The deadly shooting spree by a 34-year-old Texas man, Aaron Alexis, on Monday, shook Washington D.C. The African-American civilian contractor to the U.S. Navy killed 12 people before being shot to death by police. And while the focus of the investigation shifts to the question of “why,” how common are African-American mass shooters in the U.S.?
Of the approximately 62 mass shootings (in which four or more people were killed) in the U.S. since 1982, including 25 since 2006 (and seven in 2012 alone), according to figures compiled by Mother Jones, “more than half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 20, respectively); the other 30 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, and religious and government buildings. Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.”
The percentage of black assailants who kill on a scale such as Monday’s Navy Yard shootings is about equal to the percentage of black Americans, says former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
“African-American shooters tend to at least represent their statistical portion of the U.S. population and include past killers like like Omar S. Thornton, Maurice Clemmons, Charles Lee Thornton, William D. Baker, Arthur Wise, Clifton McCree, Nathan Dunlap, Colin Ferguson, and the DC Snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo,” Van Zandt told theGrio.
The most notorious members of that list include Muhammad and his then teenage protege, Malvo, who shot and killed ten people across three states along the Atlantic coast during a three-week period in October 2002; Ferguson, who opened fire on a Long Island Railroad commuter train in 1993, killing six people and injuring 19 others; and Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles police officer and Naval reservist who touched off a massive manhunt after a string of shootings that killed four people, and injured three LAPD officers in February. Dorner died in a heavily wooded area in California during a standoff with police.
There have been other cases. In 2010, Omar Thornton went on a shooting rampage at a Connecticut beer distributorship, killing eight people and then himself. The 34-year-old who had worked as a driver for the company, had been called in for a disciplinary hearing and asked to resign when he opened fire.
In both those cases, the shooters targeted their former employers, and made claims of workplace racism. Thornton reportedly told his mother he had “killed the five racists that was there bothering me,” in a phone call after the shooting. Dorner who had also been fired, posted a lengthy manifesto online in which he accused the LAPD of systemic racism. In the case of the D.C. snipers, the victims seemed to be random — hallmarks of more typical mass shootings.