By Sara Moreau, Angel Prideaux, and Hannah Joy Madsen
Eager minds and raised hands filled room 102 of Richard L. Caulkins Hall.
It’s not every day one gets to see into the mind of a murderer, but those in Alan Scharn’s criminology class, as well as a few psych majors had this opportunity when FBI Special Agent Mark McBryde visited Corban.
“So much of what happens with law enforcement, particularly with the FBI, is things don’t get disclosed to the media, so it is nice to talk to you (students),” McBryde said.
The main purpose of his visit was to discuss the characteristics active shooters carry both before and after the attack.
“People engaged in these types of targeted violence have certain behaviors that are evident prior to attack. If others are aware of them, they can hopefully prevent an attack.”
The steps that eventually lead to violence usually begin with a grievance, followed by ideation, or a want to get back at the person who caused the grievance. After this stage, the individual begins on research and planning a possible solutions-this can be the start of a problem, depending on how much the person fixates on it. This process is then followed by breach, preparation, and finally, attack.
McBryde provided specific examples from a school shooting at N. Illinois University by Steven Kazmierczak on Feb. 14, 2008. Kazmierczak had exhibited many of the steps on the threat continuum prior to the attack, but no one took notice or came forward.
“The Bible cautions people to be careful of what kinds of thoughts they allow to influence them (Phil. 4:8-9),” said Ben Olson, a student who attended the presentation. “The presentation showed how this young, troubled man had allowed many negative influences (philosophical and in terms of role-models and media) and infiltrate his mind. What thoughts we choose to dwell on will influence the path we ultimately find ourselves on.”
McBryde also mentioned that people engaged in active shooting learn from each other and often mimic each other.
Though there is no one “profile” of an active shooter, certain predatory behaviors may be observable to persons prior to the attack including fascination with previous active shooter or mass attacks, cleansing and purifying through the cessation of alcohol or drugs, extreme recklessness with a disregard of future consequences, and violence to those around them.
Very few attackers issue direct threat against targeted person or institution prior to the violent act, but active shooters also often leave a “legacy token” to explain themselves. These items can be in the form of videos, letters, blog posts, etc.
“I thought it was interesting how many mass-murderers play off of and are inspired by each other. It also reinforced the fact that loners tend to be at a higher risk. The presentation also gave some good signs to look out for,” Olson said.
“I use every opportunity to bring in experts currently working in the criminal justice profession to enhance the learning experience for my students,” Professor Alan Scharn said. “It’s all about providing a real world, hands-on experience.”
Another opportunity to see criminal justice came in the form of John Deleon and Katie Starbacher, two Salem inmates who opened up about their past and what it has taught them.
Deleon and Sarbacher, arrested for driving under the influence and possession of narcotics, respectively, are serving their sentences at the Marion County Work Center. The residents are expected to work either at their own jobs or by performing community services.
Phillis said it is a great option for people to serve time in the work center and have ways to get employment for when they get out.
“I figure if I keep to myself and do my time, I can get back to society faster,” Deleon said.
He plans to work as a contractor and tattoo artist after he serves his time.
“We don’t want them to be unemployed because that just sucks them back in,” Phillis said.
Deleon said his criminal activity started in his 20s. In 1991 he worked to turn his life around by applying and taking a test to become a corrections officer. However, that same year he got a DUI. In 2004 he went through a divorce and said his law breaking amplified during this time.
“That’s when it really hit,” he said. “I was getting in trouble and not caring about anything.”
Starbacher, 25, told the story of her drug use like she had told it many times before.
“I got into Oxycodone when I was 17, when my dad died,” she said. “It didn’t seem like a drug, ya know? It’s just a pill.”
Her boyfriend, whom she dated five years, was the one who introduced her to Oxycodone. But, she eventually switched to heroine, because she said “Oxy” got too expensive.
Starbacher sought help and attended rehab multiple times, but at age 21 things turned darker for her. Her mother died of a stroke, which she said led her to give up and turn back to drugs. This lapse resulted in her current time sentence.
Starbacher said she dreams of going to beauty school after she gets out, and plans to stay drug free by surrounding herself with positive and healthy people.
When students brought up the question of religion, Deleon and Starbacher said they believe in God, and were honest about where their faith currently falls.
“I believe in God, but never grew up with religion,” Starbacher said. “I just started going to church actually.”
“My family is pretty religious,” Deleon said.
He explained how he has struggled with doubt.
“Sometimes when it’s not there [a higher power], you turn to the wrong thing,” he said.
“Where did you see yourself,” one student asked.
“Well, I never thought I’d be sitting in front of a college class, talking about why I’m in jail,” Starbacher said.