Look for the Helpers: Third Mass Shooting Averted
August 5, 2019 9:23 AM   Subscribe

On July 13, a Lubbock, TX teenager approached his grandmother. He said he had recently purchased an AK-47 and was planning to shoot up a local hotel and then commit suicide by cop. She managed to convince him to allow her to bring him to a local hospital instead, and in doing so saved untold lives (CNN) (DOJ release).
posted by WCityMike (32 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
At the high school that my son will most likely be attending in a few years, Keanon Lowe, the football coach, averted a possible shooting by tackling a student who entered a classroom with a gun. Our local media did a pretty decent job focusing on this hero.
posted by vverse23 at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


This is good. The article bothers me for one reason.. it doesn't talk about how his decision was in itself brave and avoided tragedy. I don't want to lessen what I consider a very good outcome, but telling his grandma about his plan strikes me as a person who tells someone about a suicide plan. They don't want to do it and hope to receive support. He did, and I'm happy that lives weren't destroyed.

Now, can we get him treatment instead of locking him away for 5+ years as the article says the penalty is? (There should be legal consequences, I am not saying there shouldn't be.)

Williams was arrested after a hospitalization and gave investigators permission to search his hotel room, the release said.
Investigators uncovered an AK-47 rifle, 17 magazines loaded with ammunition and multiple knives in Williams' hotel room, according to the release.
Williams told officers he had laid out his weapons on a bed so that law enforcement could take custody of them.


More people need to realize there is an alternate path even if they've started or are close to fulfilling their "plan". Please don't read this as my saying he needs to be glorified for deciding not to kill people.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2019 [76 favorites]


There should be legal consequences

I'm not sure that "opening up to people about your suicidal tendencies" is a thing we want punished at all. Quite the reverse, I'd say.

Also, perhaps recognizing that society developed the concept "suicide by cop" so far that it's becoming a major way of committing suicide is worth a thought or two about society as a whole as well.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2019 [46 favorites]


...telling his grandma about his plan strikes me as a person who tells someone about a suicide plan. They don't want to do it and hope to receive support. He did, and I'm happy that lives weren't destroyed

As opposed to the likely reaction he would have received from one of the accursed chans. I hope some details of the conversation come out at some point.
posted by jquinby at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2019 [15 favorites]


Unlike many other mass shooters, this person apparently had at least some semblance of a conscience. So why would someone with a conscience go as far as he did?
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:17 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh, and well done grandma!
posted by DreamerFi at 10:17 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


but telling his grandma about his plan strikes me as a person who tells someone about a suicide plan.

I've worked with teenagers for over 20 years. You would be shocked at how they lack subtlety. In my experience, it isn't, "Hey Grandma here's my plan to massacre people," as much as maybe mentioning a gun purchase, some basic hate speech about some group of people, and someone who knows the kid is going to put two and two together.

(I know teens who looked up pretty horrific murder/suicide stuff on school computers, knowing we could see.)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


Yeah - I hope the prosecutors go easy on him. We need more of this and less bullshit "tough guy cops" 'tude on this.

The funniest part is how the cops still try to get all the glory on this at the end of that CNN article.
""The FBI worked closely with our partners at the ATF and Lubbock Police Department to prevent the defendant from potentially committing a violent act," said Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI's Dallas field office.
"This case is a perfect example of law enforcement agencies coming together to find a solution that protected the public from harm.""
Find a solution, what? "Kid goes to hospital, kid tells on himself, lays out the guns where the cops can get them, they go collect." But they're the heroes, eh?

I suppose maybe they mean the law violation of lying on the gun form that the ATF received 8 days after telling his Grandma? So in the future he won't be free to go shoot up again? IDK, but man, they will never let fly a chance to puff themselves up, will they?
posted by symbioid at 10:27 AM on August 5, 2019 [42 favorites]


This case is a perfect example of law enforcement agencies coming together to find a solution that protected the public from harm.

Presumably grandma counts as law enforcement, having seen every single Police Academy movie.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:32 AM on August 5, 2019 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure that "opening up to people about your suicidal tendencies" is a thing we want punished at all.
If we're going to have gun control and background checks, then there needs to be consequences for evading them. You'll never get political support for a regime where the punishment for possessing an illegal firearm is prison, while the punishment for possessing an illegal firearm with the intention of killing a bunch of people is a hug.
posted by Hatashran at 10:53 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


[Folks, doxxing is very firmly not allowed here and advocating for it is not any better from a moderation standpoint. Please drop it.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


You'll never get political support

Framing matters. "Politician X wants you to suicide by cop rather than get medical assistance!"

Because that's what will happen if you disincentive getting help for suicidal folks.

Note that in no way do I want to dismiss your valid point that committing a crime (possessing an illegal firearm) should have consequences. It is just that as a society we'll have to balance which end result we hate more: not punishing a crime because somebody, instead of killing people, got help, or having another mass murder occur. In my opinion, society is harmed most by any "punishment at all cost" policy.

But first, getting society to the point where having an adult discussion about this is possible. That's hard enough as it is.
posted by DreamerFi at 11:13 AM on August 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


This example of a family member stopping a mass shooting is a black man being stopped by his black grandmother. Of course they are going to punish him. He is the wrong color for a book deal, whirlwind media tour and eventual TV series.

Yet his grandmother talked him into turning himself in anyways. In fucking Texas. Tell me again about erosion of values in African American communities....

By contrast the Sandy Hook killer's parents fully funded and actively encouraged his interests in murder weapons.
posted by srboisvert at 11:13 AM on August 5, 2019 [58 favorites]


I meant consequences for evading the background checks and lying to get the firearms. Treatment, yes. Jail, no. I hedged my comment and didn't check for an hour because I was afraid some people might think I was a bad person for suggesting he did a good thing when he could've done the worst thing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


It was a perfectly legal firearm, and it reads like the only thing they're accusing him of is putting the address on his d/l instead of his immediately-current address on the form even though I assume his current address would have raised exactly zero red flags with ATF.

To me this reads like The Man was just hunting around for some pretext to put him away, which isn't a great look or precedent. I suppose they're lucky they found a gun-form fuckup and didn't have to resort to lying about drugs.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:15 AM on August 5, 2019 [20 favorites]


Putting him in jail is going to look great for the next kid who's considering their alternatives and deciding that suicide by cop is better than going to jail, especially if they are a person of color.
posted by Memo at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2019 [13 favorites]


Today, in an email from the president of the large state university where I work, I found out that someone was arrested after he was reported last week to be purchasing ammunition and making comments about security at my university. Police in the area investigated, and he has been charged with terroristic threats and harassment.

I’m in Pennsylvania. Bet it’s happening everywhere.
posted by Peach at 12:28 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone would argue that every city has multiple people capable and actively being encouraged to do these things on places like 8chan. Because it's young white men, every college probably has at least one person who frequents those boards. Terrifying.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:08 PM on August 5, 2019


I strongly suspect this kind of thing happens all the time, but is being pushed out now to divert energy from the two recent mass shootings.

It's a bit like posts about the number of shootings in big cities this past weekend, or what Neil DeGrasse Tyson posted. It may be true, but it's not the same thing, it has different roots, and it isn't helping, and it isn't designed to help.
posted by idb at 1:09 PM on August 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Unlike many other mass shooters, this person apparently had at least some semblance of a conscience. So why would someone with a conscience go as far as he did

I'm reminded of the Ted talk done by one of the mothers of the columbine shooters, in which she argues that her son's primary motivation was suicidality. If this was true for this person too, then he went as far as he did because his suicidality was that intense.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:10 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Fourth. So many that we have already forgotten the first-- the Garlic Festival mass shooting. Then El paso. Then Toled... Dayton, I mean Dayton.
posted by pwschatz at 3:56 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]



I'm not sure that "opening up to people about your suicidal tendencies" is a thing we want punished at all


homicidal
tendencies.

suicide plan

homicide plan.

go ahead and argue that since he didn't do it, he shouldn't be punished as if he had done it. I agree. so does the DOJ. but do not fall in line with his belief that because he was in pain, the other people he imagined slaughtering or forcing to kill him were less real or less significant. mass murderers, like family annihilators, often kill themselves afterwards as a kind of punctuation point, when they don't commit the additional cruelty of forcing someone else to do it for them. the impulse to commit this kind of complicated atrocity cannot be summed up as merely "suicidal."

I am glad he overcame his impulses and didn't do it. I am even more glad that he has at least one person in his life -- his grandmother -- who he understands to be a real person, like him.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:26 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


I'm reminded of the Ted talk done by one of the mothers of the columbine shooters, in which she argues that her son's primary motivation was suicidality.

A reminder that the Columbine shooters were white supremacists who scribbled their journals with swastikas and SS symbols, praised the nazis, and committed their murder spree Hitler's birthday.
posted by Lexica at 7:32 PM on August 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


All I can think is, “Thank G-d they had a bed!”
posted by epj at 8:16 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


So many that we have already forgotten the first-- the Garlic Festival mass shooting. Then El paso. Then Toled... Dayton, I mean Dayton.

So. Um. I live in Toledo. I can't speak for the entire city, but my neighbors and I aren't finding much to laugh at in regards to Cheetolini's "slip". Some asshole is likely to take it as permission or encouragement.

I'm frankly relieved and grateful that this guy's grandmother managed to talk him into treatment instead of mass murder.

I'm so tired...so very tired...of young and old alike being sacrificed on the altar of the Second Fucking Amendment.
posted by MissySedai at 9:36 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


There is research that shows some mass murderers are motivated by suicide. We do need to work to understand that better.
posted by agregoli at 5:55 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


From an interview of Patrick Blanchfield by Luke O'Neil. Blanchfield has a book coming out called Gunpowder, which is about gun violence in America. He also wrote an article about neoliberalism and gun violence last year after the Parkland massacre in Florida.

If you look at the landscape now you notice two things: A lot of partisan polarization, these very easy black and white oppositions, gun rights versus gun control, Democrats versus Republicans. These are actually, and this a major feature of the book, very recent. The term gun control doesn’t show up with its contemporary meaning until the late 1960s. You also see all these oppositions between categories of violence. We talk about homicide, but we talk about that separately from suicide. We talk about “gang violence” separately from police murder. We talk about mass shootings separately from domestic violence. Empirically speaking, all of those things are connected. Part of what I’m trying to do in the book is be like let’s think about a vocabulary for viewing all those things for working together as part of a system. And that’s a system I call Gunpower.

I try to understand how all these things interrelate. For example, most mass shootings are also domestic violence. At Sandy Hook Adam Lanza killed his mother and then goes to shoot up the school, or this thing in Ohio some fucker is killing his sister. And depending on how you count mass shootings – a certain amount of bodies at a given time – the overwhelming majority of mass shootings in America actually happen inside homes. It’s men killing themselves, their wives, children etc.

What I’m trying to argue in the book is that the existence of the phenomenon of mass shootings as a “separate category” is a function of our investment in preserving the prerogative of men to commit violence in those private spaces. What the Gunpower vocabulary ideally is trying to do is to make us no longer think in simplistic binary terms: here’s vigilante violence, here’s police violence, here’s private violence, here’s public violence. The cash money takeaway here is it explains why our response to violence is almost always to double down on other kinds of violence.


Here's a clarification of what he means by "other kinds of violence": It’s historically born out that our response to high profile episodes of violence in “valuable” spaces to people who are “valuable” is almost always to double down on mechanisms of policing and military control that inflict even more gun violence in those others spaces on those disposable people.

As folks here know, there is a huge gender component to gun violence and a huge white component to gun violence. Kudos to this young Black man's grandmother for getting him to a hospital, which is a very different response than some others have had historically when it comes to individuals who went on to shoot people. I just wish we could hit rewind on the past gazillion massacres. Am eager to read Gunpowder when it comes out. We (or rather, elected officials) need a new way to think about gun violence and how to avoid it, and have for what, decades?
posted by Bella Donna at 7:47 AM on August 6, 2019 [9 favorites]


Here is a really good interview with Christian Picciolini who is a former white nationalist who now works to deradicalize people.

Bayoumy: What are some of the things that prompt these people to question their beliefs?

Picciolini: Certainly not facts. It’s very emotional. I try to take them through an emotional journey where they come to the conclusion that they’ve changed, and it’s not me telling them that they’ve changed. What I’ve found least effective is me telling them that they’re wrong, or me telling them that they need to think a certain way. Typically these people are pretty idealistic, although they’re lost, typically pretty bruised emotionally, and they have very low self-esteem.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2019 [6 favorites]


Thanks for posting that, OnTheLastCastle. That interview is very much worth reading.
posted by jquinby at 9:18 AM on August 6, 2019


MSNBC has an hour long look into the work that Christian Picciolini does called Breaking Hate. They ran it over the weekend and I caught it. It was pretty powerful and emotionally wrenching.
posted by mmascolino at 9:52 AM on August 6, 2019


From the Atlantic interview with Christian Picciolini linked to above:
Typically what I found is, people hate other people because they hate something very specifically about themselves, or are very angry about a situation within their own environment, and that is then projected onto other people. So I’m really trying to build resilience with people.

Over and over again, individuals project what they hate or fear in themselves on to others. We see that constantly with Trump's mirror, with the Republicans, with others. So it is interesting to me that Picciolini cites that as his experience as well. (If you haven't read the interview do; it is worth it for the story about the Chuck Norris-loving imam alone.)
posted by Bella Donna at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


I strongly suspect this kind of thing happens all the time, but is being pushed out now to divert energy from the two recent mass shootings.
If you mean that law enforcement intervenes in cases where someone is having mental problems, I think you're right. If you mean people frequently get charged for falsifying their form 4473, I think that it is extremely unusual. I've heard FFLs complain that when they report obviously falsified forms no action is taken.

For the folks worrying about this guy going to the pen for five years, I believe that is the maximum if convicted. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are apparently arcane and result if penalties far below the maximum, especially for first offenses.
As folks here know, there is a huge gender component to gun violence and a huge white component to gun violence.
There is certainly a "huge gender component," but I wonder what the "huge white component" you refer to is. According to the noted right-wing site giffords.org, "within cities, gun violence is clustered among racially segregated, economically disenfranchised neighborhoods." That doesn't read "huge white component" to me. If what you mean is "white supremacists are assholes and when they shoot people it's bad," I certainly agree with that.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:36 PM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


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