Much has already been written about the heartbreaking tragedy in Colorado. The killer’s total disregard for human life and safety are impossible for us to process. Many people have asked me, “How can something like this happen? Or “What drives a person to commit such a heinous crime?” I think we ask those questions because when tragic events occur, we want the incomprehensible to some how make sense: it is human nature to want to fill in the blanks. When we don’t have answers, we begin to make assumptions and create potential scenarios in our own minds. It still feels better than not knowing. When we have answers we equate that with a sense of control. For most people, it is untenable to reconcile the fact that things happen in life that are truly not within their control.
Of course, there is much that still needs to be revealed about the killer’s mindset, motivations and intentions, family background, mental health, etc. It is possible that as those things are uncovered and revealed, some of our burning questions will be answered. But at the end of the day, this feels like the act of a sociopath. Consider some of the cardinal features of this frightening diagnosis and how they appear to resonate with what we currently know about the killer.
So far, he appears to have a total lack of remorse, shame or guilt. The calculating way in which he attempted to do the most harm possible speaks to a callous disregard for the distress and pain of others, focusing, instead on a sense of entitlement, rage, and cruelty- hallmark features in a sociopath. This appears to have been an act of premeditation and considerable planning, with the intention of using victims for his own gain, either as a vehicle for the expression of his rage, for notoriety, etc. By all accounts, he is extremely intelligent and was academically successful. Sociopaths tend to be very bright, but use their intellect for nefarious ends. Described as a “loner,” like many sociopaths, it appears he deceived many into believing he was an “upright citizen.” The most distressing feature, a total lack of empathy for the pain he caused in countless others adds even more credence to this possible diagnosis.
I realize I am now attempting to fill in the missing pieces as well, but considering the possibility that this is the work of a sociopath can actually help to shed some light on this tragedy. The respected literature on sociopathy maintains that between 1%-4% of the population in the United States meets criteria for this frightening diagnosis. That translates to between 3 and 12 million people. Most are not in jail, they live and often appear to thrive among us, and we are vulnerable to their manipulative ways. To learn more about socipathy, I highly recommend two excellent books on the subject, Martha Stout’s, The Sociopath Next Door, and Robert Hare’s, Without Conscience.
Regardless of what made this killer act, may every person whose life was touched and affected by this horrible crime find the comfort and support they deserve. And may the memories of every person whose life was senselessly and prematurely taken always be cherished and honored.