On September 28th, at about 8:15 in the morning, Colton Tooley brought an AK-47 to the University of Texas at Austin. He pulled a ski mask over his face before opening fire. It is estimated that he fired about ten shots before he entered the library and committed suicide.
No student or faculty was hurt and it seems that Mr. Tooley was not aiming at anyone. Professor White, one of the witnesses, was quoted in the news, “students start scrambling behind wastebaskets, trees and monuments…He was running right in front of me…and he shot what I thought was three more shots…not at me. In my direction, but not at me, clearly not at me.” http://oudaily.com/news/2010/sep/28/man-kills-self-after-shooting...
Lawrence Peart, another witness, stated, “So I start advancing toward the entrance and a man — pretty tall in a black business suit, ski mask and an AK-47 — runs in front of me, so I froze…He was running down the 21st Street along that brick wall that’s beside the PCL and he glances over at me. He looked at me in the eyes then waved his arm as if to say, ‘Don’t come in here. Go away.’” http://www.dailytexanonline.com/content/ut-student-kills-self-aft...
Did Mr. Tooley intend to shoot anyone? Was suicide his plan from the beginning? Was he trying to create a confrontation with police that would lead to his death? These questions may never be answered. The information released in the press paint the picture of an intelligent, quiet and isolated young man. He was a 19-year-old math major at the university There were no reports of his being in any type of trouble before. He was not being treated for mental health problems at the university. Associate vice president of legal affairs Jeffrey Graves stated, “He was not on our radar… We checked into that as soon as we had the name. Not in any of our databases." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/29/ut-shooter-colton-tooley...
When I heard about Mr. Tooley I was reminded of a defendant I evaluated about five years ago. Mr. Bailey was only 22-years-old when he was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of police officers. It was alleged that he fired a gun at a group of officers. I was retained by his attorney to conduct a mental state at the time of the offense evaluation.
Mr. Bailey told me that he became very depressed about six months before his arrest. His depression was so severe that he began to experience auditory hallucinations. He heard voices saying he had AIDS.
Mr. Bailey then described what led up to his arrest, “I found a gun in a trash can. I thought everything was matching up. I got the gun now. God was working on a way for me to go home.” When I asked him to explain he continued, “I was thinking God wanted me to go to heaven, that’s why he put the gun in my hand. I was thinking everything was matching up. There was no need for me to stay here anymore.”
I asked the defendant to tell me what happened at the time of the instant offense. He recalled, “It was very early in the morning. I get off the train and start walking. I saw the precinct and I knew I got the pistol. I start waving it. The cops see me. I knew they are going to shoot me. I was trying to get killed. I wasn’t trying to hide. I was standing up to take the bullet.”
Mr. Bailey paused, and I waited for him to continue. “One shot was very loud and I thought it hit me. I went down. Then they start to hit me. I tell them to kill me and just get it over with.”
I concluded that Mr. Bailey provoked the police to shoot him. This is called “suicide by cop.” The phenomenon has been the focus of numerous studies. One of the earliest researchers was Marvin Wolfgang. He reviewed 588 homicides and concluded that 26% could be classified as victim-precipitated suicide (Wolfgang, 1959). In 1998 Daniel Kennedy and his colleagues conducted a study based on 240 police shootings. They determined nine were definitely suicide by police and another 28 could possibly be classified as such (Kennedy, Homant & Hupp, 1998).
I also concluded that Mr. Bailey was insane at the time of the offense. In New York State this is known as not responsible due to mental disease or defect. The assistant district attorney agreed with my conclusions and offered a plea. I discuss this case in detail in my book - The Measure of Madness: Inside the Disturbed and Disturbing Criminal Mind.
We may never know what exactly drove Mr. Tooley to bring the gun to the university or commit suicide. There have been no reports of him telling anyone about his plans. On September 29th, hundreds of students attended a prayer vigil. He was buried a few days later.