Just after school began on a Friday morning in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Adam Lanza opened fire in the main office of Sandy Hook Elementary. What followed was the mass murder of 20 students and 6 staff members (Stroller, Strauss & Stanglin, 2012). A mass murder is defined as “single episodic act of violence, occurring at one time and in one place…where three or more people are killed with no cooling off period between killings” (Kitaeff, 2011, p. 81-82). Investigators estimate that from the time Lanza began shooting until he turned the gun on himself was less than five minutes.
Lanza, 20 years old, then turned the gun on himself, he was found dead inside the school. In all, he fired from three weapons, Glock and Sig Sauer pistols as well as an AR-15, military style rifle. Police reported that Lanza first shot his mother in the forehead then drove her car to the school and began firing (Stroller et al, 2012). According to Lanza’s family members he was bullied and ridiculed by other students when he attended Sandy Hook Elementary, citing that revenge may be a possible motivation for the shooting (Ghose, 2012).
While the killer did not leave a note indicating his motivation, police found his Sandy Hook Elementary report card at his house next to the open gun safe, adding to speculation that he was still fixated on that time in his life (Daly, 2013). Additionally, both Adam’s brother Ryan and a family friend interviewed after the killing alluding to Adam having a personality disorder that may have caused his rampage. Lanza had a form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, and a sensory perception disorder.
Asperger’s syndrome is defined as “one of a distinct group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior” (National Institute of Health, 2013). The combination of his disorder, which isolated him from classmates and peers and his need for revenge, may be likely motivators for his actions at Sandy Hook. Lanza’s mass murder and the details of his life leading up to the shootings put him in the category of a pseudo commando. The pseudo commando is fascinated by weaponry and usually keeps a large arsenal in his house.
The majority of mass murderers in this category are driven by revenge and their motivation is in their own perception. He is almost always a male and a loner who comes from a broken or dysfunctional family (Kitaeff, 2011; Ghose, 2012). Lanza had only his mother and a brother, whom he hadn’t spoken to in years (Stroller, Strauss & Stanglin, 2012). He was considered a loner and a gamer by his peers and he had very few friends of any consequence. Reports that he was bullied relentlessly at the very same elementary school where he carried out his attack point sharply in the direction of revenge as a motivating factor (Ghose, 2012).
The alternate, and possibly additional, psychological reason for the mass murders at Sandy Hook was a mental illness. Mental illness is defined as “a mental or bodily condition marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, and emotions to seriously impair the normal psychological functioning of the individual” (Merriam-Webster, 2013). Psychosis such as schizophrenia, delusional disorders, psychopathic personality disorders and paranoia may all create motives for killers (Thrasybule, 2012).
Mental illnesses that can cause a person to lack empathy or cause them to refrain from feeling guilt for their crimes could be a contributing factor in a mass murder the saw 20 children, ages 5 to 10 years old, brutally massacred. While mental illness may contribute to mass murderer’s motivations not all people will mental illnesses commit crimes nor are they usually violent (Ghose, 2012). The summation of the evidence and aftermath reports on Lanza’s crime lead the scholar to conclude that the psychological motivation behind the mass murders he committed was simple revenge.
While he had a difficult time associating with other students and socializing, he was never diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia or psychotic mood disorders. He was reportedly obsessed with guns and was fixated on his being bullied at Sandy Hook as a cause for his isolation later in life (Stroller et al, 2013). In classic pseudo commando fashion he set out that Friday morning to teach the world a lesson and exact revenge on the school that caused so much of his strife.