Things That Matter

White Terrorist Opens Fire in Dayton, Kills 9 People in 30 Seconds

Just thirteen hours after a 19-year-old white supremacist killed 20 people at an El Paso Walmart, another 24-year-old white terrorist wearing body armor killed 9 in Dayton, Ohio at 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Police have confirmed that suspect Connor Betts killed his sister, Megan Betts, during his attack. The timeline of events and his motives are still unknown.

Lieutenant Matt Carper describes the Ohio District as “a safe part of downtown.”

@THEAlleyeceeing / Twitter

Thousands of people were out enjoying their summer night when Betts opened fire. The victims were likely those waiting in line outside to get into Ned Peppers bar. At least 27 people were treated for injuries, though others have reported that they did not seek hospital treatment for wounds from shrapnel and glass shards.

Nikita Papillon told Los Angeles Times that she had just walked across the street from Ned Peppers when the shooting started. Papillon just made conversation with a girl who “told me she liked my outfit and thought I was cute, and I told her I liked her outfit and I thought she was cute.” Papillon saw her body on the ground minutes later.

Police say that the “very short timeline of violence” suggests Betts had no time to discriminate based on race.

@TalbertSwan / Twitter

That said, six of his victims were black. Still, police are saying there is “no evidence to suggest there is a biased motive in this crime at this time.”

Betts killed 9 people, including his sister, in just 30 seconds.

@nypost / Twitter

Police are continuing to investigate a motive, but have confirmed that the two rode to the bar together. Megan’s boyfriend survived the shooting and is likely a key source in understanding Betts’ motive.

The other victims were Louise Ogelsby, 27; Said Saleh, 38; Derek Fudge, 57; Logan Turner, 30; Nicholas Cumer White, 25; Thomas McNichols, 25; Beatrice Warren Curtis, 36; and Monica Brickhouse, 39.

Betts used a .223 caliber assault-style rifle plus this hundred-round magazine.

@npenzenstadler / Twitter

Mayor Whaley said that “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today,” had the police not responded so quickly.

During a press conference, Trump wondered out loud, “Think of the damage he did in such a short period of time in less than a minute?” Many Americans are taking that question a step further with an answer: pass gun reform laws that would ban the sale of a weapon that could inflict so much bloodshed so quickly.

Surveillance footage shows a couple hugging one minute, and running for their lives the next.

@breaking911 / Twitter

The couple was outside on the patio with other bar goers and you can see them hugging. Seconds later, they ran inside as you see Betts walking down the street.

At least six officers fired off a round of ammo within 30 seconds of the first gunshot, killing the shooter. They removed his rifle from underneath him and put him in handcuffs.

After the threat was neutralized, officers started asking survivors for belts to use as tourniquets.

@ProfBlacktruth / Twitter

Survivor James Williams told The New York Times he ran over to the scene to find bodies on the ground, and offered his belt. Williams had just watched the news of the El Paso shooting that morning and thought it was “just another mass shooting that we hear about all the time, and you never think it’s going to hit home.”

Another survivor attempted CPR on a victim. “He was gurgling” she told NYT. “I looked him in the eye. I tried to talk to him. I said ‘Hang on, buddy.’” He died.

Survivor Cassandra Lopez was “trampled.”

@WondHerful / Twitter

Lopez was heading out the back door of the bar to get some air when gunshots were fired. Everyone fell to the floor and for two minutes, she was “trampled.” Lopez told police, “We just couldn’t get up. Too many people. Shoes everywhere.”

In a press conference, Trump blames the recent mass shootings on “a mental illness problem.”

@cbsnews / Twitter

“We’re talking to a lot of people and a lot of things are in the works and a lot of good things. And we’ve done much more than most administrations. And it is just not really talked about very much, but we’ve actually done a lot,” Trump begins his statement.

“But perhaps more has to be done. But this is also a mental illness problem if you look at both of these cases. This is mental illness. These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill. So a lot of things are happening. A lot of things are happening right now.”

Democratic Presidential candidate Cory Booker is calling on the Senate to pass emergency legislation.

@corybooker / Twitter

The common denominator between both domestic terrorists this weekend is that they were angry, young white men with access to firearms intended to fire as many bullets as possible.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley remarked on the fourteen tornados that devastated Dayton in May, and said in a statement, “We have suffered two tragedies in Dayton this year, but one was avoidable. This same tragedy has been inflicted on our nation 250 times this year alone. When is enough, enough?”

A vigil is planned for 8 p.m. tonight.

@nanwhaley / Twitter

You can also donate to the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund, which was established in the wake of the tornados that destroyed homes in the city in May. In a press conference, Mayor Whaley suggested donating to the same fund which is helping families who could never have been prepared for this kind of tragedy.

Students Under Investigation After Flashing White Power Symbols On National TV During Army/Navy Football Game

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Students Under Investigation After Flashing White Power Symbols On National TV During Army/Navy Football Game

@TheTNHoller / Twitter

The United States Military Academy has opened a formal investigation into whether Army cadets and Navy midshipmen flashed white power symbols during a nationally televised broadcast of the Army-Navy football game Saturday. At least three individuals flashed the upside-down “ok” hand gesture, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate symbol meant to signify “white power.” Footage of the gestures went viral on Twitter as folks circulated allegations that the military students were flashing white power symbols on nationally televised media “because they fully understand that most people in the dominant society share their views, and there will be no serious punishment against them.” President Trump attended the game and visited both locker rooms before the start of the match.

“The United States Military Academy is fully committed to developing leaders of character who embody the Army values,” Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, The United States Military Academy’s superintendent, said in a statement. Meanwhile, Naval Academy officials appointed a preliminary inquiry officer to head up the internal investigation. 

Twitter is calling for the expulsion of the students who flashed the symbol, which seemed especially telling when flashed behind the head of a black cadet.

CREDIT: @BIGKAHUNAVAN / TWITTER

Two cadets clearly flash white power hand signals; one of them does it right behind the head of a black cadet. This is on live TV at the Army-Navy game. The @NavalAcademy should kick these students out,” one Twitter user called out. Another person wants to expel them and fine them for the taxpayer dollars that went toward their education thus far. “Imagine how these young black men will feel when they see this footage of their classmates flashing white power signals directly behind their heads. This is shameful and horrific behavior,” comments another user. 

Meanwhile, others are saying that the gestures are far more sophomoric. “IT’S THE FREAKING CIRCLE GAME!,” tweeted one POC. The alleged game is based on tricking someone into looking at the hand gesture which would allow you to playfully punch that person. If you ever played the VW Beetle game as a kid, it’s pretty similar. Others don’t buy it. “Right behind the head of the black guy? Come on…” asks one user. “I ain’t buying it either. If it were true, the black guy or other minorities would be playing the “game” as well. Funny, the “game” signal givers hands are NEVER BROWN. Why’s that now?” asks another Twitter user.

That said, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) details a much more insidious and increasingly common use of the “O.K.” hand gesture that began in 2017.

CREDIT: @GININATEACUP1 / TWITTER

Both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Anti-Defamation League have described the symbol as hate speech. White nationalists first started using the symbol because of how it creates a “W” and a “P” to denote “white power.” In 2017, internet gateway to the alt-right, 4chan, started disseminating the symbol as a way to “trigger liberals.” SPLC says that the symbol is a “deliberate attempt to “trigger liberals” into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place.” According to SPLC, the hoax started when the following post went viral: “We must flood twitter and other social media websites with spam, claiming that the OK hand signal is a symbol of white supremacy. Make fake accounts with basic white girl names and type shit like: OMG that’s so truuuuu…” It seems to be working. 

Before the 4chan hoax went viral and spread to anyone who was simply anti-liberal, it was used by alt-right figures and white nationalists. In fact, the white supremacist who murdered over 50 worshippers in the Christchurch mosque flashed the symbol in court.

Plausible deniability remains the crux of the issue. The “O.K.” signal is so ubiquitous, it makes it difficult to prove malicious intent.

CREDIT: @HAMDIA_AHMED / TWITTER

Still, at least three different young men flashed the symbol on national television this weekend, knowing President Trump was in the audience. Several Trump supporters have expressed glee in using the symbol simply because of its underlying intent to prove liberals and minorities as triggered.

Military officials feel its “inappropriate” to speculate any further on the students’ intent while the investigation is underway. 

CREDIT: @HAMDIA_AHMED / TWITTER

The SPLC cites the use of the “O.K.” hand gesture as a ploy to “trigger” liberals as participation in a “toxic subculture.” The Center cites such a troll as someone with a “direct gateway not just to the alt-right, but also to even more poisonous cultures such as that of woman-hating “incels.” The Center says that “it’s easy” for a simple “troll” to morph into a white supremacist surreptitiously signaling your presence to other white supremacists.

READ: A Family At Universal Studios Had Their Trip Ruined By A Character From ‘Despicable Me’ Who Flashed A White Power Symbol

What Makes a Mass Shooter? New Study Stresses the Need for Prevention

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What Makes a Mass Shooter? New Study Stresses the Need for Prevention

Sandy Hook PSA

After yet another school shooting in Santa Clarita, California, the conversation about gun violence has reached new and troubling heights. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks every mass shooting in the country, 2019 may be the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one shooting a day. As of November 17, there have been 369 mass shootings in the U.S. We all know that there are 365 (well, sometimes 366) calendar days in a year—so when you do the math, you’re quick to realize that 2019 has seen a serious excess of senseless tragedy…and we still have six weeks left.

The issue of gun violence is complicated by misguided political and financial interests, but the data behind mass shootings is undeniably clear—it is data, after all. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as “any incident in which four people are shot, including the shooter.” The FBI defines mass murders as “incidents in which at least four people are killed.” While the FBI does not have a formal definition for mass shootings, the Gun Violence Archive investigates both, asserting that of the above mentioned 369 mass shootings, 28 were mass murders.

In total, there have been 34,365 deaths and 25,929 injuries as a result of gun violence in 2019, whether from mass shootings, homicides, suicides, or accidents. So, who is committing these crimes?

credit: CNN.com

Of course, the answer is varied, complex, and incredibly nuanced. But in light of the recent tragedy in California, our attention is once again drawn to one group within the broad population of U.S. gun users: mass shooters. What leads someone to carry out these large-scale acts of violence? And what do mass shooters have in common with each other?

On November 19, a study funded by the Department of Justice—the largest study of mass shooters ever funded by the U.S. government—was released, and it responds directly to these questions. A dataset that stretches back to 1966 (beginning with the University of Texas shooting of that year, chosen by researchers for the massive media attention it received), the study tracks the pattern of large-scale shootings over the course of 53 years, ultimately concluding that mass shooters share four prominent characteristics: childhood trauma, a personal crisis, sources that validate their aggressive feelings, and access to a firearm.

The study was conducted by the Violence Project, a nonpartisan organization that “aims to reduce violence in society and improve related policy and practice through research and analysis.” With a sharp focus on the life histories of more than 171 mass shooters, the study serves as the largest, most comprehensive database of its kind, and it exposes a lot about the mass shooter archetype.

In addition to revealing that 20% of the 167 incidents have occurred in the past five years, the study reveals that shooters are increasingly motivated by a racial, religious, or misogynist impetus—especially those who committed their crimes in that same time frame.

credit: Los Angeles Times

This pattern is best demonstrated by the following metrics: Of the 75 mass shootings that took place between 1966 and 2000,  9% were motivated by racism, 1% by religious hatred, and 7% by sexism and misogyny. Of the 32 mass shootings that have unfolded since 2015, 18% were motivated by racism, 15% by religious hatred, and 21% by misogyny—a jump in numbers that exceeds 200% across the board.

While acknowledging mass shooters’ tendency to target populations that they are prejudiced against, the research team also drew attention to the fact that nearly all mass shooters seemed to be in a state of personal crisis in the time leading up to the actual shooting. This pattern, according to the researchers, demonstrates opportunities for prevention that are all too often missed.

Similarly, the study found that nearly 70% of shooters exhibited suicidal motivations before (or during) the shooting—a finding that the researchers hope will directly influence public policy. We know a lot more about suicide prevention than we do about this issue, and we know what works — things like limiting access to weapons, directly asking the question, connecting people with outside resources, not talking about it in the news,” Dr. Jillian Peterson, co-founder of the Violence Project, told VICE. “This shows us that there are opportunities for intervention—this doesn’t just happen out of the blue.”

Family history, life circumstances, and mental health aside, mass shootings would not be possible without the use of a gun. Roughly half of the perpetrators in the database purchased their weapons legally, while 13% obtained their weapons by theft. Over the last five years, the study notes an increase in mass shooters’ use of assault rifles, which correlates with the increased deadliness of shootings during that period. 

Beyond a desire for tighter firearm regulation, the Violence Project aims to focus on prevention: addressing the patterns surrounding gun violence in order to end it before it begins. This extensive database is definitely a step in the right direction.