Thursday evening in Raleigh, N.C., a camouflage-wearing teenager went on a shooting rampage killing five people, including his 16-year-old brother, and wounding two.
Austin Thompson, 15, was armed with a shotgun as he roamed neighborhoods targeting whomever he came across including an off-duty Raleigh police officer in an unmarked car on his way to work. Authorities identified the police officer who was killed as 29-year-old Gabriel Torres. Police said Torres had been a Raleigh police officer for 18 months and that he was a former Marine Corps Sergeant based in Florida, according to the News and Observer.
Along with Torres and the suspect’s brother, James Thompson, three adults identified as Nicole Conners, 52, Mary Marshall, 34, and Susan Karnatz, 49, were also killed. The two others injured were a Raleigh police officer who was treated and released from the hospital and Marcielle Gardner, 59, who was still at WakeMed on Friday in critical condition, according to authorities.
At approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday, police responded to a call of shots fired. Upon arriving, they found multiple victims at the scene. Police searched door-to-door before cornering Thompson in a barn around 9:30 p.m. Thompson has been hospitalized in critical condition after what is likely to be the result of a shootout with police.
“Tonight, terror has reached our doorstep,” said Gov. Roy Cooper, at a news conference at the Raleigh city hall. “The nightmare of every community has come to Raleigh. This is a senseless, horrific, and infuriating act of violence that has been committed.“
“Today we’re sad, we’re angry, and we want to know the answers to all the questions,” he said Friday. “No neighborhood, no parent, no grandchild, no grandparent should feel this fear in this community. No one. As policymakers, we will not turn away from what has happened here.“
For hours, the community was gripped with fear as police searched for the teenage suspect. As an “it’ll never happen here” community – as has been described by many citizens and city officials through the media – shock is setting in. Questions about what would drive a teenager to randomly murder members of his community for seemingly no reason.
“This is a sad and tragic day for the city of Raleigh,” said Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin. “We must stop this mindless violence in America. We must address gun violence.”
Defining mindless violence is impossible because it isn’t mindless. A tragedy like what occurred in Raleigh, Uvalde, Highland Park, and elsewhere all had a motive; intent. The suspects find answers to their problems based on extremist logic that’s found in all aspects of society today thanks in large part to the advent of social media. Thought processes that conclude absolute violence is the only way to be heard; to be noticed; to get payback.
Oftentimes, it’s a way to make those that ignored the perpetrators finally take notice. To make bullies answer for their actions with mental anguish for the rest of their lives. The intent is almost always about making others feel guilty for the way they treated radicalized young men prior to their acts of terrorism. Oftentimes, their actions are too easily blamed on mental illness instead of addressing the broader problem of radicalizing young men online.
The normalization of violence, particularly in online extremist spaces, opens the door for those who are displeased, angry, or afraid – to express radical thought using mass murder. Everyone in the United States has seen the signs. Racists, bigots, extremists, and all sorts of wack-jobs don’t even hide anymore. They don’t have to because U.S. society ignores them.
Most people instead click on social media “unfollow” buttons to ignore their cohort who could be the next mass shooter – despite how alarming their posts may be. They refuse to address the problem because they don’t want to create ripples in their relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. They fear confrontation because of how the extremist thinker might react toward them which is a small price to pay to prevent another terrorist attack.
At the end of the day, none of it is “mindless violence”. Society in the U.S. often tells on itself by exposing its inhumanity, injustice, and inequity. Normalized materialism leads people to act as if they’re superior to others. Whether it’s a student being ostracized in school for being different or impoverished or if it’s adults thinking their skin color makes them better than others, mainstream collective arrogance is almost always a driving factor behind mass shootings.
Until we as a society address the explosion of extremist thought and work to bring these people back from the fringes of society, nothing will ever change and innocent people will continue to die at the hands of very cognizant terrorists who are well aware of what they’re doing. There is nothing mindless or senseless about what keeps happening in the United States.
The real issue here is the lack of community action.
*A GoFundMe page for Officer Torres’s family has been set up here.
**Authorities have not named the suspect because he is a minor. He was identified by WRAL News.
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