From “Is racism at heart of Connecticut shooting? Answer still unclear.” By Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 2010. [The day after Thornton's rampage.]
Reports indicate that, to Thornton at least, race was an issue at Hartford Distributors. He told friends and relatives that coworkers had scrawled racist epithets on a bathroom wall and a hung a stick-figure effigy in a miniature noose.Note regarding the apparent conflict between title and story: Titles are decided by editors, not reporters.
But criminologist Daniel Kennedy suggests that race is often not the root cause of workplace shootings – even when it is part of the suspect’s real or perceived grievances.
“This is far more complicated than an individual claiming a racial basis for all his problems,” says Mr. Kennedy, an emeritus professor of criminology at the University of Detroit Mercy. “Even if true, this response is far disproportionate to any slight, which leads you to look more at the internal structure of this guy’s thinking than leads you to look at any negative aspects of the organization.…”
Although the US has seen a spate of mass killings in the past two years, workplace homicides have slid during the past decade, falling by more than half since the 1990s – from 1,080 in 1994 to 517 in 2008, according to BLS.
“It’s important to note that workplace violence is rare, and we’re talking about it because it is unusual,” says Tod Burke, a criminologist at Radford University in Virginia.
While Thornton may or may not have had a legitimate complaint about racial harassment in the workplace, other facts, including that he committed suicide, point to a more standard profile of a workplace shooter, says Kennedy, the criminologist.
“People who do these kinds of things don’t wake up that morning and decide to do it,” he says. “They tend to be grievance collectors who remember every slight and … they tend to externalize blame. Whatever happens is not their fault, and they tend to perceive a profound sense of injustice.