The Question ‘Why?’ Looms Over Mass Shooters

Nikolas Cruz survived the Parkland, Fl., shooting, giving investigators a chance to probe his motive. A forensic tried to do that in the case of Aurora, Co., theater killer James Holmes.

Even as the attention to mass shootings fades, the mystery of motive lingers like an open, forgotten wound until the next shooting, the next cycle of grief, outrage and desperate search for answers, the Washington Post reports. In Parkland, Fl., investigators have an unusual opportunity to answer that question after a high school massacre left 17 dead, because the suspected shooter remains alive, a rarity in these kinds of mass shootings. Prosecutors said are seeking a death sentence for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, saying the rampage “was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner.”

Cruz will be scrutinized in granular detail by detectives, lawyers and forensic psychiatrists. All of them will try to answer some form of this question: Why? “You want to do everything you can for the families, and that’s the question that is being asked. Why my son? Why my daughter? Why was this person ripped from me for this senseless act?” said Daniel Oates, Aurora, Co. police chief in 2012, when a shooter tossed tear-gas grenades into a movie theater and began firing indiscriminately into the fleeing crowd, killing 12. “We’re all human beings; we strive for explanation.” The Aurora case offers the best hints for what will come in Florida. Like Parkland’s shooter, the Aurora gunman, James Holmes, had no clear motive and showed signs of mental-health problems before his attack. In 2014, a court assigned forensic psychiatrist William Reid to meet with Holmes for a series of interviews. Reid probed Holmes on his childhood, his PhD studies and virtually every aspect of his life. Holmes said he had thought of killing others for months, even years before. He described feeling an aversion to other people. Not a murderous rage, but a cold, dismissive hate. He hated others, he explained, the way some people hate broccoli.