In Cold Blood

As the sniper remains on the loose in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the question many are asking is simple: Why would anyone shoot ten innocent and seemingly unrelated people? As experts continue to theorize about the mindset of a person capable of such acts, their hypotheses vary slightly but remain astonishingly similar: The killer is not psychotic, but rather rational in his thinking. Here, three mental health experts weigh in.

• "He is not someone who is psychotic," says Mark Levy, M.D., FAPA, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco. Instead, Levy believes that it would be more accurate to classify the shooter as someone suffering from "severe depression with psychotic features, such as delusional preoccupations and obsessions."

• "The shooter is sane and he is smart," Tony Farrenkopf, Ph.D., a clinical and forensic psychologist in Portland, Oregon. Farrenkopf doesn't agree that the killer is depressed, but instead views him as antisocial and possibly paranoid. He may have a warrior fantasy, Farrenkopf surmises, or feel as if he is on a military mission, so he would be classified as a "cold-blooded, calculating person."

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• "I don't think that it's psychotic behavior, nor is he depressed," says Lucy Papillion, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Beverly Hills, California. "I think that he is just angry at the entire human race." Papillion believes that the sniper is attempting to find retribution for negative events in his own life. "He thinks that he can get rid of [his anger] through the gun," she says. "Of course, that won't work."

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