Was the shooting of nine African Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston a hate crime committed by a sane white man or was mental illness a factor?
Few details have emerged about Dylann Roof’s mental state before he allegedly committed this week’s mass murder. But media reports are already debating whether the 21-year-old man is deranged or merely a bigot with a gun.
The Washington Post
weighs in with a piece that argues mainstream media reports are too quick to jump to the conclusion that mental illness is behind the shooting — and claims his race as a white man is a factor in such links.
“Listen to major media outlets and you won’t hear the word ‘terrorism’ used in coverage of [the] shooting. You won’t hear the white male shooter … described as ‘a possible terrorist.’ And if coverage of recent shootings by white suspects is any indication, he never will be,” according to the Post.
“Instead, the go-to explanation for his actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources …. That is the power of whiteness in America.”
reports that Roof was said to be taking a psychoactive drug that has been linked with outbursts of violence.
In addition, similar tragedies over the past decade have linked mass shootings and mental illness:
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
, the Columbine killers, both had a history of mental health problems before fatally shooting 12 students and a teacher and wounding 23 others before committing suicide on April 20, 1999. Harris, 18, was a psychopath, and Klebold, 17, was psychotic, suffering from paranoia, delusions, and disorganized thinking, according to mental health and police reports.
, who killed 32 people and wounded 17 others a Virginia University on April 16, 2007, was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder as a child and placed under treatment. On December 13, 2005, he was found "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization.”
, who killed 13 people and wounded four others in the American Civic Association immigration center on April 3, 2009, had written to a local TV station a month before the event, claiming undercover police officers were changing the channels on his television, making the air “unbreathable,” and playing music directly into his ear.
Maj. Nidal Hasan
, who opened fire On Nov. 5, 2009, at an army base near Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others, had a history of mental health problems. Officials who worked with him held a series of meetings before the shooting where they discussed his bizarre and paranoid behavior, with some suggesting he was was psychotic.
, who killed six and injured 13 in a shooting near a Tucson shopping mall, on Sept. 10, 2010, had been asked to leave Pima Community College on mental health grounds. A psychologist who reviewed his journals just months before the incident said he showed symptoms of schizophrenia.
, who walked into a Colorado movie theater and killed 12 people, injuring 70 others, on July 20, 2012, was described by a psychiatrist who treated him months before as "shifting insidiously into a frank psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.”
, who shot and killed 12 people and injured three others at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013, had been investigated by naval police who, a month before the shooting, were called to his hotel room at Naval Station Newport. Police later reported that Alexis had "taken apart his bed, believing someone was hiding under it, and observed that Alexis had taped a microphone to the ceiling to record the voices of people that were following him.”
, the Newtown, Conn., school shooter, was diagnosed as a child with Sensory Perception Disorder, a condition that made bright lights, loud sounds, and certain textures unbearable, and reportedly secluded himself in his bedroom for weeks at a time. A Yale psychiatrist who briefly treated Lanza before the Dec. 12, 2012, shooting said he "displayed a profound autism spectrum disorder with rigidity, isolation and a lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications.”
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