UW arrest may demonstrate how to stop mass shooters

By Neal McNamara | June 17, 2014
Reynolds High School Shooting

“I live in seattle and go to the UW, that’s all I’ll give you. I’ll make sure I kill only women, and many more than what Elliot accomplished,” wrote the 23-year-old in an online post on June 9, authorities allege.

Using the pseudonym “Foss Dark,” the man complained on social media websites of being short and ugly, unable to attract women. He said he wanted to recreate the type of shooting carried out by UC Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger. Worse though because he wanted to target women exclusively.

Thankfully, law enforcement officials interrupted Foss Dark’s attempt to mimic mass shooters like Rodger, at least temporarily. After the threats appeared online, the FBI and the University of Washington police were able to track the source of comments, and the UW student is now in jail on $150,000 bail.

Commenting on the arrest Tuesday, host David Boze praised the work of law enforcement for stopping a potential killer.

“Let’s hope they can hold on to this person so he doesn’t go out and target people,” Boze said.

Coincidentally, the Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of threats on social media, which could have repercussions for law enforcement trying to thwart mass shooters. Many recent mass shooters have used the Internet to talk about what they’re going to do, or research past mass shootings.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Anthony Elonis, who in October 2011 got 44 months in prison for intimating on Facebook that he wanted to kill his ex-wife and commit a school shooting. Elonis contends that his posts are protected speech, and even went so far as to say they were therapeutic.

A ruling in favor of Elonis might prevent law enforcement from preemptively arresting someone like Foss Dark – or like Elliot Rodger, or Adam Lanza, or Gabrielle Giffords shooter Jared Lee Loughner, who all made threatening posts online or used the Internet to research mass shootings.

Boze said that often the expertise of mental health professionals is not enough to stop a shooter. Rodger and Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes were seeing therapists, but they were still able to carry out attacks. And both Seattle Pacific University and the Sandy Hook school were gun-free zones.

If there are no anti-gun laws that are going to stop shooters from acting, allowing law enforcement to track suspicious behavior – and jail people for it – may be the best defense against stopping some shooters.

“Does anyone think any kind of anti-gun law is going to stop this, if [Foss Dark] had not been caught and posted his objectives, if he had not posted that intent online, would anything have stopped him – like a sign that says this is a gun-free zone?” Boze said.

“I’m hopeful that this guy stays locked up for a long time. As a society, we burn energy on little kids that might chew their pop tart into the shape of a gun, but don’t focus energy on people making actual threats.”

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