Researching and writing about mass shooters for months on end became pretty grim, to the point that I started dreaming about gunmen hunting me down near my apartment. It got especially strange, though, after more details of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting last December in Newtown, Connecticut, began to emerge.
In March, officials revealed that the shooting's perpetrator, Adam Lanza, kept detailed records of other killings, and they theorized that Lanza may have been trying to outdo Anders Breivik's 2011 rampage in Norway that left 77 people dead. The New York Daily News described the records as a "sickeningly thorough 7-foot-long, 4-foot-wide spreadsheet with names, body counts and weapons from previous mass murders and even attempted killings" that a law enforcement source told the paper "sounded like a doctoral thesis, that was the quality of the research."
"Mother Jones and Adam Lanza created the two most thorough databases of mass shooters," someone commented to me after reading the Daily News report.
Then, on June 30, the Hartford Courant reported that investigators found evidence that Lanza, in 2009 and 2010, edited 12 Wikipedia articles on massacres around the world. They included at least four that I read on several occasions while I worked on the Mother Jones database. As the Courant reported:
One entry meticulously specifies the weapons Kip Kinkel used at the age of 15 to kill his parents before going on a shooting spree at his Oregon high school, where two were killed and 25 were wounded in May 1998.
The poster also revised entries about the October 1991 massacre at Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, in which 23 were killed and 20 more injured and the 1988 massacre at ESL Inc., a high-technology software manufacturing company in Sunnyvale, Calif. The gunman at ESL, Richard Farley, killed seven people and wounded four others.
The poster believed to be Lanza delves deeply into Wikipedia's account of the ESL shooting, revising it on at least four occasions in February 2010 and adding such details as the caliber and manufacturer of weapons in Farley's arsenal.
There are striking similarities between the ESL massacre and the Sandy Hook shooting more than 20 years later. Farley, carrying more than a thousand rounds of ammunition on a vest and wearing earplugs, shot through the glass of a door of ESL, gunning down employees as he encountered them in the building.It's a grim thought, but I can't help but wonder if Lanza read our research in the final months of his life, before he shot his way into Sandy Hook. It appears pretty certain that I read his.