Killing Of 5 PA Students Raises Fears Of Copycat Cases


The spate of school shootings in the last month raises fears that even more “copycat” crimes lie ahead – with psychologists warning that news media attention could perpetuate the violence, says the Baltimore Sun. “When you have someone already on the edge, already looking for a way to express their anger, their frustration, that person [] can be tipped to action,” said Dewey Cornell, a University of Virginia education professor and psychologist who has studied violence in schools. “One thing that people have learned is that if you go into a school, you’re going to get an incredible amount of attention – more so than if you go into a department store or bank,” he said. “There’s something very gripping about a school shooting.”

Yesterday, a 32-year-old milk-truck driver walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pa., and killed five girls in a terrifying scene remarkably similar to one at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Co., just five days earlier. “I think copycatting is a huge issue,” said Dave Cullen, author of a book on the Columbine massacre. The common denominator in many school-violence attacks is probably a desperate bid for attention. “This is a way of achieving instant fame,” said Kirk Heilbrun, a Drexel University psychologist, “the easiest way to get yourself out there, your face on the cover of a national magazine or newspaper.” Cullen, who has conducted extensive interviews with psychologists investigating Columbine, doesn’t believe revenge for a specific event was the shooter’s true motivation. More likely, Cullen said, he was deeply angry at the world. If Roberts were seeking to get back at someone, Cullen said, he would probably take a gun and find that individual: “He is only going to open fire indiscriminately if he doesn’t have a target for that rage.”


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