A new tragic killing in the United States on October 1oth and once again media coverage sadly highlights items that put subcultures in a bad light. Asa Coon came from a troubled background, faced a life of being bullied, managed to get hold of guns and had been previously been in trouble for violence. Also in a predominately black school he adopted "goth" clothes and liked Marilyn Manson, being nicknamed Jack Black by other pupils said: “He was chubby and short, and he was the only kid in school who dressed like a Goth.”
Guess which element of his background was focused on by some media reports.
On October 12th the highest selling newspaper in the UK The Sun ran this for example:
Gun boy: My god is Marilyn | The Sun |HomePage|News: "A BOY of 14 wounded two schoolmates and two teachers in a gun rampage after boasting he did not believe in God – but instead worshipped rocker Marilyn Manson. Loner Asa Coon – who opened fire with two revolvers at his school before killing himself on Wednesday – had a history of mental problems, US police said yesterday. Days earlier he was suspended for fighting fellow youngsters who objected to his God comments. Doneisha LeVert, 14, said: “He threatened to blow up our school.” Coon, who wore a goth trenchcoat and dog collar, sneaked his weapons past metal detectors at the SuccessTech Academy in Cleveland, Ohio."
Covering it the day before The Sun noted:
"Witnesses described him as a goth with white make-up and black nails – and told how he had chillingly warned his classmates “I’ve got something for you”."
Reinforced from this is the idea that goths are loner killers and the coverage typically focused on this rather than answering questions like how did Coon get hold of guns, why was he obsessed with weapons, how did he get into the school or why did the school not listen to warnings from other people about him? For example better reports noted:"A court magistrate ordered psychological testing and family therapy for Coon after he slapped his mother in 2006, but Coon was not cooperative; he eventually was placed in an interim shelter, where he attempted suicide." This is the real story that some papers have focused on.
Student was 'tormented,' volunteer says
Louisville Courier-Journal, KY -
CLEVELAND — Fourteen-year-old Asa H. Coon took abuse, gave abuse, exchanged curses with his mother and said he chose to worship shock rocker Marilyn Manson instead of God. He was the subject of a neglect case when he was 4, and he often went to school looking a mess.
None of that explains why he walked a hallway of his school Wednesday with two guns and started shooting, wounding two students and two teachers before killing himself.
"This kid finally broke," Christina Burns, who volunteered at a school Coon previously attended, said yesterday. "He finally lost his mind."
Coon had been on suspension for a Monday fight when he somehow got into the SuccessTech Academy alternative school. His fellow students said his threats to hurt students last week went unheeded by school officials.
Burns said Coon was intelligent but struggled with school work, unable to focus. He had mood swings, she said. "There was days he was sociable, days where he was shut down, closed in, hated the world," Burns said.
Burns witnessed Coon's troubles with fellow students. She also remembered verbal abuse over his shabby, at times unclean, appearance.
"They picked on him," Burns said. "He didn't have decent clothing. He didn't have decent shoes. He had problems. The other children played on that and tormented him at school."
"Everybody's making him out to be a devil, a demon,' she said, "but nobody knows what was going on with this kid."
Despite 26 security cameras, officials couldn't say yesterday how Coon was able to get into the SuccessTech Academy alternative school. Coon was a new student at the school, but the district has a dossier on past problems. He had mental-health problems, spent time in two juvenile facilities and was suspended from school last year for attempting to harm a student, according to juvenile court records.
The school of about 240 students has metal detectors but none were operating Wednesday. Students said the devices were used only intermittently."
An expert on school shootings highlighted in an interview the real problems to watch for:
"DR. STEVEN PITT, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: To be sure, Anderson, there are red flags to look like things like depression and anger and familiarity with weapons and fascination with the military. Those are all red flags. But there's an art to this, as much as there is a science. I mean, we can go to schools all around the country and lots of people have those very same characteristics... since Columbine, there has been a real emphasis and a real looking at schools where bullying is taking place. Make no mistake about it. Bullying was underreported at Columbine. I think schools have taken a much more aggressive look at the effect that bullying has on youths and as it relates to their acting out behavior."In the 16 other school related killings in the USA this year no "goths" were involved, though the other killings did often involve people who had been bullied or alienated, had histories of violence and all got access to firearms. Did reports on these other murders discuss the musical preferences of those involved?
Take for example Tyler Peterson, on Octber 7th at an off-campus party, the 20-year-old full-time deputy in the Sheriff's Department, who was also a part-time officer at the Crandon Police Department, murdered six people students and recent graduates of Crandon High School (ages 14 to 20) after a dispute then committed suicide by multiple gunshots. Peterson, unlike Asa Coon, actually killed people but we don't know what type of clothes he wore besides a police uniform or the music he listened to.