Welcome to the School Shooters .info database. The primary focus of the site is on perpetrators who intended to kill multiple victims in educational settings using firearms. A few incidents, however, are included that fall outside of these guidelines.
This page lists and explains the organizing concepts used on the site to distinguish different types of shooters and different types of attacks.
Despite frequent references in the media to a “profile” of school shooters, there is no one profile. Based on my research, however, shooters tend to fall into one of three psychological types:
- Psychopathic shooters are narcissistic, entitled, lacking in empathy, and sometimes sadistic. Some are abrasive and belligerent; others are charming and deceptive.
- Psychotic shooters have either schizophrenia or schizotypal personality, with a combination of psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts/behavior), eccentric behavior and beliefs, and severely impaired social/emotional functioning.
- Traumatized shooters grew up in chronically dysfunctional families characterized by parental substance abuse, domestic violence, physical abuse, sometimes sexual abuse, frequent relocations, and changing caregivers.
The degree of confidence with which I classify shooters in one of these three groups varies. In some cases, there is abundant, consistent evidence to support the classification. In other cases, the evidence is scant and/or inconsistent, resulting in more tentative classification. When there was too little evidence (or I simply haven’t studied the shooter sufficiently) the shooter has not been categorized. In several cases, the shooters fit two of these categories.
The shooters are also grouped into one of three populations:
- Secondary school shooters includes those perpetrators who were current or recent (within three years) students at the middle or high schools they attacked. (The one exception is Brenda Spencer; she was a high school student who attacked the elementary school she had attended.)
- College shooters includes those perpetrators who were current or recent students or employees at the colleges or universities they attacked.
- Aberrant adult shooters includes those perpetrators who had no current or recent connection to the schools they attacked. (This group also includes Jiverly Wong, whose attack was aberrant only in terms of the location, which was not a primary school, secondary school, or institution of higher education.)
Lastly, attacks are categorized by attack type:
- Random: these attacks have no specific victims or groups of victims.
- Targeted individuals: these attacks were directed against specific people known to the perpetrators.
- Targeted groups: these attacks were directed against specific groups of people, such as females or children, who were not known to the perpetrator.
- Mixed: these attacks included both targeted and random victims.
These categories are not absolute. For example, some attacks were largely targeted against specific people, with a random person being shot who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though these could be considered mixed attacks, if the overall thrust of an attack was targeted, it is classified as a targeted attack. In some cases, the attacks were too ambiguous to be categorized.
Killed and Wounded
The numbers in these fields are not always definite. In the incidents involving two perpetrators it is not known for certain which victims were killed or wounded by which shooter. Thus, there is subjectivity involved. Also, different sources count wounded victims differently (e.g., only those wounded by gunfire, or those wounded by gunfire plus those injured while escaping, or hurt by other means, such as smoke inhalation). As a result, the number of victims listed here may differ from those found in some sources. The numbers used here include those hurt more or less directly by the shooters’ violent intention. Thus, someone who sprained an ankle while fleeing is not counted, but someone injured by shattered glass from a near miss by a bullet is counted. This level of detail, however, is not always available. If the shooter died during the attack, this is not counted in the number killed.