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Public Shootings by the Numbers

An estimated 654 mass murders took place in America between 1976 and 2010, leaving a total body count of 2,949.


The rate of mass killings has also increased since the mid-2000′s. What are the commonalities shared by more recent crimes?

public shootings by the numbers

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2012

Newtown, Connecticut Shooting

  • On December 14th, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire on children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • Twenty-seven people were killed; 20 were children.
  • The youngest killed was 6-years-old.
  • Prior to going to the school, the gunman killed his mother in her home.
  • All the guns the gunman carried with him were legally registered to his mother.
  • The gunman turned the gun on himself when the first responders arrived.
  • There were hundreds of unfired bullets remaining.
  • Police are still searching for a motive.

2012

Aurora, Colorado Shooting

  • On July 20th, 2012, 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes walked into a sold-out movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire on the audience.
  • Twelve people were killed; 58 were injured.
  • Holmes released noxious gas into the theater before using a variety of weapons on the crowd.
  • The killer was in the process of withdrawing from the University of Colorado-Denver medical school’s neuroscience program.
  • Holmes boobytrapped his apartment with a mix of incendiary devices and gasses which took police days to remove safely.
  • The murderer planned the attack for months.
  • After the police arrived, the killer willingly surrendered.

2011

Tuscon, Arizona Shooting

  • On January 8th, 2011, Representative Gabrielle Giffords was meeting constituents at a supermarket in Tuscon, Arizona.
  • In attendance was 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner.
  • Chief Judge for the United States District Court for Arizona John M. Roll approached to greet Giffords.
  • Lougner opened fire on both Loughner and Giffords.
  • Roll was killed; Goffords was critically injured.
  • Loughner then shot an additional sixteen people, killing five in addition to Roll.
  • One of the victims was a 9-year-old girl.
  • Police suspect political motives drove the attack.
  • Loughner was taken into custody after the attack.

2010

Hartford Distributors Shooting

  • In the morning hours of August 3rd, 2010, Omar Thornton opened fire at Harford Distributors in Manchester, Connecticut.
  • Thornton killed eight and injured two before taking his own life.
  • The shooter worked as a driver with the company for about a year prior to the murders.
  • Thornton was asked to resign half an hour before the shooting began after being caught on tape stealing beer from the company.
  • During his rampage, Thornton set a fire in the company, adding more choas to the situation.
  • Thornton continued his killing spree until the police arrived, after which he turned his handgun on himself.
  • On March 20th, 2009, 28-year-old Michael McLendon shot and killed ten people before taking his own life in a metals plant in Samson, Alabama.
  • McClendon began killing around 3:30 in the afternoon.
  • He set his mother on fire, killing her and burning down her home.
  • As he fled the scene, he also killed four dogs.
  • After the first killing, McLendon drove a dozen miles and killed three more relatives.
  • The gunman then shot a deputy’s wife and daughter, as well as his own grandmother.
  • McLendon then drove toward the metals plant, killing three more along the way from his vehicle.
  • At the plant, the shooter injured a police officer before taking his own life.
  • Although the killer’s journal was found to contain lists of people who had wronged him, no clear motive for his actions was ever found.

2009

Samson, Alabama Shootings

  • On March 20th, 2009, 28-year-old Michael McLendon shot and killed ten people before taking his own life in a metals plant in Samson, Alabama.
  • McClendon began killing around 3:30 in the afternoon.
  • He set his mother on fire, killing her and burning down her home.
  • As he fled the scene, he also killed four dogs.
  • After the first killing, McLendon drove a dozen miles and killed three more relatives.
  • The gunman then shot a deputy’s wife and daughter, as well as his own grandmother.
  • McLendon then drove toward the metals plant, killing three more along the way from his vehicle.
  • At the plant, the shooter injured a police officer before taking his own life.
  • Although the killer’s journal was found to contain lists of people who had wronged him, no clear motive for his actions was ever found.

2008

Alger, Washington Shootings

  • On September 2nd, 2008, Isaac Zamora opened fire, killing six people and injuring two in the small town of Alger, Washington.
  • Zamora had a history of untreated mental illness and had previous (non-violent) legal trouble.
  • The killer lived off and on in the woods for years leading up to the shootings.
  • The first shootings were reported just after 2 p.m.
  • One of the first killed was local deputy Anne Jackson, who had tried to help Zamora and his family for years.
  • Following a series of shootings in Alger, the shooter took the interstate at speeds in excess of 90 mph, opening fire on construction workers and

    other drivers.

  • Three hours after the shootings began, Zamora turned himself in.
  • The motive for the murders was never discovered.

2007

Virginia Tech Massacre

  • On April 16th, 2007, 33 people, including the gunman, were killed in the deadliest armed rampage in American history.
  • The shooting took place on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.
  • Students were lined up against the wall and shot point-blank.
  • In many cases, students scrambled out of windows to escape.
  • The massacre took place at two separate times.
  • The first two murders occurred at 7:15 in the morning when 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho killed two classmates in a dorm room.
  • More than two-and-a-half hours later, thirty additional students were murdered in locations around the campus.
  • By the time the police responded to the second shooting, Cho had already taken his own life, ending the carnage.

Commonalities in Public Shootings

  • Twenty-two mass, public shootings have taken place since 2007.
  • 79% of mass murderers are white males, with a median age of 17.
  • Most mass killers have a history of reclusive, non-violent behavior.
  • The majority of mass killers prefer isolation over socializing with friends and family.
  • Mass killers are often motivated by revenge fantasies, instilled through feelings of powerlessness and humiliation.
  • Only 23% of mass murderers have any documented psychiatric history, but many have undiagnosed psychiatric issues.
  • Some claim the media’s coverage of mass murders fuels the flame, making murderers infamous by not adhering to ethical journalistic practices.

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