Six days before he allegedly opened fire on an elementary school playground, eighth-grader Jesse Osborne, 14, returned to his Instagram group chat to fixate again on his most intense interests: guns and bombs and the mass murder of children. He had been researching other school shooters for months and, determined to outdo them, learned exactly how many people they’d murdered: 13 at Columbine High; 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary; 32 at Virginia Tech. “I think ill probably most likely kill around 50 or 60,” he declared. “If I get lucky maybe 150.” On the same day that another angry teen, Nikolas Cruz, slaughtered 17 people at a Parkland, Fl., high school, Osborne was sitting in a South Carolina courtroom, waiting to find out whether he would be tried as an adult for a 2016 rampage that left his father and a 6-year-old dead, the Washington Post reports.
The two teens have much in common. Both tortured animals, obsessed over guns and bragged of their deadly intentions on social media. After Cruz’s murders, as the nation began to ask why, detectives, prosecutors and psychiatrists were providing answers about Jesse, now 15. He’d detailed his motives in dozens of online messages, in his 46-page confession and in lengthy interviews with doctors who evaluated him, offering extraordinary insight into the mind of a school shooter. For Peter Langman, an expert on the subject, the teen’s calculated approach and lack of empathy called to mind Eric Harris, one of the Columbine killers Jesse idolized. “The coldbloodedness, the callousness of the attack — not only before but afterwards,” said Langman, who was not involved in the case but has reviewed Jesse’s confession. “Even having done it, he’s not struck with horror or guilt.” James Ballenger, a psychiatrist who interviewed Jesse for a total of nine hours, found that the teen reveled in what he’d done.