The Corner

Culture

Let’s Be Cautious About Jumping to the Racial Angle in the Virginia Shooting (Updated)

The internet is lighting up with speculation that this morning horrific shooting was potentially race-motivated. Beyond the fact that the suspect is black and his victims white, available evidence indicates that the shooter claimed one of his victims “made racist comments” and that he filed an “EEOC report.” But there’s also evidence that the shooter’s behavior was “bizarre and threatening” as far back as 2000:

Oh, and he apparently fired off a 23-page fax to ABC News:

I say this virtually every time there’s breaking news about a violent incident — be very careful about early reports. Just last week I posted the first reports from Europe about the French train attack, and the early stories misidentified the Americans involved as U.S. Marines — a pretty basic and easily verifiable fact was dead-wrong. Even here, in the few hours since the shooting happened, the number of victims has gone from two to three (with the third in surgery after being shot in the back) and the shooter himself has been reported dead and then alive again. Yes, there’s some evidence of a racial angle to the shooting, but there’s also evidence of crazy, and the truth may well lie somewhere in between. It’s just too soon to tell.

UPDATE: As Charlie notes in his post above, if ABC’s report about the shooter’s fax is accurate, his motive is coming into sharper focus. And, yes, there is a racial element. In his own words:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

“As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!”

There’s also more evidence of craziness. He claimed — in ABC’s words — that “Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act. He also expressed admiration for the Columbine and Virginia Tech killers. And then there’s this:

–He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. –He says he has been attacked by black men and white females. –He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

I’ll provide further updates as events warrant.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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