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Mass Murderers 10 Myths and Comments by Northwestern University Professor Jack Levin.

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Presentation on theme: "Mass Murderers 10 Myths and Comments by Northwestern University Professor Jack Levin."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mass Murderers 10 Myths and Comments by Northwestern University Professor Jack Levin

2 Mass Murder Definition Mass murder is where there are four or more victims in one setting. Or very close together. The guy that kills his wife at her job, goes to his in-laws and shoots them, then goes home and kills the kids.

3 Types of Mass Murderers Family Annihilators Two Types: Motivated by love Motivated by power and hate Individuals with mental defects Disgruntled workers (going postal)

4 Family Annihilators (From Prof. Kevin Browne) Family member (often father) who has suicidal thoughts, but once the decision is made, meticulously plan the demise of their own family. Stafford family 1999, Kent, England

5 Family Annihilator "These people believe if they commit suicide they will lose their families and not be able to care for them, so they illogically convince themselves that the best way forward is to kill them all and meet them on the other side.”

6 The Other Kind of Family Annihilator Motivated by hate and the need for control. Often act when someone tries to take control from them. The man who kills his kids when his wife files for divorce.

7 Mental Defects – Mass Murder See Psychotics. Genetics? Stress / mental illness? Drugs?

8 Going “Postal” Disgruntled workers. Often people who define themselves solely by their jobs or accomplishments. No other ways of defining themselves or their success.

9 Myth #1: “He didn’t fit the profile.” “The demographic, personality, school history, and social characteristics of the attackers varied substantially,” Attackers were of all races and family situations, with academic achievement ranging from failing to excellent.

10 Myth #2: “He just snapped.” Rarely were incidents of school violence sudden, impulsive acts. Attackers do not “just snap,” but progress from forming an idea, to planning an attack, to gathering weapons.

11 Myth #3: “No one knew.” In most cases, those who knew were other kids: friends, schoolmates, siblings and others. However, this information rarely made its way to an adult. Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help.

12 Myth #4: “He hadn’t threatened anyone.” A child who talks of bringing a gun to school, or seeking revenge on teachers or classmates, poses a threat, whether or not a threat is made.

13 Myth #5: “He was a loner.” In many cases, students were considered in the mainstream of the student population and were active in sports, school clubs or other activities. Only one-quarter of the students hung out with a group of students considered to be part of a “fringe group.”

14 Myth #6: “He was crazy.” Only one-third of the attackers had ever been seen by a mental health professional, one-fifth had been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Substance abuse problems were also not prevalent.

15 Myth #6: “He was crazy.” “However, most attackers showed some history of suicidal attempts or thoughts, or a history of feeling extreme depression or desperation.” Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures.

16 Myth #7: “If we only had a SWAT team or metal detectors.” Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were over well before a SWAT team could have arrived. Metal detectors have not deterred students who were committed to killing themselves and others.

17 Myth #8: “He’d never touched a gun.” Most attackers had access to weapons, and had used them prior to the attack. Most of the attackers acquired their guns from home.

18 Myth #9: “We did everything we could to help him.” "Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack," and said they had tried without success to get someone to intervene. Administrators and teachers were targeted in more than half the incidents.

19 Myth #10: “School violence is rampant.” In fact, school shootings are extremely rare. Even including the more common violence that is gang- related or dispute- related, only 12 to 20 homicides a year occur in the 100,000 schools in the U.S. past decade.

20 Myth #10: “School violence is rampant.” In general, school assaults and other violence have dropped by nearly half in the past decade.

21 Additional Thoughts from Jack Levin – prominent criminologist In almost every case the motive is revenge. Usually the killer is on a suicidal rampage—he sets out to take his own life but first he takes his revenge on all the people he believes to be responsible for his miseries.

22 Professor Levin’s thoughts: Usually the killer has suffered from some catastrophic loss; it could be a girlfriend, a loss of a place in the university—assuming he’s a student or faculty. Either way, in his eyes, it’s catastrophic.

23 Professor Levin’s Thoughts: Usually the final straw sets in motion the planning stages. Sometimes the catastrophic losses occur months before the shooting. It’s a precipitant that triggers the planning stage. Almost every one of these shootings is premeditative and selective.

24 Professor Levin’s Thoughts on Virginia Tech: At the same time this looks like a family annihilation where a husband-father wants to get even with his wife because he blames her for all his misery, but does so by killing everything associated with her, everything she loved.

25 Could Virginia Tech be a copycat? A couple of months ago there was a mass shooting involving 20 students, one of whom died, at a community college in Montreal. [In the Virginia case], the initial news reports said that the killer looked as though he’s Asian or of Asian descent. So was the killer in Montreal. I’ve studied the copycat effect. It’s much more likely to happen when the killers share personal characteristics.

26 So what happens next? According to Levin? The administrators may decide to institute some short-term measures in order to make everyone feel safe. They may install metal detectors; may place police officers in the hallways. It’s understandable; it gives the feeling of safety. But it won’t do much to reduce violence.

27 So what happens next? (according to Levin) My greatest concern right now is that this could inspire copycats around the country. At the very least, we might see false alarms being pulled, especially during final-exams week and threatening calls to faculty.

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