copycatting is at play, but notes that as a general phenomenon, finding out about someone else's rampage can serve as an example.

"It erodes some of what might be previous cognitive barriers to doing something," Deisman said from Ottawa.

"Seeing somebody else do it makes it seem more ... alluring to do it, maybe more attractive to do it, to some of these people."

The first incident in this cluster occurred on Aug. 24, when Christopher Williams, 27, went to a school in Essex, Vt., looking for his ex-girlfriend, a teacher. He couldn't find her and fatally shot one teacher and wounded another. His ex-girlfriend's mother was also killed before he shot himself twice in the head.

Six days later, a 19-year-old in Hillsborough, N.C., killed his father, then opened fire at Orange High School, wounding two students before surrendering.

And last week, there were shootings in both Wisconsin and Colorado.

In Cazenovia, Wis., a principal was killed, and a 15-year-old student, described as upset over a reprimand, was charged with murder.

In Bailey, Colo., a 53-year-old gunman held six girls hostage in a school, and sexually assaulted them before killing a 16-year-old girl and then himself.

Deisman said there are "gateways" to unlawfulness that include falling into a peer group that teaches disrespect for the law, and a belief that the "system" is not fair.

He noted the anger and willingness to die that was revealed by Gill's writings on the Internet.

"Some people may identify - ugly reality, but it's true - they may identify with the feelings that the person expresses, especially if the suicide note is publicized afterward... that's straight up learning theory, modelling behaviour," Deisman said.

The last cluster of note occurred after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999, followed a week later by a school shooting in Taber, Alta.

Loren Coleman, author of The Copycat Effect, published in 2004, wrote his book after 25 years of research on suicide clusters and workplace rampages, which he says have evolved into school shooting situations.

"There's been a steady progression of school shootings since Columbine," he said Monday from Portland, Me., where he has taught at various universities, and is now a consultant on suicide prevention and school violence.

"In the month after Columbine occurred, there were 400 copycat incidents across the United States and Canada. Most of those were not fatal."

He said there was a major time-out after the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and U.S. Pentagon were attacked. "If you look at how the copycat effect can actually be proven, intriguingly, after 9-11 until the end of the school year in 2002, you had no fatal school shootings because what was occurring was the media was paying attention to terrorism, to the coming war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan," he said.

Coleman said most people with stress in their lives might get help from a minister, parent, counsellor or a friend.

"There's a group of individuals that are violent, they're vulnerable, despondent, angry and they're trying to find what to do with these
feelings," he said.

"These individuals tend to go inward with their feelings. And homicide, as (pioneer psychologist Sigmund) Freud said, is really suicide turned outward. And we're certainly seeing that 100 per cent of these school shooters are suicidal, most of them either end their rampages in suicide or (are) being killed by police officers."

He and Deisman both say suicide prevention needs to be looked at by schools.

"A lot of them are expelled kids, a lot of them are individuals who didn't get treated right in school ... not properly identified for help," said Coleman.

"By knowing about the copycat effect, I think that people then can be on alert to actually decrease it by knowing it's there."

Unfortunately, he's seeing an increase in the body count. "That really scares me because there is a little bit of almost competition
that goes on within these school shooters in which they want to do the one that's even bigger than the last one. That's the part about this that really has me disturbed."

"We all just need to really be careful with our children, and watch out."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Amish School Shooting

[MSNBC reports the situation has ended with the shooter dead. Out of a school of 27 individuals, perhaps as many a dozen people were shot and several - at least five - have died.]

Police Surround One-Room Amish Schoolhouse
12:14 p.m. EDT October 2, 2006

Police have responded to reports of a hostage situation and multiple people shot in eastern Lancaster County at a one-room school. The scene is along the 4800 block of Mine Road near Paradise Township. News 8 reporter Anne Shannon said that the incident happened at a one-room Amish schoolhouse. She said the school is marked off with police tape. She counted 13 ambulances in the area. A helicopter was overhead and numerous fire companies were on the ground.

"This is definitely an enormous scene," Shannon said.

Lancaster General Hospital has called in all available personnel. They have been told to be prepared for a large number of patients.

John Lines of Lancaster General Hospital said so far they have received three "pediatric" patients. He did not say what their injuries were.

News 8 is stressing that the situation does not involve the Faith Mennonite School or Bart-Colerain Elementary, which are near the scene.

Trends, Fall 2006

I am a suicide prevention and school violence researcher and consultant, as well the author of Suicide Cluster (1987) and The Copycat Effect (2004). Unfortunately, it has been a busy two weeks for me, as besides giving prevention workshops that have touched on this matter, I was on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, on the night of the Dawson College shootings discussing the copycat effect I saw coming. The next several days I was interviewed by CTV and CBC, appearing on a Canadian television news program about the copycat effect. Of course, radio and television are avenues to present this material, but it does not allow for the fuller extension of insights through the written word of the online media.

Therefore, I want to share what I am seeing, what I project as forthcoming in the next month, October 2006. I've been saying most of this on radio interviews and in suicide trainings for weeks. No one seems to be listening, especially in the US media. Nevertheless, readers may wish to know about the patterns that are so obviously developing.

In talking about the copycat effect in media interviews, I've been noting a developing and coming wave of events for this autumn of 2006, due to the following facts...based on the trends and analyses I've written about in The Copycat Effect.

Here is what I am finding:

- most contemporary school shootings tend to occur primarily during two
periods of the school year - at the beginning (late Aug through October) and
near the the end of the academic year (March-April)...

- copycats follow a regular temporal pattern that repeats - these could be
after a primary media event in a day, a week, two weeks, a month, a year, ten
years - vulnerable humans have internal media clocks...

- copycats imitate the previous violent attacks, oftentimes down to specific
details as that mirror the previous specifics of the shooter, the victims, and the methods -

- "celebrity" events have a far-reaching impact and modeling effect - so, of
course, Columbine serves as a dark cloud over many school shootings.

One of the silliest things I have heard from cable news in the last several days during mid-September 2006, is that "these school shootings aren't like the other school shootings." This is short-sighted, and factually untrue.

Before the current model (post-1996) in which a member of the student body would go into their own school and kill fellow students, the pattern was one of outsiders - often adults - going into schools and killing students. In my book, I discuss some of the more infamous cases (on pages 166-167, and in a long list in my appendix, following page 263).

Every year is different, and a fresh view must be considered based upon observations that are right in front of our eyes. What I do at the beginning of a new school year is to see if there is an emerging pattern that will be the re-worked "copycat" model for the new school year. To me, it was and is obvious where we were going this year.

Specifically, here is the recent short history...a mix of outsiders invading school and students making plans:

Thursday, August 24, 2006 - Essex, Vermont - two dead (two teachers) - three wounded (two teachers, plus the shooter who turned the gun on himself) - the shooter was a male, all victims were female. Christopher Williams, 26, of Essex, attempted to kill his former girlfriend, first-grade schoolteacher Andrea Lambesis. The dead was Lambesis' mother, Linda, 57, the first victim, and veteran Essex Elementary School second-grade teacher Alicia Shanks, 56, of Essex, slain in her classroom at the school at about 2 p.m.

Wednesday, August 29, 2006 - Hillsborough, NC - one dead (father of teenage shooter) - two wounded (two students) - shooter showed up in a trench coat, with guns, pipe bombs, in a copycat of Columbine - Asked by police why he went to Orange High School, Alvaro Rafael Castillo, 19, responded: "Columbine. Remember Columbine."

Thursday, September 7, 2006 - Paris, France - A 19-year-old man was detained after opening fire with a shot-pistol at a school in Paris. There were no injuries. No other details available.

Friday, September 8, 2006 - Paris, France - A 16-year-old boy fired a shotgun inside a school in the southern outskirts of Paris, lightly injuring a teacher and a student, said police. No other details available.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Montreal, Quebec - Based on the pattern I see behind this shooting, Quebec was a logical next location (near Vermont and French-linked). Kimveer Gill, the 25-year-old shooter, a self-described atheist Goth with an Indian Sikh heritage, wearing a trenchcoat, dark clothing, and a Mohawk haircut, came to Dawson College, fully armed. He
appeared to target what students call the "Jew Caf" and opened fire, killing Anastasia de Sousa, 18, and wounded 19 other students. Police fired upon him, and then Gill turned the gun on himself. Gill was obsessed by the Columbine massacre. He mentioned online being a fan of several computer games (e.g. Super Columbine Massacre) and movies (e.g. Natural Born Killers,
Matrix) with violent themes that have been played out in several school shootings.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 - Green Bay, Wisconsin - Matt Atkinson, a 17-year-old senior, told an associate principal at Green Bay East High School on the day after the Montreal college shooting that a Columbine-like plot was being planned by two teens. It was said to be a "suicide-by-cop" plot. Police arrested the boys and then found sawed-off shotguns, automatic
weapons, pistols, ammunition, several bombs, bomb-making materials, camouflage clothing, helmets, gas masks, and suicide notes. Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski said: "This was a Columbine waiting to happen."

Thursday, September 21, 2006 - Montgomery, Alabama - Former student Willie Beamon, 18, told a female student his plans to go Robert E. Lee High school to start shooting. The girl notified the police of what she had been told. Beamon was arrested at the Second Chance School he was attending after he had been expelled from Robert E Lee High School.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - Bailey, Colorado (39 miles from Columbine) - Duane R. Morrison, 54, (DOB 7-23-1953) walked into an English classroom at Platte Canyon High School, and took six young female students hostage. After releasing four hostages, one at a time, the students told the police that sexual assaults were occurring. As the situation neared a 4 pm
deadline and discussions broke down, a police SWAT team blew open the door to Room 206 with explosives. Morrison fired a handgun at entering SWAT officers, and then at 16-year old Emily Keyes, fatally wounding her. The gunman then killed himself. The last hostage was saved. (A suicide note from the shooter was found on September 28th.)

Friday, September 29, 2006 - Cazenovia, Wisconsin - A recently expelled special or alternative education student Eric Hainstock, 15, arrived at school at 8 am with a shotgun. A custodian, teacher, and students wrestled the shotgun away, but the student broke away and pulled out a revolver. Principal John Klang, 49, was then shot with a handgun, three times, once in the head. Klang later died at the hospital. The shooter is taken into custody. According to initial reports, the shooter said he was "picked on," but Wisconsin newspaper interviews on October 2, 2006, established that he was the student that most often bullied others.

Please note that the lone male "outsider shooter" is a common denominator here, as well as most of the victims being females or authority figures (teachers, administrators). Also, there exists a clear and concentrated repeating pattern of Wednesdays and/or Thursdays, since August 24th.

I would watch Wednesday, October 11 (four weeks exactly) through Friday, October 13 (the month-by-date), the anniversary period, which is a "month" from the Dawson College shootings. There will also be another dangerous "hot window" for a next wave of school shootings. A month from the Colorado-Wisconsin events of September 27-29, at the end of October, could be a time in which people must keep their guard up and on high alert.

In general, of course, we seem to now be in an unfortunate high copycat effect pattern, and it could be a deadly time for students in North America, as well as internationally, for several weeks, no matter what the day or date. (I wrote the first draft of this September 27, and had to revise it, too quickly, on September 29, after the Wisconsin incident. The landscape of school shootings is changing rapidly this fall.)

As the US Secret Service found in their study of school shootings, the vast majority, 80% of these shooters, are suicidal. Frankly, I think all of them are suicidal. Homicide, as Freud said, is suicide turned outward, and that's exactly the model that is being followed. Suicide is also homicide turned inward.

Expect more school shootings, unfortunately. Be alert, be prepared, be careful.