There have been 25 mass shootings in the US this year. Seventeen of the incidents were deadly and 11 killed three to five victims each—for a total of 45 fatalities.
Last week alone, 17 people (not including the shooters) lost their lives in four mass shootings. Three of the attacks were said to be carried out by 21-year-old white men:
- Zephen Xaver allegedly shot and killed five women in the lobby of a SunTrust bank branch in Sebring, Florida on Jan. 23.
- Jordan Witmer killed three in State College, Pennsylvania on Jan. 24.
- Dakota Theriot has been charged with killing five: his girlfriend, her brother, her father, and both of his own parents in Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Jan. 25.
Investigators are still looking into motives yet it’s hard not to note some commonalities: All of these mass shooters were men, and they all targeted women. They had shown violent behavior and tendencies in the past or had been exposed to violence. None of this seemed to have stopped them from being able to acquire guns. It’s an all-too-familiar pattern in the US. The shooters’ identities are also consistent with the overall American trend: Mass shootings are nearly exclusively perpetrated by men, the vast majority of whom are white.
Xaver, ex-girlfriend Alex Gerlach told WSBT-TV, “for some reason always hated people and wanted everybody to die” and “got kicked out of school for having a dream that he killed everybody in his class, and he’s been threatening this for so long.” Gerlach said her warnings about Xaver were not taken seriously, even as he bought a gun it was not considered a warning sign. After the shooting, police chief Karl Hoglund described the targeting of five women a “random act.” Amongst Xaver’s interests were prominent right-wing figures such as Milo Yannopoulos and Alex Jones; when he was arrested, he was wearing a T-shirt with a print of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the New Testament figures of destruction.
Witmer, the Pennsylvania shooter, also took aim at a female victim. He was having drinks with Nicole Abrino, a woman identified a current or former girlfriend, when the two argued. Dean Beachy, who was sitting across the bar, tried to break up the fight. Witmer shot him in the head, killing him, then fatally shot Beachy’s son. Witmer also shot Abrino, who survived. Witmer left the bar, later crashing his car and breaking into a home where he shot and killed a fourth person. He then killed himself. Witmer, who didn’t have a history of violent behavior, had recently returned from a three-year stint with the US Army. According to his family, he was planning to become a police officer.
Theriot, targeted his girlfriend of about two weeks, Summer Ernest, police said, and the murder in Louisiana seemed premeditated. The young man was living with Ernest and her family after he had been kicked out of his own home. He is said to have shot her dead, followed by her father and younger brother. Theriot then took the father’s truck, and drove to his parents’ home, police said, killing both of them. He was arrested as he tried to reach his grandmother, still carrying a gun. Theriot, his neighbors said, had a history of trouble with drugs and he had been arrested for minor drug possession. Though authorities say he didn’t have a history of violent behavior, some who knew him seem to disagree. They say he had pulled a gun out on his mother, which was among the reasons he had been kicked out of the house.