Tag Archives: “Rampage Shootings”

Parents of Mass Shooters Say They’re Sorry: It’s The Least They Can Do

He didn’t say much, but he wasted no time. The day after Sediqque M’s son committed a brutal massacre at an Orlando nightclub, leaving an astounding 49 people dead, the father of the murderer immediately surfaced and apologized:

I am really sorry and have expressed this to the people of the United States, especially in this holy month of Ramadan. What he has done has shocked me … I ask God for help and guidance.

 He added:

Those people who lost their loved ones, they are my family. I am as sad and as mad as you guys are. I’m very, very mad.

 I don’t know anything about the man’s politics, what kind of father he was, if he made other inflammatory statements, took questionable actions. The man deserves credit, though, for immediately coming forward. It’s not how the parents of rampage shooters used to act.

What will the reaction be from surviving victims, or those struggling to survive devastating injuries? What about the reaction from the scores of grieving family members of those young men and women whose lives his son tragically cut short?

Some will simply ignore him as inconsequential and meaningless as they cope with despair. Others may react with anger. Still others might find some quiet measure of appreciation, if not now, eventually. The victims, the survivors, in fact the world, cries out with one simple question: Why? What did my son or daughter, my sister or brother, do to deserve this? Why did your son take them away from me? What were their last words? What made your son act in this barbaric fashion?

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One thing Sediqque’s expression of sorrow, shock and anger was not: it was not silence. Silence was the default position taken by the parents of rampaging murderers in the past. The disbelief expressed by Sediqque is common. It is common that parents of rampagers cannot fathom their children could be capable of the unimaginable carnage they unleash.  Parents are blindsided by the event and are simultaneously engulfed with an international media tidal wave. Police in arrive in SWAT gear and forcibly remove them from their homes, interrogate them as suspects: what did they know about their children’s plans and how did they obtain their weapons? The media camp out on their lawns, visit their employers, family members and friends. The images of their children and themselves are plastered on the television, newspapers and web and in infamy.

If their child is dead, as if so often the case, the parents, too, are in mourning. They have to figure out what to do with the dead body. Funerals and burials are difficult, or impossible, in fear of vandalism. The parents are blamed, vilified, and hated. They receive death threats.

Expecting lawsuits and even possible arrest, parents huddle with lawyers. Lawyers advise silence. Statements made could be used against parents in big multimillion dollar lawsuits, which in the United States will, no doubt follow. Statements might be used by criminal prosecutors looking to charge somebody, anybody, with “aiding and abetting,” accomplice criminal liability, or failure to prevent a crime, something called “misprision.”  For lawyers, silence helps shield clients.

Parental apologies seem to have started in the age of Columbine. Prior to Columbine, parents often maintained silence, as did the parents of the 14-year-old boy who, in 1997 killed 3 classmates in a school prayer circle at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky.  And in the late 1999 when the parents of mass shooters made a statement, it came after a few days and great deliberation with attorneys. The statements were typically written and released by parents’ attorneys.  An example is the brief and statement released by the lawyer for the parents of one of the Columbine High School murderers:

“Wayne and Kathy…have been devastated by what their son…did.” They continue to grieve for all of the victims and their families. “Hopefully, there will come a time when they feel they are ready to speak publicly about their son and the horrible acts that he committed. But now is just not that time.”

Sediqque’s brief but immediate apology is more common now. It’s how most parents now react. In 2013, for example, a mother held an impromptu press conference in her Brooklyn, N.Y. apartment the day after her son murdered twelve innocent people at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. She stood in her living room and with clergy standing beside her, read a brief apology, concluding that she was now was glad in her son’s death he could “no longer do harm to anyone.”  Her words were preferable to the deafening silence of bygone eras. There are countless examples of the newer trend.

A second development, much rarer but even more remarkable, is that parents of shooters conducting private meetings with parents of victims. One such meeting occurred in 2013 following the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy where the father of the shooter met privately with grieving parents of one of his six-year-old victims. Another such meeting between parents occurred between two fathers in 2014 near Los Angeles, California. The meetings offer the slightest possibility of making sense of the senseless.

Experts like psychiatrist Aaron Lazare say apologies are “a validation of another person’s feelings, intuition, and perception,” and, when sincere, are an important component of the healing process. The apology, he wrote in 2004, “is a method of social healing that has grown in importance as our way of living together on this planet undergoes radical change.” Radical change, indeed.

The meetings, the prompt expressions of apology and remorse like the one uttered by Sediqque don’t bring back the dead.  But they just might help the living live another day.

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Chattanooga Shootings Produce Heroes: We Should Remember Their Names

How many people would risk their lives to do what the two Marines in Chattanooga did? How many would have, instead, yielded to the temptation to hide and live? The bravery displayed by Sullivan and Wyatt defines courage. Heroism such as this often goes unnoticed, or barely noticed. More time is spent worshipping celebrities, athletes or movie actors, who so frequently disappoint adoring fans. More public attention is also devoted to the shooters than is given to their victims or the occasional heroes who stand up to the tragic and senseless bloodbaths caused by rampagers.

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Rampage shootings sometimes produce heroes like Sullivan and Wyatt. Yet there is a good chance you’ve never heard of Liviu Librescu, Bill Badger or Jeffrey May, all rampage shooting heroes. Read their stories in my latest Huffington Post column.

The Images Of Rampage Killers Make A Difference

A photo can make a huge difference in forming public opinion. James E. Holmes is on trial for the rampage murders at the Aurora Colorado movie theater in July of 2012. Holmes was recently convicted of the murder of 12 people and the injuries to at least 70 others. A Centennial, Colorado jury is deliberating now on his fate and deciding whether he will face the death penalty. Holmes’ defense team have put forward an insanity defense, a defense proven extremely hard to prevail with American juries.

Many Americans have repeatedly seen several photographs of Holmes. In one set of popular photos, taken in court, Holmes has bright red died hair and a wide eyed look. He has a scary appearance. Here is one such recent court photograph of Holmes:

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James Holmes Appears In Court (Photo by RJ Sangosti/Getty)

And here is another photograph with wide circulation of James Holmes, his police mug shot. He has shorter hair, but still a somewhat frightening appearance:

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James Holmes’ mug shot. (AFP Photo / Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office)

One wonders, though, if public opinion of Holmes would be affected if older photos of Holmes were chosen for mass exposure by the news media. You see, before going on his horrible, blood curdling rampage, Holmes appears to have led a normal suburban life. That is not to suggest that Holmes did not display evidence of mental illness; experts have been debating that in court over the last few weeks. Holmes, though, was an honors high school student and an extremely high achieving college student as well. Holmes graduated from Westview High School in the Torrey Highlands community of San Diego, where he played soccer and ran cross-country track.

Holmes studied neuroscience from The University of California/Riverside, graduating with high honors and a 3.95 GPA. He was enrolled in a PhD program.

Take a look at Holmes’  high school yearbook photo, taken just six years before his rampage. There’s a good chance you’ve never seen this photo on the evening news or your local newspaper; I know I had not:

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James E. Holmes 2006 High School Yearbook Photo (Photo courtesy of The Daily News).

What a startling difference, right? If this was the photograph plastered all over CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the New York Times, do you think America would have a different image of Holmes? How many people are aware of his high achieving childhood of relatively normal youth? What happened to this young man in the six years from his suburban California high school graduation to 2012 when he shot 70 innocent people?  The experts agree he suffered from schizophrenia.

The images are revealing.

(Note: Jim blogs about Rampage murders for the Huffington Post.)

 

Big Media: Stop Making Rampage Shooters Famous

It’s inevitable. There will be another rampage shooting in the coming months. Sadly, they have become regular occurrences.

When it happens the event will become a major media event. CNN will go live to the scene of murder and mayhem, repeating over and over whatever tidbits of information they have about the tragedy. When the truth about the shooter (or shooters) and their motives are eventually revealed, there’s a good chance that CNN, the rest of the mass media and the public themselves will have moved on to the next Big Story, never learning the truth.

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Jillian Soto uses a phone to get information about her sister, Victoria Soto, a teacher killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. (Jessica Hill/AP).

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