#21: Other Campus Shootings

Table of Contents:

Other Campus Shootings
Texas Southern University
Umpqua Community College
Wiki On School Shootings
College and High School Body Count—1970 to 2018
Motivated Shooters

Other Campus Shootings

America’s Gun Culture still flourishes and campus life is as extracurricular as ever. School shootings are appalling, horrific, events because they are the least likely place we expect gun violence to erupt. We record, document, and lament school shootings because we all went to school at some time in our lives. Some only to middle schools, most to high schools, and many to colleges and universities. What all secondary and higher education students had in common in 2015 was a sense of relative safety. On nearly all high school and college campuses, there were scuffles, anger, bullying, and the occasional chest bumping that turned into fistfights and knockdowns. But overall, school for the majority of us was safe.

The year 2015 was no exception. For 99 percent of US students that year, gun violence was left back on city streets, highways, houses, backyards, and alleys, banks, liquor stores, and bars. The remaining 1 percent went into academic shock and physical terror when someone pulled a gun and shot a student. A tiny fraction of that 1 percent were horrified when one student shot another student on campus. In 2015, gun violence showed up on campus in eighteen states, involved nineteen active shooters, and all male, killing twenty-eight students and wounding twenty-eight other students. The horrific total, dead and wounded, turned out to be twenty-eight victims facing eighteen active shooters. [1] At least one one-sided gunfight involved an active shooter plugging a fellow student in the back—the Steven Jones case at NAU. Had these campus “incidents,” the euphemism favored by print media, been fought with fists or baseball bats the score would likely have been a tie—all fifty-six students might have been banged up, bandaged, maybe even taken to a hospital for care. The difference between ER care and death is guns. Guns are for killing. Fists are for fighting. It’s that simple.

Texas Southern University

Other universities had homicidal shootings on campus in 2015. Texas Southern University[2] had its worst day since its founding in 1927. One student was killed and another wounded on October 9, 2015, the same day as the NAU shooting. “Texas Southern University was on lockdown much of the day Friday after a fatal shooting of a freshman at a campus apartment complex that also sent one person to the hospital. It was just the latest in a recent string of violent incidents at the campus, located just south of downtown Houston.

There were two suspects investigated at the scene. Initial reports said three men shot two others in separate incidents on campus. Jartis Leon LeBlanc, Jr. shot 18-year old freshman Brent Randall in the parking lot outside a student apartment complex on campus.[3] LeBlanc, the father of a 2-year old was out on bond for a misdemeanor theft charge the prior month. He had pled guilty to a marijuana possession charge in January 2014.[4]

Umpqua Community College

President Obama visited Umpqua Community College where nine people were fatally shot the prior week.[5]

“The Umpqua Community College shooting occurred eight days before the NAU shooting by Steven Jones. Umpqua is in Roseburg Oregon. Chris Harper-Mercer was a twenty-six year old student. He shot and killed an assistant professor and eight fellow students in a classroom. He wounded eight others. The gunman who opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College targeted Christians specifically. . . the gunman entered [the] classroom firing. The professor in the classroom was shot pointblank . . . The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up if they were Christians. . . [as] they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them.”[6]

Wiki On School Shootings

Wikipedia has a heavily sourced page that purportedly lists all “mass” school shootings in the United States. By “mass” they mean four or more gunshot deaths. The time span runs from 1764 to 2018.[7] Gun violence has been with us for 254 years. During that time twenty-seven armed assassins invaded grade schools, high schools, colleges, and universities, killing at least four students or teachers. They differ widely in scale, location, and state of the union. All twenty-seven cases have two things in common—a school campus and a gun. In every case, the shooter concealed his gun until he fired it. Once the gun was leveled, the shooter was ready, and he drew a bead on his victims, spewing blood on bodies, bystanders, and books. These murders occurred on twenty-seven school campuses.[8]

In the 1988 case, the assassins were boys, aged eleven and thirteen. The age range for the “adult” killers ran from sixteen to forty-three. College students died in twelve cases. The other fifteen cases document child-murders in junior and high schools. All were premeditated. 201 students died and 204 were wounded. Every shooting was intentional. In all but one case, the assailants either died at the scene, or were tried, convicted, and incarcerated. The Kent State University case is the single exception.

On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd gathered on campus to protest the Vietnam War. The crowd turned on the guardsmen, and shouted and threw rocks at then. The guardsman were armed with loaded M-15 rifles. Witnesses said twenty-eight guardsmen fired M-1 rifles, some into the air, and some directly into the crowd of student protestors. “Over just a 13-second period, nearly 70 shots were fired in total. In all, four Kent State students. . . were killed, and nine others injured. . . Numerous investigatory commissions and court trials followed, during which members of the Ohio National Guard testified that they felt the need to discharge their weapons because they feared for their lives. Disagreements remain as to whether they were, in fact, under sufficient threat to use force.”[9] No one was convicted of any crime.

College and High School Body Count—1970 to 2018

The following list identifies where, when, and body counts for twelve college campus killings between the 1970 Kent State mass shooting and the 2015 NAU mass shooting. The list is arrayed by death count rather than chronologically.

  1. Virginia Tech—2007—Blacksburg, Virginia—33 dead—17 wounded.
  2. University of Texas-Austin—1996—18 dead—31 wounded.
  3. Umpqua Community College—2015—Roseburg, Oregon—10 dead—9 wounded.
  4. Oikos University—2012—Oakland, California—7 dead—3 wounded.
  5. California State University—1976—Fullerton, California—7 dead—2 wounded.
  6. Northern Illinois University—2008—DeKalb, Illinois—6 dead—18 wounded.
  7. Santa Monica College—2013—Santa Monica, California—6 dead—4 wounded.
  8. University of Iowa—1991—Iowa City, Iowa—6 dead—1 wounded.
  9. Rose-Mar College of Beauty—Mesa, Arizona—1966—5 dead—2 wounded.
  10. Kent State University—1970—Kent, Ohio—4 dead—9 wounded.
  11. University of Arizona—2002—Tucson, Arizona—4 dead—0 wounded.
  12. Northern Arizona University—2015—Flagstaff, Arizona—1 dead—3 wounded.

Thirteen mass shooting cases tore apart junior and high school campuses between 1988 and 2018.

  1. Sandy Hook Elementary School—2012—Newtown, Connecticut—28 dead—2 wounded.
  2. Stoneman Douglas High School—2018—Parkland, Florida—17 dead—17 wounded.
  3. Columbine High School—1999—Littleton, Colorado—15 dead—21 wounded.
  4. Santa Fe High School—2018—Santa Fe Texas—10 dead—14 wounded.
  5. Red Lake Senior High School—2005—Red Lake, Minnesota—10 dead—7 wounded.
  6. Cleveland Elementary School—1989—Stockton, California—6 dead—32 wounded.
  7. Rancho Tehama Elementary School—2017—Rancho Tehama Reserve, California—6 dead—18 wounded.
  8. Elementary school exhibition—1988—Charleston, West Virginia—6 dead—1+ wounded.
  9. West Nickel Mines School—2006—Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania—6 dead—3 wounded.
  10. Westside Middle School—1998—Craighead County, Arkansas—5 dead—10 wounded.
  11. Marysville Pilchuck High School—2014—Marysville, Washington, 5 dead—1 wounded.
  12. Thurston High School—Springfield, Oregon—1998—4 killed—23 wounded.
  13. Lindhurst High School—Olivehurst, California—1992—4 killed—10 wounded.

The body count in these twenty-five cases, where four or more causalities occurred is 199 killed and 234 wounded for a total carnage count of 433. They occurred in 14 states.

1. Arizona—three cases.
2. Arkansas—one case.
3. California—five cases.
4. Colorado—one case.
5. Connecticut—one case.
6. Florida—one case.
7. Illinois—one case.
8. Iowa—one case.
9. Minnesota—one case.
10. Oregon—one case.
11. Pennsylvania—two cases.
12. Texas—two cases.
13. Virginia—one case.
14. West Virginia—one case.

In all but four cases, there was only one shooter. There were two shooters at the Columbine High School shooting in Litteton, Colorado, in 1999 (an eighteen year old and a seventeen year old; both were students at the school). They killed thirty-six and wounded seventeen. All were fellow students or teachers. They committed suicide at the end of their massacre.

Assuming the accuracy of the cited Wikipedia page, and the many media sources it cites, the relationship of shooter to victim is clear in half the cases. In the twenty-seven shootings involving four or more victims, thirteen of the shooters were current or former students at the school.[10] That means half of the student-killers were themselves students. The other half killed strangers.

Motivated Shooters

In the past twenty years, researchers have sought answers to pivotal questions in school shooting cases. What motivates school shooters? Why are so many school shooters students at the schools where these massacres occur? Are there common explanations that might identify school shooters in advance? What can we do to keep guns off campus? Are all school shootings the product of malignant fantasies of young assassins? Are there warning signs that might help prevent future tragedies?

These questions, and many more, were examined across the country in academic and clinical settings. The end product included in-depth research reports, compelling partial answers, possible trigger points, and defensive tools. But little was actually done because so much is hidden by troubled students who do not squarely fit into the round holes in campus life, especially high schools and early college experiences.

Scientific American is a trusted source for research published in peer-reviewed journals. It translates academic and scientific topics into easily understood articles, which educated people can understand. “Peer-reviewed papers are written for other scientists to understand and often uses a lot of jargon that is only understandable by the people in their field. Scientific American summarizes these results in plain English, and explains why they are interesting by giving some of the background.”[11] Scientific American Mind published an article in 2007 with the intriguing title, “Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings?”[12] This article is rooted in a special scientific report titled, “The Science of Gun Violence and Gun Control in the U.S.”[13] The author, Frank J. Robertz,[14] framed his answers by reference to three recent school shootings in Hillsborough, North Carolina; Emsdetten, Germany; and Blacksburg Virginia.

In the North Carolina case, a nineteen-year-old former student, Alvaro Castillo, drove into the parking lot of his former high school in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and fired eight random shots, wounding two students. He gave up without a struggle. That shooting was his second round for the day. He had murdered his father earlier that day.[15]

In the Emsdetten, Germany, case, an eighteen-year-old high school graduate went to his former high school armed with rifles and homemade pipe bombs. He shot randomly at students and teachers, injuring thirty-seven before committing suicide.[16]

In the third case, America’s deadliest school shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, twenty-three-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a current student, killed thirty-two people and wounded twenty-five others on the Virginia Tech campus. When police arrived he committed suicide by putting one of his guns to his temple and pulling the trigger.[17]

Mr. Robertz identifies common elements in school campus shootings. “They are premeditated and choreographed, down to the weapons used and the clothes worn. . . They [are] violent fantasies of adolescent shooters. These imaginings take root in a desperate mind that yearns for recognition. Often these young assassins are inspired by examples set by previous shooters. The fantasies typically intensify over a number of years before they are acted on. With time, the mental images become more detailed, and they often become buttressed by a distorted sense of what is just or moral, such as the need to avenge a perceived offense or the belief in a divine right to decide the fate of others.”[18]

Mr. Robertz wrote abstractly when talking about troubled teenagers.

“Troubled teenagers typically keep these fantasies secret, but they increasingly begin to leak their thoughts and plans to friends, chat rooms and even media outlets . . . We have recently developed strategies for identifying youths at risk, for helping to prevent them from descending into a destructive fantasy world and for reacting expediently in the event of an imminent or actual shooting. . . Fantasies and dreams often stimulate productive human activity. They also drive the healthy psychological development of children and adolescents, making possible prospective, or “wishful,” thinking and creativity. . . Dreams and daydreams sometimes have a dark and violent cast to them. Almost everyone has imagined vengeful scenarios, even murderous ones, after particularly frustrating experiences.”[19]

In every case where adolescence is a factor in a campus shooting, access to a firearm is a cause for alarm. Robert Steinhauser, the nineteen-year-old student Mr. Robertz profiled in his article, was a gun club marksman before he executed sixteen people in Germany in 2002. He had ready access to the enough ammunition to kill hundreds of people. Steven Jones in 2015 had a new Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic with three oversized magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets. And he had a tactical light attached to the barrel of his gun that allowed him to see what no one else could. Living targets.

[1] Data analysis extracted by author. This chronological list of school shootings documents all US shootings that that occurred at a K-12 public or private school, as well as at colleges and universities. Excluded were incidents that occurred during wars or as a result of police actions or shootings by school staff, where the only victims are other employees. This list does not include incidents where firearms were not involved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States.

[2] “ Texas Southern University is a public historically black university in Houston, Texas. The university is one of the largest and most comprehensive HBCUs in the nation with over 10,000 students enrolled and over 100 academic program.” http://www.tsu.edu/.

[3] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/houston-man-22-charged-in-texas-southern-university-shooting/

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/houston-man-22-charged-in-texas-southern-university-shooting/

[5] Susan Svrluga, “Fatal shooting at Texas Southern University in Houston” The Washington Post. Oct. 9, 2015 at 12:20 p.m. MDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/10/09/texas-southern-university-on-lockdown-after-a-shooting-on-campus/

[6] Dana Ford and Ed Payne, CNN. Updated 0424 GMT (1224 HKT) October 2, 2015 https://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/01/us/oregon-college-shooting/index.html

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States

[8] Data analysis by author extracted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States

[9] https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/kent-state-shooting#section

[10] Virginia Technical University—April 16, 2007; University of Texas-Austin—August 1, 1966; Stoneman Douglas High School—February 14, 2018; Columbine High School—April 20, 1999; Umpqua Community College—October 1, 2015; Red Lake Senior High School—March 21, 2005; Northern Illinois University—February 14, 2008; University of Iowa—November 1, 1991; Westside Middle School—March 24, 1998; Marysville Pilchuck High School—October 24, 2014; Thurston High School—May 21, 1998; Plain Darling High School—March 26, 1893; and University of Arizona—October 28, 2002.

[11] https://www.quora.com/Is-Scientific-American-peer-reviewed

[12] Frank J. Robertz, August 1, 2007. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/deadly-dreams/

[13] Contributors: Andrew R. Morral, Rajeev Ramchand, Rosanna Smart, Carole Roan Gresenz, Samantha Cherney, Nancy Nicosia, Carter C. Price, Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Elizabeth L. Petrun Sayers, Terry L. Schell, Eric Apaydin, Joshua Lawrence Traub, Lea Xenakis, John Speed Meyers, Rouslan I. Karimov, Brett Ewing, Beth Ann Griffin “The Science of Gun Policy: A Critical Synthesis of Research Evidence on the Effects of Gun Policies in the United States. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018.” https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2088.html.

[14] Frank J. Robertz is a criminologist and director of the Institute for Violence Prevention and Applied Criminology in Berlin.

[15] https://schoolshooters.info/sites/default/files/Castillo%20Court%20Case.pdf

[16] http://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/school-violence/sebastian-bosse/

[17] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/massacre-at-virginia-tech-leaves-32-dead

[18] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/deadly-dreams/

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

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