When Vanderbilt University psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl learned that the perpetrator of the Uvalde, Tex., school massacre was a young man barely out of adolescence, it was hard not to think about the peculiarities of the maturing male brain.
Salvador Rolando Ramos had just turned 18, eerily close in age to Nikolas Cruz, who had been 19 when he shot up a school in Parkland, Fla. And to Adam Lanza, 20, when he did the same in Newtown, Conn. To Seung-Hui Cho, 23, at Virginia Tech. And to Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, in Columbine, Colo.
Teen and young adult males have long stood out from other subgroups for their impulsive behavior. They are far more reckless and prone to violence than their counterparts in other age groups, and their leading causes of death include fights, accidents, driving too fast, or, as Metzl put it, “other impulsive kinds of acts.”
“There’s a lot of research about how their brains are not fully developed in terms of regulation,” he said.
Perhaps most significantly, studies show, the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to understanding the consequences of one’s actions and controlling impulses, does not fully develop until about age 25. In that context, Metzl said, a shooting “certainly feels like another kind of performance of young masculinity.”
In coming weeks and months, investigators will dissect Ramos’s life to try to figure out what led him to that horrific moment at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 when he opened fire on a classroom full of 9- and-10-year-olds at Robb Elementary School. Although clear answers are unlikely, the patterns that have emerged about mass shooters in the growing databases, school reports, medical notes and interview transcripts show a disturbing confluence between angry young men, easy access to weapons and reinforcement of violence by social media….
“Age is the untold story of all this stuff,” said Metzl, who is also a sociologist. “I feel very strongly we should not have people 18 to 21 with guns.”
Read the rest at the WaPo.
There’s still a lot of discussion in the media about the disastrous response of law enforcement in the Uvalde school massacre.
Ten days after a gunman slaughtered 19 students and their two teachers in their classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, there are still significant gaps in the information officials have released about law enforcement’s response.
“My point as a policymaker, which is the third function of my job, is to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde.
“How in the world are we going to be able to do anything if we can’t figure out what happened in that building in those 40 minutes?”
The shifting police narratives, unanswered questions and the horror of knowing 21 victims were trapped with a gunman for more than an hour — despite repeated 911 calls for help from inside the classrooms — is tormenting this small Texas city.
Gutierrez has questioned whether the responding officers on scene were aware of those calls as they stood outside the classrooms. It’s also unclear whether the incident commander, who made the call for the officers not to confront the shooter immediately, was on scene as the shooting unfolded.
Victims’ families and other local residents are angry. At a school board meeting last night, Superintendent Hall Harrell said that Robb Elementary would not reopen. After that, the board went into a “lengthy closed-door session.
Angela Turner, a mother of five who lost her niece in the shooting, expressed outrage. “We want answers to where the security is going to take place. This was all a joke,” she told reporters, referring to the meeting. “I’m so disappointed in our school district.”
Turner insisted that she will not send her children to school unless they feel safe, adding that her 6-year-old child told her, “I don’t want to go to school. Why? To be shot?”
“These people will not have a job if we stand together, and we do not let our kids go here,” she said as she pointed to a vacant school board podium.
Dawn Poitevent, a mother whose child was slated to attend Robb Elementary as a second-grader, was tearful as she told reporters that she wants the board to consider letting her child stay at his current school, Dalton Elementary.
“I just need to keep my baby safe, and I can’t promise him that. Nobody can promise their children that right now,” Poitevent said. “At least if he goes to Dalton, he’s not going to be scared, and he’s not going to be having the worst first day that I can possibly imagine.”
Poitevent added that her son, Hayes, has been telling her that he’s scared to go to school because a “bad man” will shoot him.
“We’re just trying so hard to get past everything,” she said. “We’re trying to bury our babies and say goodbye to people that really mattered.”
Read more at the CNN link.
Poppy Noor at The Guardian: Uvalde police were trained to quickly confront an active shooter. So why did they wait?
It took more than an hour for police officers to enter and stop the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde’s Robb elementary school last Tuesday in Texas.
In that time, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos fired more than 100 shots while as many as 19 police officers stood outside waiting and desperate parents tried to break victims out of the school windows. It has been reported that one teacher and several children placed 911 calls while the gunman was inside the building….
The officers on duty had received active shooter training just two months before the massacre, prompting questions from parents, politicians and public safety officials about exactly what officers should have done and casting doubt on how effective such training is in reality.
What does the training manual say about dealing with school shooters?
“A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field.” Those are the words, from an active shooter training manual used to train Uvalde’s school police on 21 March 2022, that have been repeated again and again since the shooting on Tuesday.
They refer to the lessons post-Columbine, the high school shooting in 1999 that led to the deaths of 15 people (including the suicides of both shooters). Before Columbine – which was the most deadly US mass shooting in history at the time – officers had been taught to form a perimeter around the school and wait for backup in the event of a school shooting, not unlike what allegedly happened at Uvalde on Tuesday. But after Columbine, law enforcement officials learned that not going in and directly confronting the shooter costs precious minutes and possibly lives.
The training materials encourage officers to confront the attacker in an active shooter situation, driving them away from victims, isolating and distracting them, even when it means putting themselves in harm’s way: “If they are engaged with the officer(s) they will be less capable of hurting innocents,” the manual says.
If officers are at the scene alone, they must go in alone, it says. “Time is the number one enemy during active shooter response … The best hope that innocent victims have is that officers immediately move into action to isolate, distract or neutralize the threat, even if that means one officer acting alone.”
The manual makes clear that not doing so will cost lives. “The number of deaths in an active shooter event is primarily affected by two factors: How quickly the police or other armed response arrives and engages them; How quickly the shooter can find victims,” it states.
Frankly, I don’t see why what happened is still being treated as a mystery. Let’s face it: those police officers are cowards. And Pete Arrendondo should be fired. Instead, he is now on the city council.
Even state police complained this week that Arredondo has remained elusive to them, accusing him of not cooperating with a Texas Department of Public Safety investigation into the shooting, a claim Arredondo refuted. The New York Times reported Friday that the chief arrived on scene without a radio, hampering his ability to organize the response.
Residents here remain in mourning. Each day repeats a cycle of at least two funerals followed by processions to the cemetery on the west edge of town. Their grief, however, is giving way to frustration about how local officials have responded to the tragedy and conversations about how to hold them accountable.
For many, this starts with firing Arredondo and overhauling his department, which they believe failed the students it was supposed to keep safe.
That’s all I have for you today. Please post comments and links on any subject that interests you. This is an open thread.