Tag Archives: shooting

Should NV Police Reveal Teen Shooter’s Name?

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If you’ve been following the news this week, you know that a 12-year-old boy brought a gun to Sparks Middle School on Monday, killed teacher Michael Landsberry, wounded two other students and killed himself with a gunshot wound to the head.

In a typical shooting, within 24 hours we would have known the name of the perpetrator. Reporters would have dug up his Twitter and Facebook presences, as well as any other online activity, and speculated about his hobbies, pastimes, passions and motivations. Instead, the Sparks police are refusing to identify him because he is a juvenile. A handful of news outlets have obtained his identity by other means, but say they’re waiting for official confirmation before publishing it.

At the same time, the press — particularly leaders with the Nevada Press Association — are rightly pointing out that the identity of a deceased suspect, even a juvenile, is public record and can’t legally be withheld.

One the one hand, protecting the shooter’s identity prevents journalists from hastily reporting on his activities and leading readers to the wrong conclusions, as we’ve seen in so many other shootings — Columbine in particular. On the other, it’s troubling when government officials, whose salaries are paid by the public, choose to keep rightfully public information to themselves.

Where do you come down on this issue? Should the shooter’s identity be protected or revealed? Why?

Russia talks “Manhunt” crackdown after shootings


This image of alleged Russian mass shooter Dmitry Vinogradov may look like it’s from a video game, but that doesn’t mean games were involved in the crime.

It hasn’t taken long for Russian politicians to come out against violent video games in the days after a Russian man went on a shooting spree, killing six people in the pharmaeceutical company where he worked.

Specifically, they’re going after Manhunt, because some say the alleged shooter in last week’s Moscow rampage, 30-year-old Dmitry Vinogradov, was a fan of the ultraviolent video game. They can’t agree on what to do, exactly, but no matter:

Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy of United Russia, said that one needed to submit an adequate inquiry to Roskomnadzor (the Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications) to ban the game in Russia. The software was designed for adult audiences, but it is available on the Internet to all, including children, which is against the law, New Politics magazine wrote.

United Russia deputy Franz Klintsevich supported Zheleznyak’s initiative and expressed a more radical solution. According to him, access to bloody games in general should be restricted in the country, NTV reports.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education Vladimir Burmatov put forward an idea to set up an interdepartmental commission to supervise the sales of computer games. According to Burmatov, playing violent games pushed the Moscow shooter towards the crime, wrote MK.ru.

How, exactly, Burmatov knows that these games had anything to do with Vinogradov’s mindstate is anyone’s guess. Is he close with the alleged shooter? Is he an expert in psychology?

According to many of the news reports, Vinogradov apparently brought a gun to work after he was dumped by a girlfriend. He also may or may not have been on a drinking binge in the days before the attack — which in itself isn’t to blame, but may be an indication of a more serious underlying psychological issue. There’s a chance that he played violent video games, or even the most notoriously gory ones, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the crimes he’s connected with.

At least Russian news outlet is already calling Vinogradov “Russia’s Breivik,” after Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik, a misnomer for a number of reasons. For one, Breivik killed more than 70 people. For another, Vinogradov’s violent mission seems motivated by a personal passion — lost love — and not some misguided political aim.

The main thing these men may have in common is that, even if they were fans of violent video games, those games didn’t make them kill. There was plenty else on their minds that was much more likely to kickstart their violence, and there’s no reason to take a form of entertainment away from millions of other nonviolent gamers simply because of the actions of one.

Violent video games, Satan, and murder (again)


Did video games make Peter Charles John Jensen, left, shoot his wife? Did Satan make Christopher Roalson, right, stab an elderly woman to death? If not, why are police, prosecutors, and the press mentioning it?

On Sept. 25, police in Jacksonville, Florida, charged Peter Charles John Jensen with murder. Allegedly, he apparently was “playing violent video games under the influence of some type of drug,” police said, before he got into an argument with his wife, Karina, and shot her. A witness — who was playing video games with Jensen — reported the shooting, and fled when Jensen pointed the gun at him. Karina was dead when police arrived and found her.

A few days earlier, a Hayward, Wisconsin, jury found Christopher Roalson guilty of first-degree murder. Roalson, along with accomplice Austin Davis, broke into 93-year-old Irena Roszak’s Radisson house and stabbed her to death in 2009. They have called it a “thrill kill,” and Davis told the court that he heard screaming and someone saying “Hail Satan” coming from Roszak’s bedroom the night of the murder. Roalson also reportedly claimed he was “Satan’s son” as he and Davis left the house that night.

As you can see, the headline in the Jensen case is:
Man killed wife in Julington Creek shooting Saturday, police say
Police: He played video games and took drugs before the slaying.

And for Roalson, the lede in a Duluth newspaper:
A Sawyer County jury on Friday found 30-year-old Christopher Roalson guilty in the murder of 93-year-old Irena Roszak, a case that officials called a “thrill kill” with satanic overtones.

Coverage in both cases has been sketchy and doesn’t point to a clear, legitimate motive. Maybe that’s why everyone has latched onto these sensationalistic but meaningless details. I can point to Jensen’s glazed demeanor and compare it to that of (allegedly schizophrenic) Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes, but that’s guesswork at best. How we can get through an entire trial, in Roalson’s case, and not be clear on why he killed an elderly woman, is beyond me — especially since you have to prove premeditation for first-degree murder, and premeditation suggests a motive.

Instead, we’re left with violent video games, drugs, and Satan: scary things many people don’t understand, but are happy to consider valid motivations for killing — as valid as any other impetus we also might not understand. We’re also left with the impression that these things might make anyone else commit murder. Better take them away before that happens, right?

Looking for answers in the latest Colorado shooting? Don’t be distracted by false explanations


James Holmes is the suspect in the Aurora, Colorado shootings that killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more.

As reporters work to reveal the identity, history, and character of James Holmes, the suspected shooter in this morning’s massacre in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, they may suggest that his personal interests could have led him to commit a horrific crime.

They’re wrong.

Whenever such a tragedy strikes, we want to understand why it happened, perhaps in the hope of preventing another from happening.

As long as we focus on subjects such as video games, music, faith, or even comic books, we are distracting ourselves from the real clues that may tell us that someone might be on the verge of a violent attack.

Instead, we should be looking at Holmes’ mental state, his life circumstances, his methods of coping — or not coping — with failure and disappointment. These, not patterns of media intake, are the real clues.

I’ll likely have more to say as the story unfolds.