- Last week, a 15-year-old girl walking home from a friend’s house in an affluent Las Vegas suburb was attacked, raped twice, and stabbed more than 40 times by a 19-year-old predator. He then set fire to her corpse and left it in the desert.
- This murder was similar to the 1997 rape and murder of little Sherrice Iverson, who was unfortunate enough to be left unattended in a casino all night while her father gambled. A then-18-year-old playfully made contact with her, then took her into a bathroom where he ended up twisting the 7-year-old’s neck.
- Also last week, a man walked into an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada’s capital, and fired at random with an assault rifle, killing four people–including three uniformed National Guardsmen–before killing himself.
- And let’s not forget the shooting in Arizona this last January which killed six people, including a judge and a little girl who would have turned ten years old today, on the anniversary of 9/11.
These four tragedies have something in common. They were all perpetrated by people who were known by those around them to be mentally ill. Not just weird or depressed or even morbid, but violent ticking time bombs.
Jared Lee Loughner has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, to the surprise of nobody who knew him. The IHOP shooter “had a history of mental health issues and had been on long-term medication.” Jeremy Strohmeyer, much like Loughner, had an open history of serious drug abuse. He also had niche pornography fetishes and a biological mother with chronic mental illness, unknown to his adoptive parents. And the killer of a Las Vegas high school freshman this week had a documented history of sexual assault from his own time in high school.
He attacked a girl a few years ago in a school bathroom while I was teaching in a classroom less than a hundred feet away. The school expelled him–almost a miracle these days–and the police arrested him, but even all that was only temporary, and the system let his evil keep gestating.
Three of these four killers were in public schools fairly recently, and I have to wonder if they could have been controlled or stopped there, if our schools weren’t so neutered by aggressive, pushy parents who bully and threaten their way into all the special treatment they want. Schools have been cowed into a corner, turned into toothless nannies by a society so emboldened by entitlements that nobody seems to have any compunction about demanding that schools never do anything they don’t like.
Ron Clark, a school reformer and author, recently wrote for CNN: “I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is the environment that we all have in common, and which now nurtures the psychoses of future killers. It has to stop.
We know the warning signs, we know the habits and red flags, but we lack the backbone to treat anyone differently, ever. The sad reality seems to be that there are some that we know we have to confront, or isolate, or regulate socially, or even legally, to keep them away from others, and especially away from children.
We often wring our hands over profiling people based on race or religion, but it’s long overdue to start talking about keeping a closer eye on the mentally ill. I know we’re supposed to be compassionate about the unfortunate–and what could be more random, undeserved, and even scary and mysterious than mental illness?–but how many more such horrors will we have to read about before we admit that there are larger things at stake than hurting feelings?
A compassion that might come at the expense of an innocent person’s life is no compassion at all.