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When will we ever learn?
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Thursday, 14 February 2008 17:40

On Thursday, February 14, 2008, an individual dressed in black burst into a Northern Illinois University (NIU) lecture auditorium, injuring 17 and leaving 5 dead, before taking his own life. Early reports were sketchy, though University officials acknowledged that the gunman, while not a current student, was an NIU graduate, member of the Alpha Kappa Delta Sociology Honor Society,[1] was accepted into the graduate program for the fall of 2006,[2] and received a Dean's award—also in 2006.[3] While the media had not released the his name at the onset of this article, they provided ample clues regarding his possible identity. For example, they note that he "had established himself as an authority on prison systems, having co-authored a manuscript on self-injury in prison and the role of religion in the formation of early prisons in the United States"[4] The authors proceed to state that "Two law enforcement sources identified the gunman as a current graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign." and that he "served as vice president of the Academic Criminal Justice Association chapter at NIU."

A quick cross-reference search reveals the article cited by the tribune reporters.[5] Of the co-authors listed, one was "co-authoring a manuscript on the role of religion in the formation of early prisons in the United States." Hence, from reports (and assuming they got it right), Steve Kazmierczak was apparently the shooter. A quick query of the Urbana-Champaign student book along with a listing on NIU's Academic Criminal Justice Association page seems to bear this out. An astute blogger also found him, though he also purports to have found Mr. Kazmierczak's LiveJournal. Reading through, however, it is seems rather doubtful the LJ is, in fact, Mr. Kazmierczak's... or rather, the shooter's, as the individual penning that particular blog appears to have been a senior in high school in 2005. Hence, he would be ruled out for being a graduate student at NIU in 2006. Speaking of, try not to get too excited when you find a "Steve Kazmierczak" on Usenet, as that individual is out at WPI (not NIU or UIUC).

That being said, and now that we know the shooter's identity, we are left to ponder the whys. The obvious first thought is some sort of "revenge killing" due to the fact that he chose to carry out his shooting rampage on a day that has long been associated with romance. In fact, the UK Daily Mail's headlines suggest just that.[6] Although highly doubtful, it would be nice if it were something that simple ( recall, the early rumors of Cho Seung-Hui, and the ugliness that arose when those rumors proved to be quite false). In any event, what little we know of Mr. Kazmierczak, raises all sorts of question. For example, while he had a Masters in Social Work, his focus appeared to be Criminal Justice, specifically, the prison systems. Although, it is still too little to arrive at any sort of meaningful conclusion, his choice of inquiry—"self-injury" and "religion" within in the prison system—are intriguing, to say the least. There is, of course, another little spoken of issue: the media machine.

Observing the reaction of the media brings to mind something that an International Terrorism researcher related to me years ago—it is pertinent to keep media coverage to a minimum. Why? Because, to do otherwise gives terrorists exactly what they want: an audience. And while these school shootings are not necessarily acts of "terrorism" in the purest sense, every time a school shooting (or mass shooting, for that matter) arises, I am reminded of his words. While empirical data is presently unavailable to support or refute this contention, the likelihood that extensive media coverage increases, rather than deters, mass killing risks, seems self-evident. Take the case of Cho Sueng-Hui—who sent the media his "manifesto"—for example. He knew the media vultures would eat it up. And they did just that. From the psychological viewpoint, it appears that he was setting the stage: the "mass shootings" would get the nation's attention and the "manifesto" would seal his name forever in the public's mind and history books. He would finally be heard.

Per the Daily Herald, the victims whose lives were violently and unnecessarily interrupted were "Daniel Parmenter, 20, of Westchester; Gayle Dubowski, 20, of Carol Stream; Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero; Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville; Julianna Gehant, 32, of downstate Meriden." and "20-year-old sophomore from Carol Stream"[7]

Hence, the question remains. When will we ever learn?


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