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California mass shooters are some of the oldest on record

Second mass shooting was likely inspired by the first, expert said

  • Star Ballroom Dance Studio shooter, 72, is oldest mass shooter in researcher’s database
  • Researcher defines public mass shootings as four or more people killed in one day
  • ‘They seem to come in clusters because other mass-shooters-in-waiting had been planning their massacre’

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University mass shooting expert Lori Post has some availability to speak to reporters this week about the latest mass shootings in California.

Referencing her database of public mass shootings that dates back to the 1960s, Post can provide insight on the murders, including the older age of the shooters; how these shootings were thoughtful and premeditated rather than snapping and killing multiple people at random; how the Lunar New Year holiday served as a prime time to commit the massacre because it was meaningful to the victims and known to the perpetrator; and why mass shootings tend to happen in clusters.   

“‘Contagion effect’ was likely at play with the Half Moon Bay shooter, meaning the first attack may have triggered the second one,” said Post, the director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “There are multiple pending mass shooters waiting months or years to commit their massacre. The second shooter may have been inspired by the first. They seem to come in clusters because other mass-shooters-in-waiting had been planning their massacre.”

Post also is a professor of emergency medicine and of medical social sciences at Feinberg. Contact Kristin Samuelson to arrange an interview. 

Some of the oldest mass shooters on record

“Seventy-two is definitely the oldest mass shooter in my particular database ranging from 1966 to 2023 of public mass shootings that happen in public in which four or more people were killed in one day,” Post said.

The Half Moon Bay shooter, aged 67, is the third-oldest mass shooter in Post’s database, she said. 

“We always have this stereotype that older people are wiser, nicer and sweeter, but you die how you lived,” Post said. “If you’re angry and bitter and want to punish those who offend you, you die like that. You’re going to make people miserable on your way out.”

Post and her colleagues have published research on the recent increase in older-adult opioid overdose death rates.

“We have to stop thinking of older people as not dangerous, sexually active or addicted to drugs. This is an angry guy who grew old.”

Timing of the shootings and the Lunar New Year

“The best way to hurt someone is to go after them on a day that’s special in a place that’s important to them,” Post said. “The first shooter came up with a place where he wanted to punish people and that would destroy a holiday. I think mass shooters are so full of hate, these are so well-thought out, and the dates they choose have meaning.”

Post has found the following to be true of ‘revenge killers,’ which she is labeling the shooters of the recent mass shootings in California: 

“They plan their killings so far in advance and they think about everything: what kind of ammunition they’ll use, what they’ll wear to the shooting, where they need to plan it to be able to kill as many people as possible, when and where they should arrive,” Post said. “They’re full of hate and anger, they feel entitled, aggrieved, and feel slights totally disproportionate to what happened. This is not a crazy person, it’s someone who overreacts to slights they perceive from other people.”