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For a US killer who grabbed nationwide headlines after broadcasting a murder on Facebook, the act was a last message to a world he believed had wronged him, experts said.
The nation was shocked earlier this week when a video appeared Sunday on the world’s most popular social media platform, which showed a gunman, identified as 37-year-old Steve Stephens, randomly selecting and shooting dead 74-year-old grandfather Robert Godwin in Cleveland, Ohio.
A nationwide manhunt ensued. Shortly after being discovered Tuesday by police in the state of Pennsylvania, Stephens shot himself dead after a brief police pursuit.
“He was definitely deranged,” Xinhua news agency quoted Eleazar Cruz Eusebio, as saying.
Eusebio is an associate professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
“And basically what he portrayed online to the public was actually his suicide note,” Eusebio said.
“He felt the world wronged him. And (he felt) it was time for him to wrong the world.”
It is no different than a lot of the mass murder suicides and even just murder suicides, but the major difference is that it was shown on the Internet, he said.
“In my clinical opinion, he was already too far gone when he was giving that message,” Eusebio said.
How the situation played out with the killing escalating into a nationwide manhunt and ending in the murderer’s suicide was exactly what the killer wanted, experts said.
One problem that may have led up to the murder-suicide was the apparently no one around the murderer took notice when he talked of suicide prior to the incident, experts said.
When he said he was suicidal to his mother, his mother ignored it, Eusebio noted.
“The pain that he was experiencing, he could not harness, and wanted to inflict pain on other people at that point,” he explained.
The better way to deal with the issue would be that if someone even mildly mentions the word “suicide” has to be taken seriously, Eusebio said.
Experts noted that the killer had compounded problems with gambling, breaking up with an ex-girlfriend, debt, an alleged lack of life and career goals, and myriad other issues.
“Many of us would say ‘get a grip, get a new job, find another girlfriend,’ but his coping mechanism was too far gone, that at that point he was saying ‘it’s no longer about me. Everybody’s coming down on me. I’m going to find a way to make other people pay,'” Eusebio said.
Experts said such individuals can come from any socio-economic background, ethnic or other background. But there are some common patterns prevalent among individuals who commit such acts of violence.
Joseph A. Toomey, assistant professor and director of the forensic psychology concentration at William James College, said that one common pattern is a failure to cope with loss and a response to those types of things that fits the pattern of isolation.
“And then when these losses occur they don’t deal with them well. They become very angry, they ruminate over the losses, they externalize blame for the losses. They put the blame on those around them, or circumstances within society,” Toomey said.
“And so they kind of lash out at a response to that,” Toomey added.
Another pattern among such people is a fascination with weapons.
“They may have spent time researching weapons and they have collected a significant number of weapons,” Toomey said.
It’s also common in such public acts of violence for the victims to be random, he pointed out.
Indeed, the victim in the Facebook murder appeared to have been selected at random, echoing other such public killings in the US history.
“This is particularly true of people who end up taking their own lives after,” Toomey added.