Deadly rampages: We have seen this before

A man reacts while talking to police officer near the scene of shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in CharlestonBy SUSAN MILLER
c. 2015 USA Today

The images were riveting in the early hours Thursday morning: Residents shaken to the core in Charleston, S.C., holding hands and forming a circle of prayer down the street from what was another mass shooting in the U.S.

It has happened before in a kindergarten class, a college campus, a movie theater, a McDonald’s. The words resonate as places forever linked with the unspeakable: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Luby’s.

And this time it was a humble church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the South, where people had gathered for a prayer meeting Wednesday night.

“I do believe this was a hate crime,” Police Chief Gregory Mullen said after confirming that nine people were dead.

“This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience,” Mullen said. “It is senseless. It is unfathomable that someone would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives.”

Said Charleston’s mayor, Joe Riley: “This is inexplicable …. It is the most intolerable and unbelievable act possible. The only reason someone could walk into church and shoot people praying is out of hate.”

Since 2006, there have been more than 200 mass killings in the U.S. The FBI defines a mass killing as an incident with four or more victims.

A USA TODAY special report, Behind the Bloodshed, documented how mass killings occur about every two weeks. Public massacres such as the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., account for one in six mass killings.

The report also documented how the majority of mass killings are family-related. Seventy-seven percent of mass killings involve a gun, and nearly three out of four guns involved were handguns, USA TODAY found.

One of the most stunning revelations in the report: A mass killing often involves a failed safety net: protective orders that didn’t work, gaps in the mental health system, lapses in immigration enforcement.

Here are some of the deadliest rampages in U.S. history:

• Dec. 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing himself.

• July 20, 2012: James Holmes allegedly guns down 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. He is on trial.

• April 16, 2007: Seung Hui Cho, a 23-year-old student, goes on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., killing 32 people, before killing himself.

• Oct. 16, 1991: George Hennard, 35, crashes his pickup through the wall of Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. He shoots and kills 23 people before committing suicide.

• Aug. 20, 1986: A part-time mail carrier, Patrick Henry Sherrill, shoots and kills 14 postal workers in Edmund, Okla., before killing himself.

• July 18, 1984: James Huberty, 41, guns down 21 adults and children at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, Calif., before being killed by police.

• Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Joseph Whitman, a former U.S. Marine, shoots and kills 16 people from a university tower at the University of Texas in Austin before being shot by police.

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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Richard Hicks
Richard Hicks

As long as the violent who are mentally ill are encouraged to run free. As long as the parents of the mentally ill refuse to do the right thing. As long as we keep the state mental hospitals closed this kind of tragedy will continue. Thank you.


Just what are the parents of a 21 year old mentally ill person supposed to do? For that matter how would you define mental illness? By what legal mechanism do you keep such a person from running free?

George Nixon Shuler
George Nixon Shuler

We’ve already heard the spin from the usual suspects, i.e., that is was an attack on Christianity, that it was because the pastor who was a State Senator voted against allowing guns in churches, etc. The Homeland Security report on home grown domestic terrorism which Secretary Napolitano suppressed should never have been done. These people are out there, encouraged by the racist rants against The President, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, etc. Not far from the site of the murders, the South Carolina state capitol flies the Confederate Battle Flag, which was all but forgotten until the Civil War Centennial coincided… Read more »

George Nixon Shuler
George Nixon Shuler

News sources obtained a facebook picture by the alleged assailant showing him wearing a jacket with patches on it of the flags of the now defunct nations of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the Union of South Africa (the Apartheid regime) making it apparent he was invoved in white supremacist ideology. That this is the case is hardly a surprise, given who the victims were and the pattern which followed the mass shootings of Anders Brevik, Elliott Rodger, and Mark Lepine, not to mention Jim David Adkisson, who targeted a Unitarian Church which operated an assistance program for victims of spouse… Read more »

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