The Secret Service is investigating the growing concern posed by extremists with hatred toward women, the Associated Press is reporting.
The Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center has taken a deeper look into a specific mass shooting on a yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida in 2018 in an effort to study how contempt for women can radicalize men and deadly behavior – especially as misogynistic extremism has increased in recent years, particularly on the Internet.
“The hatred of women requires increased attention from everyone,” said Steve Driscoll, a research specialist at the center. Many recent mass shooters had a history of violence against women, officials said.
When the shooter opened fire on Hot Yoga Tallahassee, he killed two women – Maura Binkley, a 21-year-old senior year at Florida State University, and Nancy Van Vessem, a 61-year-old physician – and wounded six more individuals before killing himself.
The shooter in this case didn’t have a specific label, but he identified with the growing movement of men who call themselves anti-feminists, male supremacists or incels — involuntary celibates. He had a well-documented history of disturbing behavior and warning signs that were missed, investigators said.
A superficial look into his history shows would have just shown a man who “pursued higher education, served in the military, and held highly regarded professional positions of trust,” the study said – he was a substitute teacher and an Eagle Scout.
But when looked at in its entirety, his history of isolated incidents was alarming. He was arrested for groping women and banned from a college campus, and he wrote violent songs about torturing women and posted hateful videos online. He also idolized mass killers who targeted women.
His behavior at times “elicited concern from parents, siblings, friends, roommates, coworkers, workplace managers, school officials, students, law enforcement, the online community, neighbors and other community members,” the study said. His parents slept with their door locked. He got banned from local bars because of his treatment of women. A few people reported his actions to the police.
But no one looked at the whole picture – and on 2 November 2018, he walked into Hot Yoga Tallahassee with a Glock 9mm pistol in his bag.
The case study stressed the importance of speaking up when someone’s behavior is concerning and the need for community stakeholders to have a role in helping to prevent violence.
“Over and over again, we see a tolerance for these objectively concerning behaviors,” said Dr Lina Alathari, chief of the National Threat Assessment Center. “The goal is to ID and assess behavior and to intervene. It is not about prosecution or criminalizing.”
Alathari said this case study, which drew on publicly available documents and details, will be used to train communities on how to better spot warning signs and intervene before violence happens.
“What we can say is early intervention is key,” Alathari said. “This clearly demonstrates that preventing targeted violence is a whole of community approach.”