I have spent most of my professional life evaluating murderers and studying the causes of vi9olence.As such I have encountered individuals whose behaviors were almost identical to those of the Colorado shooter. Therefore, I cannot stand back and let pass the blather of talking heads who purport to be experts on violence and who dismiss the shooter as sane but evil.
Just because this horrendous tragedy was carefully planned and mercilessly executed does not mean it was committed by a normal human being. More naive is the assumption that the underlying motive was simply fame.Baloney! Some of the craziest, most paranoid, most discontrolled members of our society are intelligent and appear sane.Too many of my colleagues dismiss them as self-aggrandizing psychopaths.
Not having examined this particular killer, it would be unethical and unwise to make a diagnosis. If, however, he is similar to others I have examined, I predict that the following facts will emerge:
1)He had been harboring feelings of rage and fantasies of destruction for years.
2)At times his thoughts and behaviors were odd and he was hard to relate to.
3)His moods fluctuated markedly as did his appearance (e.g. scruffy in fatigues vs. preppy and neat)
4)Most tragic and alarming, I suspect, no, I hypothesize, that many people who knew him were aware of his peculiarities and violent fantasies but did nothing to intervene.
5)His malfunctioning and despair were known to his teachers by virtue of fluctuating performance and moods.
6) People who recognized his need for psychiatric care were reluctant to recommend it lest they be sued by him or his parents.
I have known faculty at institutions ranging from grammar school to graduate school who have been afraid to confront troubled students lest they, the faculty, be criticized.
I am convinced that there were times when appropriate interventions could have prevented the tragedy in Colorado.
Again, to dismiss this catastrophe as the act of an evil fame-seeker is to miss the opportunity for the media to educate the public regarding the signs of a troubled, potentially explosive individual.
Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 2:49 PM PT: I recently evaluated an adolescent who first killed a parent, then shot up his school. He resembled the Newtown shooter. He was a loner, considered peculiar and periodically wore black or camouflage.. Weapons fascinated him. He and his father went target shooting. He wrote about and talked about killing to all who would listen (not to be confused with "hear".
Do these similarities matter? You betcha. There are others in our society whose behaviors are similarly ominous and whose violent ruminations are no secret..Some killers I have evaluated sought help at psychiatric facilities before they committed murder but were turned away . Psychiatrists just don't like treating violent patients.. That's what prisons are for. People in general don't like "telling on:" their friends, even when they are alarmed at their behaviors.
I suggest that young people and adults be taught to take seriously the obvious clues that a friend or acquaintance is struggling with murderous fantasies and that they feel obligated to share their misgivings with a responsible adult e.g. teacher, parent, doctor)
Would some people be over identified as potentially explosive? Of course. On the other hand, some potential shooters would possibly receive the help they don't know how to obtain themselves and some preventable massacres would be avoided.