Patterico's Pontifications

2/15/2008

The Mystery of the NIU Shooter

Filed under: Crime,Current Events — DRJ @ 8:38 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

As I read about shootings like the one yesterday at Northern Illinois University that killed 5 and wounded 21, I experience a range of emotions: Sadness, disgust, fear, and anger. It helps a little to try to understand why things like this happen and to identify clues that may help avoid incidents like this in the future.

So far, there are no obvious clues that would have forecast the NIU shooter other than his very recent erratic behavior:

“A day after a lecture hall was attacked at Northern Illinois University, the gunman emerged in two portraits not easily reconciled.

In recent weeks, Steve Kazmierczak, turned erratic after suspending an unidentified medication. He gathered the tools for a slaughter, and carried it out quickly, silently and without emotion.

But that person bore no resemblance to the 27-year-old man who Donald Grady, the chief of the college’s department of public safety, said “was revered by the faculty and staff and students alike” and was completely unknown to police.”

Perhaps there’s more health care professionals can do when certain medications are involved, although there’s no indication what medicines were involved here. But HIPAA laws and privacy issues, not to mention the inability of health care professionals to monitor every aspect of their patients’ lives, make that unlikely. The New York therapist’s murder is a good illustration of how privacy laws make it difficult to investigate – let alone forecast – criminal acts where there are health care issues involved.

Finally, it’s a shame that along with all the things kids have to worry about these days, they also have to worry about school shootings. I expect we’ll see more state legislatures considering bills like this that authorize school faculty and staff to carry guns.

— DRJ

24 Responses to “The Mystery of the NIU Shooter”

  1. Kazmierczak apparently answered “no” to the Illinois gun permit application question: “In the past five years have you been a patient in any medical facility or part of any medical facility used primarily for the care or treatment of persons for mental illness?”

    NIU faculty member Jim Thomas told the Chicago Tribune Kazmierczak said he had been discharged from the Army in 2002 “for psychological reasons.” He served five months.

    Late Friday, a former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center told The Associated Press that Kazmierczak was placed there after high school by his parents. She said he used to cut himself, and had resisted taking his medications.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/WireStory?id=4298799&page=1

    steve (a6592e)

  2. Thanks, Steve. This is reminiscent of some of the issues with the VT shooter. If so, it’s a medical/legal issue: How private should psychological records be when public safety is involved?

    DRJ (3eda28)

  3. I expect we’ll see more state legislatures considering bills like this that authorize school faculty and staff to carry guns.

    In Illinois? Not bloody likely!

    We don’t even allow conceal-carry. You think they’ll let staff on campus carry a gun?

    By god, the only way to make the campuses safe is to ban all guns! The ONLY WAY!

    At least, that’s what the people in Springfield, and our Govenor up in Chicago will say…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  4. I have nothing to say about the gun control issue
    because in Canada guns are becoming very relavent
    in the murders here. That is a change, but if someone wants one, they can find one.

    I do feel that medication use is far beyond the
    need, that we have become people who rely on
    the right medication for our problems and the
    drug industry just keeps sending them out, and
    for sure, here in Canada we do not have enough
    good health care to ever cover the misuse of
    them. Either that or the doctors just use drugs
    instead of looking for the problem.
    Don’t buy into the social plan of our socialist
    bealth care program.
    You have superior healthcare, but even so, something like this can happen.

    Carole (9019c2)

  5. Carole – If you stop taking certain maintenance drugs cold turkey instead of phasing off them, wacky shit can happen. It’s not rocket science. It’s even on the warning instructions for a lot of the prescriptions.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  6. Rule #1. People with mental problems will find ways to kill other people.

    Rule #2. You can’t change rule #1.

    Consider how many times in the past 10 years people have died, killed by a loner or by a dysfunctional pair. Not bloody often, eh? Matter of fact, that statistic gets utterly lost among the number who’ve died of pancreatic cancer. A medium sized American city loses more per annum from heart attacks.

    That’s why it shocks us so. Were it not so rare we would be used to it. To paraphrase Josef Stalin, “One multiple shooting is a tragedy, a hundred would be a statistic.”

    Given a country of our physical size, with our population and our cultural diversity, it’s a wonder we don’t have more of these kinds of incidents. One shooting every few years on the average? How did we ever get it that low? What are we doing right?

    Alan Kellogg (88639e)

  7. Regardless of his medical condition or status of his drug treatments, he still

    1) traveled the distance to NIU to commit the murders

    2) purchased 4 weapons in three different sales transactions

    3) purchased extra magazines over the net from the same merchant as the VT shooter

    4) hid the shotgun in a guitar case to get it on campus

    All of these indicate at least some control of his actions and awareness of the wrongful intent of his planned actions to be undertaken.

    Any attempts to profile and determine who is an at risk person to commit this sort of act is a reach that can’t be likely achieved with any accuracy.

    Ban of guns will not stop the issue, in fact statistically that has proven to be worse.

    The only realistic solution is to allow those who have qualified for a concealed carry permit to extend that to the campus to prevent them being guaranteed free fire zones and killing fields for these type of people.

    Unless you are going to have armed security at the schools and searches of all bags and such for weapons it will only be countered by the possibility of a weapon among the students to protect themselves to deter this type of attack.

    We can not allow our schools and malls and even as has been shown our churches to be considered soft targets by killers like this one.

    In almost all cases they take their own life at the end so these are not people likely to be reasoned with and only counter measures with proportional force will minimize the problem.

    daytrader (ea6549)


  8. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama defended the right to bear arms Friday in the wake of the shootings at Northern Illinois University.

    Hazy (d671ab)

  9. I can’t get the link to work right.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2008/02/16/2008-02-16_in_wake_of_niu_horror_barack_obama__hill-2.html

    Geeze these guys have gone mainstream.

    Hazy (d671ab)

  10. Why didn’t we experience these tragedies years earlier? Could it be kids are being narcissisticly lobotomized? Let’s face it, love of one’s self supersedes every other aspect of life. And this can most definitely lead to rage fulfillment. The most important thing in life is self satisfaction. And if murder to satisfy ones rage or hatred appears the only solution, so be it. You can’t tell me you haven’t contemplated how to exact revenge on someone who you deem wronged you in some way. The only difference is to what extent you are willing to go. And at what point does your conscience draw limits of your actions. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. It’s antithetical to human nature. Human nature in it’s present form. To forgive is the highest form of selflessness. To forgive somebody you hate is not only antithetical to human nature. It’s nearly impossible.

    As for the lack of medication being the real culprit here; Ask yourself two questions. Had this guy ever been off his medicine in the past? Because if we are going to blame lack of medication on his murderous rampage we have to also assume he never skipped it before. Otherwise there can be no excuse for him not doing this earlier. And the second question is, why don’t we see more people who, I’m confident in assuming, skip taking their medicine going on murdering sprees? Medication may be an element but a lack of conscious or caring for others makes for a perfect catalyst.

    Andy B (caa920)

  11. daleyrocks (5) hits the nail on the head. I’ll try not to let it ruin my weekend.

    What this guy was before meds isn’t clear yet, but it sounds as if he was a little off—not a homicidal maniac. On meds, he was a great student and teacher. Why he went off them cold turkey, who knows, but the suddenly-deprived brain was all messed up.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (988f7a)

  12. The big fact is that every one of those campus shooters commited suicide after doing their crimes

    krazy kagu (d0aa80)

  13. There are certainties that will result from this.

    The politicians will call for further restrictions on 2nd Amendment Rights;

    Greater areas of society will be proclaimed “gun free zones”;

    Additional tradgedies will occurr in these GFZ’s.

    When government sanctifies a GFZ, yet fails to institute appropriate security measures to ensure 100% compliance, the evil that strides amongst us will take advantage of our acquiesence to authority, and slaughter us as sheep in an abatoir.

    Only you can provide your security! Vigilance is not something that can be out-sourced in a free society.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  14. #6,
    Alan,
    I agree with you. It is extremely unlikely that a person will be killed in a school shooting. The shock value always fires up the “ban guns” and “arm the teachers/students” sentiments. Neither strategy is likely to stop these things from happening.

    voiceofreason2 (a23a53)

  15. “So far, there are no obvious clues that would have forecast the NIU shooter other than his very recent erratic behavior:…”

    Respectfully, I beg to differ. The NIU shooter, as well as Lee Harvey Oswald, and ALL the notorious shooters in between, had documented histories of mental illness many years prior to their tragic public acts. This young man was put in a home for troubled youth (as was Oswald), received a “section 8″ psychological discharge from the Army, and yet the system of public health or the legal authorities never was never made aware of his mental history. This tragedy was all very predictable. One may offer the “privacy” defense, but please, isn’t that a lame perversion of the 4th. Amendment when these public acts are so violent? And the 2nd. Amendment? Shame on those, of either side of the isle, that would claim that it is to blame for a situation that it never was intended to protect.

    Most of these people go “off their meds” because once they leave home they are unsupervised. Some use illegal drugs as a substitute (the origins of our drug problems are the, “at large”, mentally ill), others simply cannot afford to refill their prescription. These unfortunate people are not possessed of demons or are in disfavor with God, or are consciously malicious. They have an organic disease of their brains, and to try and respond to these incidents with reasoned thought in regard to their motives is a waste of time.

    As for the guns, I submit that they were, in fact, purchased illegally, though the press reports otherwise. A person with Kazmierczak’s history would have to perjure himself on the state application for a handgun certificate, as well as on the federal firearms form, regarding one’s mental health history for a firearms purchase in order to pass the background check. Just as the Virginia Tech shooter lied on his forms, I’m willing to wager that Kazmierczak lied as well. Therefore, if we don’t get the mentally ill off the streets, we can ban all the guns we want and the mentally ill will only lie to get a drivers license, a car, and then run over as many people as they can when they “snap” until they are stopped. America’s “gun problem” is, in reality, a public mental health problem. Nothing more, but it’s a big one. Bigger still, because its cause goes unnoticed.

    Norris (f8382a)

  16. Norris,

    I agree Kazmierczak’s background looks suspicious as the facts have developed but the initial reports did not suggest he had a troubled past. Let’s assume you are correct that all notorious killers have psychological problems in their histories. That leaves us with the issue of medical privacy and disclosure that I addressed in the main post. What about that?

    DRJ (3eda28)

  17. Again, respectfully, DRJ, I beg to differ. To me, as an Army veteran, Kazmierczak’s “section 8″ in basic training is “screaming fire” in a truly burning theater. That discharge should have went right into the FBI database and would have prevented Kazmierczak from buying any gun(s). As for HIPAA privacy requirements, they are not as strict as some would lead the public to believe. If the disclosure that an individual was on anti-psychotic medications for the maintenance of a chronic mental condition were made to proper authorities (aye, there’s the rub, the “CMHC Act of 1963″ dismantled the mental health system of this country), I have no issue with that. Reason? The mentally ill, like children, are (or should be) a “protected class”. They may not have all the Constitutional civil rights of a fully functional adult because of mental impairment or immaturity and are therefore (or should be), by some degree public charges.

    I know, it goes against the modern grain of adult autonomy, but the mentally ill and children are biologically not “adults”. As I posted above, this mess began with President Kennedy signing the legislation that began closing down mental hospitals across the US. His motive and method can be read at the University of Santa Barbara web site of Presidential Papers:

    JFK’s Special Letter to Congress on Mental Illness and Retardation, February 5th. 1963.

    When one considers the history of JFK’s own assassination and how Oswald’s early history is not unlike Kazmierczak’s, it makes for sad and tragic reading. The promise for the drugs of that time, or now, is not of the standard to allow all mental patients to be non-custodial. Kennedy, while being progressive and well meaning, ironically is the major author (others are complicit) of the tragedy’s of RFK, Columbine, V-Tech and now, NIU. We need to go “Back to the Future” to fix what was, and is, broken.

    Norris (04d299)

  18. I would really like to know what medications he stopped taking. My step son (13)hs been diagnosed with bi-polar, Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD and has to take several meds. He can become very beligeraent and violent at times even on his meds, but let him miss some and watch out. I have been following shootings more closely because of my step son and have noticed a large number of the shootings (and suicides)have come about because of a failure, when older, to stop taking meds. When he is on his meds, for the most part, he is a mild mannered boy and student. But, there is a lot of pent up rage in him that makes me wonder if one day he doesn’t find a way to get back at the people who have “mistreated” him ( in his eyes). People that have made fun of him or corrected him( he has anger toward me because I make him mind and pick up after himself)or whatever he perceives as “being mean” to him. His psychiatrist has warned us to put “weapons” away when he goes through one of his “moods” or “stages”. So my point is, check his medications and what his diagnosis is and this could lead to his “reason” for shooting. If he and his girlfriend broke up, this could be why he shot more girls, because girls hurt him. This is only my thoughts and curiosity behind this senseless killing.

    JGU (c36902)

  19. JGU,

    Our youngest is profoundly autistic and he is not on any mood-altering medications, yet he also has anger issues — primarily when his immune status is poor such as when the weather changes suddenly or he is ill. I think the anger stems from brain inflammation due to immune dysfunction but, even if that’s not the case, it may be a feature of the autism rather than a function of the medications.

    I know what you are dealing with. These kids need us, and good job for hanging in there.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  20. If he was discharged after only 5 months, he must have been very troubled, it seems to me, and perhaps like Norris said on a database barring him from buying guns.

    BTW I went to school there for my first 2 years. It has really affected me–way too close for comfort.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  21. I would like to know the conditions of this guy’s discharge… There’s a lot of stuff that gets called “psyc reasons” that really aren’t. Hell, maybe he was gay (I know that’s a different code in boot camp discharges, but is it for the “real” army?).

    It might be that it was failure to disclose the hosp. stay he had. We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion he was discharged because he was nucking futs.

    That siad, his stay in the loony bin makes me wonder WHY, ffs, isn’t that database tied into the background check? Really… There should be a database that links SSNs to past admitances, and for certain ones flags the system.

    Patricia, I have a friend that was 2 blocks away from the shooting. I found out aboutthe whole thing because of an LiveJournal post (I’d not seen the story hit my news feeds yet).

    Heck, my friend new the professor who was shot…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  22. Illinois has as strict a law as can be written protecting the confidentiality of mental health or substance abuse treatment. A recent case held that it even extends to involuntary commitment proceedings — the patient’s history was not admissible without her consent. Even in cases where the patient may have been the perpetrator or victim of a crime, limited information can be given to a law enforcement agency only on probable cause.

    As Steve said in Comment #1, if the shooter lied on his FOID application it would have been impossible to check. He also would not have appeared on the NICS database when the dealer did the background checks.

    nk (6ef207)

  23. What is the ratio of multiple victim incidents in gun-free zones to CCW permitted zones?

    VA Voter (a90d09)

  24. Well, the only shooting I know of that involved a non-gun free zone was the one in CO where the chick guned the SOB down as he advanced…

    And that guy’s total body count from both sites wasn’t even equal to the VTech shooting…

    For the Gun Free Zone, you have several mall shootings, and countless school shootings…

    I think I’d have to say that Gun Free Zones are winning a race you don’t want to be winning…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)


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