Keeping Kids Safe

Inside the minds of school shooters, with general insight into adolescent mental health.

Anniversary of Dawson College Shooting

What was wrong with Kimveer Gill?

Four years ago today Kimveer Gill went on a rampage, shooting twenty people at Dawson College in Montreal and then killing himself. It was this attack that spurred me to write my book on school shooters. I had been involved with the issue for seven years, but when Gill went on his rampage, something inside me said that we need more research-more understanding-so that we can prevent such attacks.

Four years later, what have we learned? We know that school shooters are not all alike, that they follow different paths on their journeys toward their rampages. I present in my book a typology of three distinct types of school shooters: psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatized, highlighting the importance of personality factors, mental illness, and histories of abuse. Does this typology help us to understand Kimveer Gill?

Even four years after Gill's rampage, there is not a lot of information available to shed light on the inner workings of Gill's mind. We do have his online postings, however, which provide some material for consideration (these pages are available on my website: www.schoolshooters.info).

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Based on Gill's postings and what we know about his life, I suggest that perhaps Gill suffered from an adult onset of schizophrenia. He had been a high-functioning child and adolescent, succeeding in school and earning academic and citizenship awards. He was well-behaved, had friends, and was not bullied. People who knew him described him as a friendly, sensitive, and unusually gentle person. So what happened?

Outwardly, Gill left college after one semester to join the military. He only lasted a month in the military. Then he had a series of low-level jobs. Then he gave up working and refused to look for work. He simply seemed to stop functioning.

At the age of 25, Gill was living with his parents. He was not in school. He did not have a job. He was not dating. And the friends he used to have seem to have drifted away or moved on with their lives. Gill apparently was spending his life playing video games, drinking, and spending time on the website VampireFreaks.com. He even withdrew from his family, becoming increasingly silent and isolating himself in his room.

Such a total lack of functioning is consistent with someone with schizophrenia. Even Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, functioned more than this. He had a long history of social deficits, but he was still attending class and doing his homework even as he sunk into psychosis. Gill was not functioning in any domain.

Such withdrawal could be seen in a major depressive episode, but Gill's online postings do not suggest depression. The writings of other school shooters such as Dylan Klebold, Kip Kinkel, and Jeffrey Weise, all provide evidence of self-loathing, anguish, and hopelessness. Gill's writings do not. They are striking for their contempt, anger, sadism, grandiosity, and paranoia.

Gill (like Eric Harris, whom he admired) wrote "Ich Bin Gott," which is German for "I am God." Elsewhere he wrote, "stop praying to your imaginary gods little monkeys because I'm the only god you need to pray to." He wrote scathing comments about "humans" as if he were not human, commenting "you humans are so inferior."

He also wrote a number of comments about knowing that the police are watching him and have been monitoring his house for six years. Gill made other strange comments, such as stating that "everything everyone says or does against me is shown to me in my dreams."

Gill's lack of functioning and what appear to be paranoid delusions and delusions of grandeur, suggest possible schizophrenia. If so, he is yet another psychotic shooter whom no one recognized as psychotic and who therefore was not receiving the kind of treatment that might have helped him. Four years later, we have taken a few steps forward in understanding, but there is a long way to go in terms of prevention.

Dr. Peter Langman is the author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters and trains professionals in law enforcement, education, and mental health on preventing school shootings. more...

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