Props to the Irvine, CA police for apparently foiling what could’ve been an event comparable to the Colorado movie theater massacre at a local high school (not a true “copycat” crime in the sense of being inspired by the Colorado massacre, just in the sense of inflicting similar harm in similar ways). The potential perpetrator, in custody without bail at this hour, reportedly is a U.C. Irvine professor whose high-school-aged son committed suicide earlier this year. Since the son’s suicide, the professor apparently has plotted a mass-murder/suicide at the son’s school, shooting specific students and administrators whom he blames for the son’s death (it looks like the son may have been bullied) and shooting himself thereafter. A couple of observations about this case in addition to the obvious kudos to the cops:
1) As in the Colorado movie theater case, no one should jump to the conclusion that this father in California is criminally insane, i.e. that he either didn’t know what he was doing in plotting mass murder or didn’t know that the actions he was plotting were crimes, however, his behavior leading up to his arrest does seem significantly less psychologically organized in comparison to the pre-arrest behavior of the suspect in the Colorado case. Apparently, the California suspect has also set several fires since his son’s suicide, using items such as a book and one of those single-use, pre-packaged fireplace logs, and a plastic chair as fuel, i.e. not the typical work of a calculating, psychopathic arsonist.
2) As I’ve written and spoken about many times, if this guy’s son was bullied, it doesn’t justify vigilante-ism on the father’s part, and it certainly doesn’t justify death sentences for the bullies or school administrators. It does, however, bear investigation and accountability on the part of anyone who inflicted an injury on the deceased child and particularly on the part of any adult who neglected his/her duty to act “in loco parentis” (in the place of a parent) and protect the child from such injury at the school. Again, I’m not talking about the death penalty here; I’m talking about civil liability, i.e. money damages from the school district and/or from any adult who shirked a duty to protect this guy’s son. In my experience and opinion, virtually anytime there’s bullying that’s chronic enough to result in a child’s suicidality, there are irresponsible adults in the mix who need to be held accountable. That’s the direction in which the father should’ve taken his grief and anger, assuming he was capable of thinking clearly enough to do so.
My guess is that this father may have had some serious depression, perhaps even with some paranoid psychotic features, in the wake of his son’s suicide but that he was still not criminally “insane,” at least with respect to the planning of any mass murder at the school. My guess is that he may have felt that murdering certain individuals whom he held responsible for his son’s death was morally, though not legally, justified and that he probably still fundamentally understood that if he chose to break the law, he’d be held accountable under the law, so he planned to take himself out in the end, expecting perhaps to join his son in the afterlife, rather than facing the accountability of the justice system. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out in California, particularly in contrast to the one playing out in Colorado.