The news from Monday was grim, several students shot in the early hours of a school day. Sadly, it’s a headline similar to others we’ve heard before. However, there are some definite differences about this situation that are catching my eye, mostly because several of them have changed in the last 24 hours.
First, TJ (the shooter) was said to be a loner that was targeted by bullies. He has also been attending a school focused on kids with academic or behavioral problems. Later, he was said to be a sweet guy who kept mostly to himself. He did have a few friends and didn’t get into any major trouble.
Some say his history of bullying had something to do with his choice of victims. Now a headline states that he chose his victims randomly.
TJ is described as showing cold silence while he shot his peers in the school. Reports now describe him as very upset, confused, and remorseful.
So how does this fit together? Where does this go from an upsetting feeling or thought to a fatal killing in a school? We want to give kids chances, chances to learn and grow up a little more with the consequences of their actions. He understandably has some issues in his past that would be difficult for anyone to live through. However, does this lighten his responsibility here? Does he really not know right from wrong in this case?
Clearly, his writings show that he had some darkness in his mind. His written expression described some fairly strong emotions, and, of course, his disturbing final comment “Die, all of you.” I’ve not read anything that comments about the possibility of him having depression, either in the past or at the present time. It would be difficult to believe that with all his family’s difficulties that he didn’t have some troubles with his mental health sometime in his life. However, it’s really hard to know if he had an untreated depression disorder or not.
Unlike so many of the most publicized mass shootings in the news, the shooter escaped injury from others and did not harm themselves. You’d think this would mean that we’ll finally have a way to get some answers. We’ll get down to the big “why” behind the senseless tragedy, behind so many similar tragedies.
I’m not so sure it’s going to play out that way. Even if TJ gave a complete rationalization, would it really explain anything? Would it really satisfy anyone, including himself? And would it explain the other school shootings in any reliable way? Maybe, but maybe not.
And let’s be clear – having depression doesn’t absolve someone of a crime such as this. Mental illness isn’t an excuse for people who do bad things, even if it’s part of the bigger picture. It’s not a secret that killing people is a crime with serious consequences.
For now, I know that the picture of TJ is pretty murky. It seems that even the people closest to him and this situation have had some widely varying opinions of him.
The tragedy continues to unfold for the whole community of Chardon. I think there’s still much to be learned about everything that transpired including what went on in TJ’s mind as he took action. We may get some answers after a long time, but we’ll probably end up with more questions than anything else. More to come from me as information is reported.
Readers, what’s your reaction to this? What do you think about TJ, who formally admitted to the shooting today? What do you think about the widely varying opinions on him and why he might have acted out (or why others were surprised)?
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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
The Psychology of a School Shooting: TJ Lane in Chardon, Ohio | World of Psychology (February 29, 2012)
Last reviewed: 29 Feb 2012