As Aurora Suspect Faces Judge, He Stands Out Among Mass Killers


Tuesday’s arraignment of James Holmes, accused of mass murder in Colorado, is a rarity among massacre suspects, says USA Today. Holmes, expected to plead insanity in the July 2012 murders of 12 patrons in a suburban Denver movie theater, is just one of a handful of suspects to face legal proceedings in a case involving no prior connection to murder victims. Since 2006, there have been 200 mass killings — defined by the FBI as four or more victims. But although random shootings like those involving Holmes and Newtown, Conn., shooter Adam Lanza may be high-profile for the random and senseless nature of the killings, there have been just 29 such massacres since 2006.

Most of the rest involved relatives and acquaintances, robberies, burglaries or drug disputes. Of the 29 massacre suspects like Holmes, few make it to trial. Fifteen committed suicide at or near the scene of the crime; three others were killed by police. Just five of the 29 — including Arizona shooter Jared Loughner — were ultimately convicted. Many were determined to be suffering from mental illness when they committed their crimes. Random mass killings appear to provide instigators both compensation for failures in their lives and a way to act out, said author Adam Lankford. “These people feel they’re victims of conspiracies or persecution. In that moment (of a killing rampage), they have more power and status than they ever had before. People are literally bowing down to them, ducking the bullets,” he says.

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