Updated at 1:43 p.m. on August 5, 2019.
The man accused of killing 22 people and injuring dozens more at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, this weekend was an “extreme loner” who was “picked on” for his voice and his clothes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The lonely life of the suspect, who is widely reported to be 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas, reveals a troubling pathway to violence for some terrorists, including mass shooters. Feeling alienated from their peer groups, they seek vengeance in the most dramatic—and deadliest—way possible.
Of course, not all mass shooters were bullied as children. The Columbine High School killers, for example, had healthy friend groups. And some shooters were more the bullies than the bullied: The man who is suspected of killing nine in Dayton, Ohio, hours after the El Paso attack was also reported to have kept a “kill list” and “rape list” of his high-school classmates.
But there are nevertheless clear links between loneliness, social exclusion, and the kind of radicalization that leads to violence. A 2004 study found that nearly three-quarters of school shooters had been bullied or harassed. In another study, bullying victims who also experienced fighting, threats, or injury, or who skipped school out of fear, were significantly more likely to carry weapons to school compared with kids who weren’t bullied. A study of 15 school shootings from 1995 to 2001 found that “acute or chronic rejection—in the form of ostracism, bullying, and/or romantic rejection—was present in all but two of the incidents.” Though the El Paso shooter targeted a Walmart, not a school, his severe angst and dark motives appear similar to those of many school shooters.