Family members of Omar Thornton, the man who murdered eight fellow employees in Manchester, Connecticut yesterday, then killed himself, are claiming he did so because he was being harassed for being black.
He had reportedly found a drawing of a noose, along with a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall.
His uncle says that when he called his mother after the shootings he talked about having killed the “five racists” who were bothering him.
Well, nine people are dead, not five, and not a single one of them lost his life because somebody called Omar Thornton a vicious name or drew a hateful picture.
It might be some strange comfort to his family to think that Mr. Thornton was avenging wrongdoing when he went on his rampage, but it would be false comfort.
I’ve evaluated plenty of murderers during my career as a forensic psychiatrist, and I can tell you that people don’t commit atrocities because of name-calling.
They don’t perpetrate carnage because they are undone by crude, insensitive drawings.
They kill because of longstanding psychological or characterological disorders that lead them to have no ability to reason, or no impulse control or no capacity to appreciate the suffering of others or no moral compass.
Most often, the signs that a person is capable of murder are numerous and longstanding—though often tragically missed or, worse, swept under the rug.
Killers turn out to be people who have been struggling with psychotic thinking and have talked about it.
They are people who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs and whose moods or actions have reflected it.
They are people who have shown a pattern of seeing themselves as beyond reproach, and whose exaggerated or bizarre reactions to perceived slights have revealed it.
Frankly, more ominous than his family’s reports of racial bias against Omar Thornton are questions that should be asked about whether he may have been suspicious of others to the point of paranoia, along with company reports that he was being fired for stealing beer.
If an employee is paranoid, willing to break a law (however seemingly trivial the offense) and abusing alcohol, great care should be taken when disciplining that person.
Whatever led Omar Thornton to snuff out the lives of eight helpless victims and shoot two more, it was not that those victims were, in fact, guilty of prejudice against the shooter.
Whether his family wants to acknowledge it or not, it has to be the case that unreasoned rage had been brewing in Omar Thornton a long, long time.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for Fox News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His book, “Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty” has launched a new self-help movement including www.livingthetruth.com. Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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