They say bad things come in threes and the US recently experienced its third spree killing within a matter of weeks. Details are still sketchy on the rampage at the St. Francis Health System’s Natalie Medical Building in Tulsa, but I wanted to apply what we know so far to the general profiles that I talked about yesterday. I’d encourage readers to keep in mind that early information is often subject to correction or clarification.
The Daily Beast reports that the shooter was 45-year-old Michelet Louis of Muskogee, Oklahoma. This was reportedly corroborated by family members who had been informed by police of the shooter’s identity.
Police say that the murders were not random and the Beast reports that the killer left a note. The contents of that note have not been revealed, but police have indicated that the shooter, a black male, had specifically targeted Dr. Preston Phillips, one of Tulsa’s few black doctors. The Daily Beast report cites a police statement that the shooter had complained about back pain following a surgery performed by Dr. Phillips last month. The killer had reportedly made repeated calls asking for additional treatment for his pain.
There are multiple reports that the shooter carried both a rifle and a handgun. The rifle was apparently used against his victims and then the murderer used the handgun to commit suicide before police arrived. CNN reports that the perpetrator purchased a handgun on May 29 and bought “an AR-15 style firearm” the day of the shooting.
The purchase of the rifle on the day of the shooting will be used as an argument for waiting periods, but the purchase of the pistol several days earlier undercuts that argument. A preliminary look at the facts suggests that the shooter had planned his attack at least several days in advance.
In coming days, I would bet that we will find out more about the shooter’s mental state, but we already know that he checks several boxes that are common among spree killers. The attack can be considered a workplace shooting, which is the most common setting for a spree killing. Handguns are the most common weapons used in spree killings, and about 20 percent of attackers use both an “assault” rifle and a handgun per the Violence Project database. About 46 percent of rampage killers buy their guns legally, as this shooter seems to have done. Also common is the fact that this shooter knew his victims. That applies to about two-thirds (61 percent) of spree killers.
One factor that is decidedly atypical is the shooter’s race. Most spree shooters are white (52 percent) with blacks representing only about 20 percent of these killers.
As we learn more about the shooter, I think we will find that he fits more profiles as well. He seems to have been suicidal as about 72 percent of killers are, and if the reports of his surgical complications are accurate, he seems to have experienced trauma that motivated his attack, a factor present in about 42 percent of mass shootings. I would not be surprised if evidence of mental health problems and other red flags emerge as well.
As I close this piece, I’d like to offer my condolences and sympathies to the families and friends of the victims as well as salute the Tulsa Police Department for its quick response.
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