Sunday, October 25, 2015

Examining the Causation : New Details Emerge In Probe Of Oregon College Shooting


Recently CBS News reported on the investigation into Chris Harper Mercer and the massacre he has been deemed responsible for, at the Umpqua Community College, in Oregon. Although the article reports briefly about the crime, the victims, and the investigators, the focus of the report is on information pertaining to the shooter (CBS, 2015). Apparently Mercer left behind multi-page typed note that media has since been depicted his “manifesto” (CBS, 2015). The media describes the contents of the note as the “philosophical ranting of someone who was mad at the world” (CBS, 2015). It also stated that the contents of his note reveal Mercer had a low opinion of himself and his place in the world (CBS, 2015). Moreover, the shooters social media pages suggest he was interested in the “IRA, frustrated by traditional organized religion and tracked other mass shootings” (CBS, 2015). Reportedly one social media post even suggests he was impressed with the “limelight” that other mass murderers had received for massacre shootings (CBS, 2015).

In the main picture in the article is of the police standing solemn faced as they stand guard outside the apartment of the shooter. In conjunction with the image, the text in the article presents the criminal justice system as competent, well informed, and vigilant in their search for answers and a possible motivation. Though they indicate as of yet there is no connection to any outside involvement or specific reasoning found, the information found and presented seems to suggest that the shooter had premediated the crime for a long time (CBS, 2015). There is also the implication from the bullet proof vest that the shooter expected to be met with equal force and in a shoot off with police (CBS, 2015).

Overall the article makes you feel as though the shooter was mentally unwell previous to the shooting. In example: In the first paragraph they cite, depressed and angry (CBS, 2015). Then later reporting they report he had feelings of low self-worth and/or feelings of hopelessness in regards to his place in the world (CBS, 2015).

From psychological perspective, crime is explained on the individual level, as the result of dysfunctional thought processes and/or behavioral patterns, and/or personality characteristics (Conklin, 2008). The psychological theories that can explain the Umpqua Community College Shootings could be the “psychotic offender”, or a personality “trait theory” which resulted in a “rampage killing”. A personality trait theory perspective would indicates that certain features of personality may contribute to a persistent pattern of behavior that leads one to trouble with the law (Conklin, 2008). Whereas the psychotic patient may be driven impulsively to criminality by the onset of delusions or grandiose ideas (Schmalleger, 2014).

In this example, the investigators reported that the shooter had previously joined the US military in 2008, but was discharged after he failed to meet the military’s standards in boot camp (CBS, 2015). Perhaps this personal failure, in conjunction with “the personal inability to tolerate frustration without resorting to aggression and violence” could have contributed to his violent behavior (Conklin, 2008). This would be concurrent with both “life course perspective” suggests that turning events in people’s lives can contribute to criminality and psychological theories that indicate a dysfunctional personality features is at the root of criminality.

Being that the crime has multiple victims, is not related to domestic or gang homicide, follows (although not immediately) the discharge from military, and involves a mentally unwell shooter who later dies on the scene, the reported crime fits the description of a rampage killing (Conklin, 2008). Unfortunately many of these rampage killings involve victims who are unrelated to the cause of the rampage, such as students and teachers (Conklin, 2008). But, the most distinctive features of rampage killings is that the shooters are previously viewed as mentally unstable or mentally unwell and die either by suicide or engaging in activity that will likely kill them (i.e. shooting at an officer) (Conklin, 2008). Thus, it possible, given the information, that the killer was mentally ill, perhaps psychotic, but obviously depressed, filled with self-hatred, and based on his actions-ready to die.