On Thursday, July 19, during a late night screening of a Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises", in a theater in Aurora, Colorado (A US state), a man entered the theater, threw smoke grenades and started shooting randomly, killing at least 12 people and injuring around 58 others. The incident is one of the worst spree killings in the country and raises many questions about the intention of the killer.
The suspect, James Holmes, a 24 years science student, was caught from the parking lot of the Century 16 Movie Theaters, few miles outside Denver, by the police. The suspect was standing beside his car wearing a ballistic helmet and protective gear for his legs, throat and groin, black gloves and a gas mask. He was armed with an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and two .40-caliber handguns.
After the suspect was arrested, he mentioned about explosives at his apartment. However authorities have faced difficulties in entering in his apartment as it is rigged with traps. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said, "It's booby-trapped with various incendiary and chemical devices and trip wires… It could take days to work through the apartment safely… Five buildings around the apartment building were evacuated… Authorities have postponed until Saturday any attempts to enter the apartment and are bringing in resources from the federal government to help with the situation."
The incident is no doubt one of the worst types of spree killings or mass killings. And what many are waiting to discover is the motive behind such a brutal act. It is now almost sure that the incident was carried out individually without the involvement of any extremist or terrorist group. The incident basically adds to the list of the spree killings that have been carried out around the world mostly by individuals because of psychological perversions or perverted behaviors. However, there are possibilities that the killings allegedly carried out by Holmes may have some different reasons.
According to a federal law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation the suspect in the mass shooting at Aurora had colored his hair red and told police he was "the Joker" (The Joker has long been a fixture in Batman comics and was famously brought to life by the late Heath Ledger in 2008's "The Dark Knight," the predecessor to Friday's release of "The Dark Knight Rises." Ledger won a posthumous Academy Award for his sinister portrayal of the iconic villain who encourages anarchists to take over Gotham City).
So, the reason of such a brutal act by Holmes may be the influence and impact from the movie itself, which is however yet to be confirmed. Nevertheless, there have been certain cases of murders or killings that are directly or indirectly inspired by the movies, characters in movies and the actions in them. Moreover, there have been impacts of video games and other technology in few of such incidents, as well. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the villain in Aurora shooting is a PhD student, with not a very violent history. What could have triggered such an act by him is difficult to assume.
Spree Killings have a long history within human societies. They have taken place in different parts of world with different intensities, reasons and outcomes. A short history of some of the major incidents that have occurred in United States is given below; 1. 1927: Bath School Disaster – Andrew Kehoe, a disgruntled school board member, detonated a car bomb at school after killing his wife and setting fire to their home.
2. 1949: The Walk of Death – Howard Unruh, 28, killed 13 people in Camden, New Jersey with a pistol, the deadliest mass murder in the U.S. at the time. Unruh was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was detained without trial until his death in 2009.
3. 1951: Cook Killings – Billy Cook murdered six people between Missouri and California on a 22-day rampage before being arrested in Mexico. He was executed at San Quentin State Prison on December 22, 1952.
4. 1958: Starkweather/Fugate Murders – Charles Starkweather and his adolescent girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate murdered 10 people over the course of eight days before being apprehended by police. Starkweather was executed at Nebraska State Penitentiary in 1959. Fugate was imprisoned until 1976.
5. 1966: University of Texas at Austin Massacre – Charles Whitman a university student, murdered his wife and his mother, then killed 14 people and wounded 31 others, shooting from the observation deck of an administrative building. He was shot and killed by an Austin police officer.
6. 1985: Springfield Mall Massacre – Sylvia Seegrist killed 3 and wounded 7 on a shooting rampage at the mall in Springfield, Pennsylvania before being disarmed by a shopper and arrested by police. She is currently incarcerated.
7. 1986: Edmond United States Post Office Massacre – Patrick Sherrill, a postal employee, shot and killed 14 people at his workplace in Edmond, Oklahoma after being reprimanded by his supervisors. He then killed himself.
8. 1987: Hungerford Massacre – Michael Robert Ryan, using two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun, killed 16 people and wounded 15 others in a space of 7 hours before shooting himself.
9. 1987: Dover Massacre – Ronald Gene Simmons murdered 14 family members over a week long period in December 1987 before driving to his workplace in Russellville, Arkansas and fatally shooting two co-workers. Executed by lethal injection in 1990.
10. 1989: Standard Gravure Shooting – Joseph Wesbecker a pressman at Standard Gravure in Louisville, Kentucky who was under treatment for depression, entered his former workplace armed with a rifle and four pistols, killed eight people and injured 12 others before killing himself.
11. 1991: Luby's Massacre – 35-year-old George "Jo Jo" Pierre Hennard, an unemployed merchant seaman, drove his blue 1987 Ford Ranger pickup truck through the front window of a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen Texas. Yelling "This is what Bell County has done to me!", Hennard then opened fire on its patrons and staff with a Glock 17 pistol and, later, a Ruger P89. He stalked, shot, and killed 23 people while wounding another 20 before committing suicide. Approximately 80 people were in the restaurant at the time.
12. 1993: 101 California Street Shootings – Gian luigi Ferri, 55, exited the elevator on the 34th floor of an office building, donned a pair of ear protectors, and opened fire with handguns. The attack continued on several floors, killing eight, and injuring six before Ferri fatally shot himself.
13. 1993: Long Island Rail Road Massacre – Colin Ferguson 35, opened fire on the Long Island Rail Road in Garden City, New York, killing 6 people, and injuring nineteen others.
14. 1999: Columbine High School Massacre – The Columbine High School massacre (often known simply as Columbine), which happened in the same state where the shootings by Holmes was carried out, was a school shooting which occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, an unincorporated area of Jefferson County.
Two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, embarked on a shooting spree in which a total of 12 students and 1 teacher were murdered. They also injured 21 other students directly, with three further people being injured while attempting to escape the school. The pair then committed suicide. It is the fourth-deadliest school massacre in United States history, after the 1927 Bath School disaster, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 1966 University of Texas massacre, and remains the deadliest for an American high school.
15. 2002: Beltway Sniper Attacks – John Allen Muhammad and 17-year old Boyd Malvo killed 10 and injured several others over the course of three weeks. Muhammad, who was 41, was executed November 10, 2009. Malvo is currently serving six consecutive life sentences.
16. Red Lake Massacre – Jeff Weise shot and killed his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend, both police officers. He then proceeded to a local high school and fatally shot a security guard, five students, and a teacher, injured 15 others, and then committed suicide.
17. 2007: Virginia Tech Massacre – Seung-Hui Cho using two pistols, killed 32 in two separate events and then himself in about three hours.
18. 2007: Westroads Mall Shooting – Robert A. Hawkins, 19, entered a mall in Omaha, Nebraska, and shot and killed eight people, injured five others, then killed himself.
19.2009: Geneva County Massacre – Michael Maclendon 28, used an SKS rifle, a Bushmaster AR-15 and a .38-caliber handgun to kill 10 people before shooting himself.
20. 2010: Appomattox Shootings – Christopher Speight killed eight people in three locations in Appomattox, Virginia with a rifle over several hours before surrendering to police.
21. 2011: Grand Rapids, Michigan Shooting – Rodrick Dantzler killed seven people in two separate homes and injured two persons by firearms. Dantzler later killed himself after holding three people hostage.
22. 2011: Copley Township, Ohio Shooting – Michael Hance, armed with two handguns, went on a shooting spree. He first wounded his girlfriend; then he killed seven people before being shot and killed by police.
23. 2012: Oikos University Shooting – One L.Goh, an expelled student, was searching for a particular administrator. When told of her absence, he opened fire at random people.
24. 2012: Seattle Café Shooting Spree – Ian Stawicki, shot and killed four patrons and wounded the chef at Café Racer in Seattle, Washington. He then killed another woman next to Town Hall Seattle. He later committed suicide.
Apart from the spree killings in United States, there have been many other incidents as well around the world that have depicted the worst manifestation of violence by human beings. One such incident happened in Norway on July 22, 2011. A memorial of the innocent victims was held in Norway yesterday and the authorities in the country emphasized that the killer had failed in his declared goal of destroying Norway's commitment to being an inclusive, multicultural society.
The incident was carried out by Anders Behring Breivik. He set off a fertilizer bomb that tore the facade of the high-rise that housed the government's headquarters, and drove toward Utoya unhindered as chaos reigned in the capital. Arriving on Utoya, disguised as a police officer and armed with a handgun and semi-automatic rifle, he unleashed a shooting massacre that sent panicked teenagers fleeing into a chilly lake or hiding behind rocks to save their lives. More than half of the victims were teenagers – the youngest had turned 14 five days earlier.
The incidents mentioned above clearly show how brutal such incidents can be. However, they depict the worst manifestation of violence in human behavior. Though they are not very much systematic and happen randomly, they have been able to happen quite often in history. Some of the major reasons behind such actions are; psychopathy and depression, social isolation, insecurity, the impacts of movies and video-games and gothic cults.
The impacts of such incidents are tremendous, long-lasting and agonizing. The ones who are able to escape such incidents can never erase the horrible chapters from their psychology and may be haunted by constant fear that may give rise to some sorts of psychological problems. On the other hand, the relatives of the victims, the spectators and the entire community cannot escape the influences and have to undergo an ugly experience.
As such incidents are carried out randomly and mostly in isolation, without consultation with others and in solitary abodes, there are great difficulties in stopping such incidents. The only way to counter them is to strive to reduce their consequences. On the other hand, some very important changes can be brought in social setup to reduce the social and psycho-social problems. As most of these incidents are because of the psycho-social behavior, the authorities and all the people can play their roles in making societies participatory, caring and dominated by positive and healthy social interactions.
It is because of the mechanical approaches in our society that give rise to the problems like depression, isolation and delinquency. Human beings are not born as criminals and killers; it is the societies that make them so.
The problems and troubles that human beings face in their social lives make them criminals, delinquents and murderers if they are not able to react to them appropriately. Unfortunately, the belief systems that can play a very dominant role in providing contentment and satisfaction to human beings and can deal with their spiritual and emotional lives to a satisfactory extent are themselves the cause of division and hatred within human race. They, on most of the occasions, make human beings cruel enough not to bother while killing their fellow beings mercilessly.
In fact, behind most of such incidents, the society is involved in some way or the other. Today, it can be claimed that they are carried out individually, but it is sure that they have their roots in the social atmosphere. Human societies need to take responsibility for such actions and should try to amend the circumstances that lead to such incidents.