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Blazing Hate into the World: Psychological Case Study of a Fame-Seeking Rampage Shooter
Violence and Gender  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-11-23, DOI: 10.1089/vio.2021.0037
Mirko Allwinn, Sina Tultschinetski, Thomas Görgen

In the early hours of June 8, 2017, a Weis Market employee in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, shot three co-workers and herself. Shortly before the shooting, the perpetrator uploaded vast amounts of digital material, so-called legacy tokens, to the Internet. She daily frequented various forums and social media platforms and produced large amounts of written, audio, and video content, some of which macabre and explicit. This content revealed her desire for fame and attention and a fascination for other rampage killers, both characteristics of fame-seeking rampage shooters. In this study, we analyze the perpetrator's legacy tokens and shed light on her biography, family relationships, personal crises and grievances, and recurring themes in her communication. The perpetrator was particularly preoccupied with a fictional group she founded called “Ember's Ghost Squad”; death and dying; depression and suicidal tendencies; gender identity and sexuality; violent fantasies; previous rampage killers (esp. the Columbine shooters); and grandiose fantasies, narcissistic tendencies, and a desire for fame. We present hypotheses regarding drives and motives that led to the shooting and conclude that the core of severe targeted violence lies in an enduring maladaptive coping with individual grievances, regardless of the narratives they are embedded in. Particularly, fame seeking as a means to identity building and stabilization of self-worth offers a valuable explanatory approach, which can also be helpful from a risk assessment perspective. Highlighting some challenges that arose in data mining and analysis, we discuss practical implications and recommendations for the early detection of intent to commit a violent act.