July 26, 2016


The Chilling Rise of Copycat Mass Shooters : From Baton Rouge to Munich, a dark phenomenon rears its head. (MARK FOLLMANJUL. 26, 2016, Mother Jones)

[I]nvestigators have uncovered a range of evidence suggesting Sonboly was a textbook copycat attacker. The many parallels with past cases are striking:

One such piece of evidence was literally a textbook: In the apartment where Sonboly lived, investigators found a German-language edition of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. The book's author, American psychologist and school shootings expert Peter Langman, told me that his "heart sank" when he learned of that discovery. It was not the first time an attacker displayed an interest in Langman's case studies. The 18-year-old who went on a rampage at Arapahoe High School in Colorado in December 2013 also had a copy of the book. Investigators in Munich also learned that Sonboly had collected news coverage and other information on past attacks, a behavior familiar from the Newtown killer and many other mass shooters.

Such content helps fulfill the need of aspiring killers to find people they can identify with, says Langman. "Having a role model or an ideology that supports their violent intentions may serve the purpose of transforming what is otherwise aberrant and abhorrent into something admirable," he says. "It validates their urge toward violence."

Sonboly went on his rampage precisely five years after one of Europe's worst massacres in modern history, the attack carried out in July 2011 in Norway by a lone killer who took the lives of 77 people and injured hundreds of others. As with the Norway massacre, which took place primarily at a youth summer camp, most of Sonboly's victims were teenagers.

The desire to strike on the anniversary of a high-profile mass killing is not uncommon among would-be copycats, as I documented last year in my investigation of the "Columbine effect." Since 1999, at least 14 perpetrators who emulated the Columbine killers have plotted to attack schools around the United States on that same date in April.

Forensic psychologists specializing in threat assessment have documented numerous mass shooters who cultivated a "pseudocommando" image--those who were obsessed with military weapons and paraphernalia and aspired to a "warrior mentality." In Sonboly's case, he may have nurtured such tendencies in part through first-person shooter games, including Counter-Strike: Source, a game that German investigators said he was obsessed with.

Posted by at July 26, 2016 7:53 PM