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As I Said

To Quote myself: “The brain has a nasty habit of blocking things people don’t want to remember and adding things to make a ‘better’ story.”

Melissa at Shakesville notes that we now know the first woman killed was not the shooter’s girlfriend. The victim’s roommate and best friend didn’t know the shooter and had never seen him. The media and probably law enforcement assumed that this was a boyfriend/girlfriend problem because that’s the most familiar story.

So the “Asian male with a maroon hat” would have been all the police would have had to work with even if the initial victims hadn’t died.

It’s unfortunate that we don’t have better tools available to spot dangerous mental health problems earlier, but we don’t.

From start to finish this is one of the 5% of cases where the victims didn’t know their murderer.

Update: Via All Hat and No Cattle – the initial police effort was focused on locating and questioning the victim’s actual boyfriend, Karl D. Thornhill because of the reasonable assumption that this was one of the 19 out of 20 cases of murder, rather than the exception.

9 comments

1 andante { 04.18.07 at 2:36 pm }

In the meantime, my sister’s co-worker (Korean) is listening to a Korean radio broadcast and translating. It’s being reported that the shooter’s parents have tried or have committed suicide. Mother in intensive care; no word yet on the father.

I would probably feel no differently.

2 Alice { 04.18.07 at 2:47 pm }

It is not outside the realm of possibility that the shooter used West AJ as a diversion to occupy the police. If it is indeed true that he was the one who called in the bomb threats, he would have an idea of how security worked on a threatened building. Also, there is no direct path from West AJ to Norris Hall for a car. While a person can just walk across the drillfield, a vehicle would have to go around the campus thereby delaying any response time.

3 Bryan { 04.18.07 at 2:56 pm }

I just updated. The police assumed it was the girl’s actual boyfriend and were looking for him. There was apparently information about him in the girl’s room.

That is very normal among Asians, the parents would feel that much responsibility for their child and his actions.

Frankly, Alice, this is looking more and more like a carefully planned operation: that he decided to commit suicide and wanted to take his perceived “enemies” with him. Most of the people he targeted wouldn’t know he hated them.

4 Steve Bates { 04.18.07 at 3:00 pm }

“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have better tools available to spot dangerous mental health problems earlier, but we don’t.” – Bryan

And we can’t: we will never have such tools. The brain is too complex, and its processes even at the physical level too ill-understood, to make dispositive determinations of who will and who will not crack up and commit violence.

If I recall correctly, mental health professionals are legally required to breach therapist-patient confidentiality and notify authorities when a patient issues a credible and specific threat to do harm, but such a notification rarely happens, first because therapists are reluctant to risk confidentiality (and rightly so), and second, because it’s still at best a guess who is making serious threats and who is just letting off steam.

IMHO, these events will happen every few years, no matter what measures are taken to prevent them. I wish it were otherwise.

5 Bryan { 04.18.07 at 3:13 pm }

The one thing that can definitely be tightened up and re-thought is the reaction by campus forces to stalking. I think there needs to be a lot more training and a heavier hand on these incidents. I would like to see more follow-up, but now you’re into funding and priorities.

6 andante { 04.18.07 at 3:56 pm }

There’s also only so much family, friends, co-workers, etc. can do for a disturbed adult. From what my sister’s Korean co-worker says, his parents DID try to get help for him. Unless things have changed drastically, you can’t just wave a wand and have an adult committed or ordered into therapy.

7 Bryan { 04.18.07 at 4:11 pm }

In Florida you need a member of the immediate family and two doctors to agree that someone is a threat to themselves or others before they can be committed. If medication helps then they get released with no way of being sure that they will take the medication.

He didn’t fit in; he couldn’t find his place in society. You can’t help people who don’t want it and/or don’t understand they need it.

8 andante { 04.18.07 at 5:09 pm }

Just a quick update – Cho’s parents are hospitalized, but not from attempted suicide. They are in deep shock, understandably so. Link

9 Bryan { 04.18.07 at 5:36 pm }

I have a number of Asian friends and for the eldest son to be involved in something like is beyond their imagination. Knowing how any family would react to the death of child and knowing that the child has killed the children of so many other families, is amplified by the culture.

Events like this cause wounds that never heal.