The PJ Tatler

"He seemed like a nice boy..."

The Ohio school shooter was very similar to other killers in that people overlooked the signs of violence. When it comes to school shooters, most are said to be “nice boys.” At least that is what I found in my research on school killers in my book The Scarred Heart (you can download it here without charge). Here is what some of his peers said about TJ Lane, the Ohio school shooter:

One young woman said he attended a church youth group several years ago while he was dating a girl. Many students said he was heartbroken when she broke up with him and later began dating one of the boys who was shot.

“He seemed like a nice boy,” said Anna Mullet, who met T.J. when he attended the youth group meetings.

Anthony Gracco, a junior at Chardon High School, said he and T.J. Lane played basketball together after school several years ago. He said T.J. seemed happy when he was around him.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I didn’t think he would do something like this. He wasn’t a violent kid. I’m sad about it.”.

Yet there were probably many signs that some people were aware of, but I wonder if anything much was done:

The teen had one prior case in Geauga County Juvenile court two years ago. Officials would not release information on the case. But several at the court said the family’s troubles were known to social workers in the county.

In the Scarred Heart, here is what I have to say about kids who are said to be the polite, nice boy next door:

As many readers have probably noticed, when people are interviewed about the suburban or rural killers after the fact,they say they seemed to have no problems, “they were good kids, the boy or girl next door.” I even saw a recent interview in which a friend of a serial killer kept telling the reporter that this serial killer was “such a nice guy,” aside from the fact that he was axe-murdering people. Despite Michael Carneal showing several classmates a gun days before the shooting in Paducah, Kentucky, they thought he would never have shoot anyone; “Because of the personality of Michael. He wasn’t a guy who would do it. He wasn’t a person who would do something
like this.” Michael’s own parents said prior to the shootingthat Michael was a passive, happy person who was not aggressive. That’s why these kids are portrayed as normal. But on closer inspection that facade of normality is paper-thin. It’s like the old Saturday Night Live “Shooting of Buckwheat” episode. Over and over again people who knew the killer said
“he was a nice boy, quiet and well-behaved.” But when asked if they were surprised that he shot Buckwheat, they responded “Oh, no. It’s all he ever talked about.” The Saturday Night Live sketchwriters were onto something. These kids do not strike without warning. Look beneath the surface and you will find that, all along the way, these teens have been giving signals that others ignored. What is amazing is that most adults are willing to look the other way even when
the signals are obvious.

I wonder how many warning signs the Ohio shooter displayed that were ignored?