In the three years since James Holmes shot dozens of moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., 78 additional mass killings have occurred, claiming the lives of nearly 400 additional victims.
That includes major public tragedies such as the slayings of 26 people, mostly children, at a school in Newtown, Conn., the recent shootings of nine people in a Charleston, S.C. church, and the Boston Marathon bombings. It also includes less-publicized tragedies, such as a deliberately set fire that killed six family members in McKeesport, Pa., in 2014 and the shootings of four young men on a downtown San Francisco street in January.
USA TODAY has kept a tally of mass killings — defined as the slayings of four or more people, not including the suspect — dating back to 2006. The data show that mass killings occur roughly every two weeks, a figure that has remained steady for the past decade.
There have been 15 mass killings so far this year, claiming 74 lives. Two have occurred in the past two days: the shootings of two adults and two teenagers in Holly Hill, S.C. Wednesday and four Marines gunned down at a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., today. Roughly 80% of the mass killings in the past three years have involved guns.
But criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University said gun control isn’t necessarily the answer. USA TODAY’s data shows most guns used in mass killings are handguns, and are often legally obtained.
“When we have these incidents, they tend to motivate people to want to do something about it, and that’s a good thing,” said Fox, the author of Extreme Killing. “But the kind of crime that’s probably most difficult to prevent are these extreme, but rare cases.”
Fox said most mass killings aren’t like Aurora – entirely random acts of violence. Most have specific targets or specific motives, such as killing family members or making a political point. And when mass killers are thwarted by gun checks or are treated for mental health issues, most are motivated enough to find ways around the system.
“I know people want to round up all the guns, and round up all the people considered dangerous,” Fox said. “That’s easier said then done.”
USA Today put together a great interactive map to help visualize all of the mass killings that have occurred in the US since 2006.
(CNN) — A 21-year-old airman shot two Walmart employees, killing one, before apparently ending his own life in the store on Tuesday, police in Grand Forks, North Dakota, said.
Marcell Willis also fired once at a third employee but missed before he shot himself with a handgun, authorities said.
Willis died at a hospital. He was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, where 3,000 Air Force personnel and civilians work, according to the facility’s website.
Andy Legg, who was shopping in the store, told CNN affiliate WDAY he heard three or four gunshots just after 1 a.m., and people started running and screaming.
“Just replaying it in my head it’s still kind of hard to grasp,” Legg said.
Police said they would release the names of the victims on Wednesday.
“We are deeply saddened about this situation and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said. “We are still learning information about the events surrounding this tragedy and assisting law enforcement in their investigation.”
More than one person likely was involved in the slayings of four people who were held captive inside a Washington, D.C., mansion until $40,000 was delivered last week, authorities revealed Friday.
Daron Dylon Wint, a welder with a criminal record of assaults who once worked for the mansion’s owner, has been charged with murder. But authorities said they believe he did not act alone: A court document made public Friday said they believe the crimes “required the presence and assistance of more than one person.”
Savvas Savopoulos, 46; his wife Amy, 47, and their housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa, 57, died from “blunt force and sharp force trauma.” The couple’s 10-year-old son, Philip, died of “thermal and sharp force injuries.” All four bodies were found by firefighters after a flammable liquid was spread around the home and set ablaze.
“The crimes described in this affidavit required the presence and assistance of more than one person,” said a court document made public Friday.
The document also confirms that thousands of dollars were delivered to the mansion before it was set on fire. Firefighters found all four bodies inside; three of them had been stabbed or bludgeoned.
The document says authorities believe “Wint and others” held the group captive until $40,000 was delivered to the home by an employee of Savopoulos. The family was then killed and the house set on fire, the document says.
(MSN.com) — U.S. agents searched an apartment in Phoenix as part of an investigation into a shooting outside a suburban Dallas venue hosting a provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons, the FBI confirmed Monday.
A police officer shot and killed two gunmen who opened fire outside the event Sunday night. A security officer was wounded in the shooting.
Garland police officer Joe Harn says the men had used assault rifles, and that one officer had fatally shot both gunmen. Harn also said investigators searched the men’s car and detonated several suspicious items, but no bombs were found in the vehicle.
“We were able to stop those men before they were able to penetrate the area and shoot anyone else,” Harn said.
The event Sunday featured speeches by American Freedom Defense Initiative president Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of Islam. Wilders received several standing ovations from the crowd and left immediately after his speech.
Wilders, who has advocated closing Dutch doors to migrants from the Islamic world for a decade, has lived under round-the-clock police protection since 2004.
The FBI said the Phoenix residence was being searched for indications of what prompted the attack, and FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont said no other locations in Phoenix are being investigated.
(Reuters) — A Washington state teenager who fired a gun inside his high school in an apparent attempt to provoke an on-campus guard into killing him made his first court appearance on Tuesday and was ordered held on $500,000 bail, officials said.
The 16-year-old student shot off two rounds from a revolver that struck the floor and ceiling inside a stairwell on Monday at North Thurston High School in Lacey, outside Olympia, Lacey police said. Nobody was hurt.
The teen appeared in a Thurston County courtroom represented by a public defender on Tuesday and will remain in a juvenile detention facility if he cannot post the bail, an official in the county prosecutor’s office said.
He will face weapons charges in coming days, the official said.
It was unclear how the boy intended to plead to the pending charges. Authorities have not released his name because he is a juvenile.
The teen told police after the incident he had no intention of hurting anyone, but had hoped discharging the gun on school grounds would force the armed officer on campus to shoot him, Lacey Police Commander Jim Mack said.
Mack said the boy had recently transferred to the school and faced bullying.
(MSN.com) — At least two families of victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have filed a lawsuit against the town of Newtown and the school board, alleging lax security on the day 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed.
The 66-page lawsuit was given to a state marshal on Dec. 14, the last day under state statutes that legal action could be taken against the community, and recently served at the town clerk’s office.
The plaintiffs are the estates of slain students Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis. The children’s parents, Leonard Pozner, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, are the administrators. The families are represented by Norwalk attorney Donald Papcsy, a Sandy Hook resident, who could not be reached for comment Monday.
Adam Lanza shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and opened fire in two classrooms. Lanza entered the school by shooting through the front glass windows and entering near the school offices.
He killed school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach before entering the classrooms. In one of those classrooms, substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau was unable to lock the door because she did not have a key.
Rousseau was assigned to the class shortly before school was set to open when the regular teacher called in sick. Rousseau tried to hide the students in a small bathroom but Lanza walked into the room and opened fire, killing all but one girl.
The lawsuit alleges that Rousseau “had neither a key to lock the door nor any knowledge of the … safety and security protocols rehearsed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in case an intruder or other dangerous individual gained access to the school.”
(Policeone.com) — A gunman opened fire at a veterans’ medical clinic in West Texas on Tuesday, killing one other person.
A gunman opened fire at a veterans’ medical clinic in West Texas on Tuesday, killing one other person, officials said. The gunman was also killed.
Investigators did not say whether the gunman killed himself or was killed by someone else. They also did not provide any details on the victim or provide a motive for the shooting.
Police officers guard an entrance to the Beaumont Army Medical Center/El Paso VA campus during the search for a gunman Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Image)
Fort Bliss Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty said the shooting happened at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s clinic. The VA clinic is in a complex that also includes the William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
“The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, commanding officer of nearby Fort Bliss.
“Everything is under control and there is no immediate threat to Fort Bliss or the local community,” Twitty said at a news conference Tuesday night.
The VA clinic will be closed Wednesday, said its acting director, Peter Dancy.
The FBI is leading the investigation into the shooting and has hundreds of potential witnesses, many of whom were patients or would-be patients at the clinic, said Douglas Lindquist, special agent in charge of the FBI El Paso office.
“Those people were here seeking medical assistance, so we understand the difficulties that this situation presents to them and we’re trying to expeditiously get through those hundreds of witnesses to find out details about this incident,” Lindquist said.
The VA clinic came under scrutiny last year after a federal audit showed it had some of the nation’s longest wait times for veterans’ trying to see a doctor for the first time. A survey of hundreds of West Texas veterans last year found that they waited an average of more than two months to see a Veterans Affairs mental health professional and even longer to see a physician.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke commissioned that survey of more than 690 veterans living in El Paso County. O’Rourke also was active in a congressional probe into long waiting times in the VA health care system.
In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, the El Paso Democrat said his “thoughts and prayers are with the men and women at the El Paso VA clinic.”
The VA said in a statement that it “is deeply saddened by the tragic situation that has occurred in El Paso, and we are actively working with our partners at Fort Bliss to investigate this matter.”
“The safety and continued care of our veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation,” the agency said.
(NBC) — Police in Portland have arrested a suspect in the shooting that injured three people outside an alternative high school.
Authorities said they stopped a vehicle around 1:30 a.m. Saturday at North Interstate Avenue and Going Street and arrested a 22-year-old man. A handgun was found in the vehicle.
Police were searching an apartment about half an hour later as part of the investigation. The apartment is about five blocks east of the shooting near Rosemary Anderson High School.
Detectives are investigating and will release the suspect’s name and charges after he is booked into the Multnomah County Jail.
Witnesses told police there may have been a dispute outside the high school on Friday, just before the shooting occurred at a street corner.
The assailant and two other people fled, and the wounded students went to the school for help, a police spokesman said. A 16-year-old girl was critically wounded while two males were hospitalized in fair condition. Another girl was grazed by a bullet.
“Based on the investigation thus far, the shooting appears to be gang-related,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said Friday night in a statement.
Police gang investigators “feel comfortable saying this is a gang-related shooting based on some of the people involved,” Simpson added in an interview. Police said they believe the shooter has gang ties. Simpson declined to say which victims might be linked to gangs.
The spokesman said police were still gathering details on the reported dispute.
“There was some kind of dispute between the shooter and some people,” Simpson said. “We don’t know if it was (with) all the victims or one of the victims.”
The victims are students at the high school or in affiliated job training programs, police said.
Police identified the hospitalized victims as Taylor Michelle Zimmers, 16, who was in critical condition; David Jackson-Liday, 20; and Labraye Franklin, 17.
Olyvia Batson, also 17, was treated at the scene after a bullet grazed her foot.
Sierra Smith, a 17-year-old student, told The Oregonian she saw one of the male victims being helped by a teacher inside the school.
“He was laying on the ground. He had blood coming out of his stomach,” she said. “It was scary.”
Another student, Oliviann Danley, 16, told the newspaper she saw a boy run into the school and yell, “Oh my God, did I just get shot?”
Rosemary Anderson High School serves at-risk students who were expelled or dropped out, or who are homeless or single parents. According to the school’s website, 190 students annually are enrolled at the north Portland location. The school also has a second location in Gresham.
Gang violence in Portland isn’t a new phenomenon. Some of the violence occurs between rival gangs, but bystanders have also been hurt.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in addressing the gang problem, but we haven’t eradicated it,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Today’s really a sad reminder that it’s still with us.”
Portland police have said they saw a spike in gang crime over the summer and have complained they don’t have adequate resources to address the problem. Recent violence includes a man killed in a drive-by-shooting in June and another man killed in a separate shooting. A 5-year-old boy also was shot in the leg while playing at an apartment complex.
A Multnomah County report on gang activity released in June said crime in the county that includes Portland actually decreased from 2005 to 2012. As inner-city Portland gentrifies, the report said, criminal activity is shifting from northern neighborhoods to areas farther east, including the city of Gresham.
The north Portland neighborhood where the shooting occurred exemplifies the trend. Before Friday, the place once known for gangs had not had a shooting with injuries in nearly four years.
“It brings up a lot of old wounds,” Simpson said.
Dani Gonzales, 64, has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and said it’s generally safe but there has always been some gang activity.
“Kids just get silly and get crazy ideas. I don’t know what goes on in their heads,” Gonzales said.
There was another school shooting in the Portland area in June, but it was not gang-related. A freshman killed another boy in a locker room, and a bullet grazed a teacher before the shooter went into a bathroom and died from a self-inflicted gunshot, police said.
(Newstribune.com) — MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — An ex-convict who owned a towing company made good on his grudges, police said Tuesday, killing his partner, his business rival, his ex-girlfriend and the woman’s new boyfriend before firing a gun through his head in the cab of his pickup truck.
Posting a message to Facebook as police hunted him down after the rampage, Jody Lee Hunt said he wanted to see that his victims “received their fair pay of hurt.”
“My actions were not right nor were the actions of those who tried to tear me down and take from me,” Hunt wrote in the lengthy Facebook post before committing suicide.
The shootings began Monday morning when Hunt with the settling of a professional grudge: For the past couple of months, he had been complaining to county officials that towing operators, including his rival Doug Brady, had been poaching jobs, Monongalia County commissioner Tom Bloom said.
Police said Hunt drove over to Doug’s Towing and shot Brady in the head twice while he was working in his garage.
That set off what would become about a 12-hour manhunt for the 39-year-old Hunt and his black 2011 Ford F-150, leaving the city on edge and police miles behind.
Hunt next drove next to a home his ex-girlfriend, 39-year-old Sharon Kay Berkshire, was renting with her new boyfriend, Michael David Frum, 28, Monongalia County Sheriff Kenneth “Al” Kisner said.
Frum and Berkshire had been dating for a few months, and at one point, Frum may have taunted Hunt with a text message. Frum was found shot to death inside the home, and Berkshire, shot twice, was discovered outside, perhaps dying as she tried to escape.
“Having a man text u to say I’m with her and u are stuck without her is not a game. Games hurt people’s hearts. Games don’t solve anything,” Hunt wrote.
Hunt then drove back across town and killed his business partner and cousin Jody Taylor, who also may have been romantically involved with Berkshire at some point, police said.
“I did not chose (sic) to have the love of my life to go behind my back and sleep with several guys as she came home to lay her head on my shoulder to say goodnight I love you,” Hunt wrote.
The manhunt finally ended Monday night when his body was found in the pickup in some woods.
Hunt and Berkshire had a rocky two-year relationship, the sheriff said.
She filed a restraining order against him late last year, but dropped it two weeks later when things improved, according to court documents. She took out a second restraining order on Oct. 26, then terminated that one as well about two weeks later after moving in with Frum.
Hunt had criminal convictions in three states.
In 1994, he was sentenced to probation in Pennsylvania for trespassing and theft. Then in 1999, he was twice charged with abducting an earlier girlfriend.
In Winchester, Virginia, he held this estranged girlfriend hostage for hours at gunpoint in an auto parts factory before he surrendered. She was pregnant with his child at the time. He was sentenced to three years in prison, served concurrently with a five year sentence for wanton endangerment in West Virginia.
In 2006, Hunt was ordered to pay more than $12,000 in back child support, and by March 2009, that had been paid in full, court records show.
Hunt was not allowed to own a gun under West Virginia law. Police were not sure where he got the handgun he used Monday, nor where they certain that the same gun was used in all the shootings.
Hunt ended his Facebook confession with a plea for understanding — and for his pets.
“I except my actions were wrong but in my eyes just. So I will leave this world as others did. May your saddened hearts be replaced with hate for me.
Please take care of my dogs.”