While the act of committing a mass shooting may be the statement itself, there are several communicative elements used by a perpetrator to further their point. Apart from signature articles of clothing, like the trench coat, many others have taken a more personalized approach.
On May 6, 1993, after fatally stabbing his mother and slitting the throat of her cocker spaniel, 39-year-old Mark Richard Hilbun entered the Dana Point, California post office, where he was fired from back in December, wearing a T-shirt with the word “Psycho” printed across the front. He was infatuated with co-worker Kimberly Springer and while searching for her, he shot to death a mail carrier and wounded one other employee before fleeing the building. Hilbun injured several others until he was arrested two days later in a sports bar wearing a maroon and blue Hawaiian-style shirt.
As school shootings started happening more frequently, one of them became the inspiration of disaffected youth everywhere and the standard for future comparisons. For the attack on their Littleton, Colorado school, 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold each donned customized T-shirts. Before entering Columbine High School, Harris removed his black duster near the West Entrance, exposing a white tee with “Natural Selection” across the front in black letters. Klebold’s black T-shirt that said “Wrath” in bold red lettering remained concealed under his duster of the same color until he reached the library. Together, they murdered 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide on April 20, 1999.
Jumping forward seven years, in a proclaimed copycat incident, 18-year-old Alvaro Castillo shot to death his father before wounding two others at Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina on August 30, 2006. He wore a white T-shirt with “Natural Selection” scribbled on the front in black marker and the back read “Remember Columbine” with the date and location of Eric and Dylan’s shooting, paired with a headband that said “Columbine” and “Shoot Me,” also written in marker. “Remember Columbine” was a phrase he repeated when he surrendered to the school resource officer and was placed in the patrol car.
A year later, the Social Darwinist message shared by Eric Harris manifested in the mind of an 18-year-old Jokela, Finland student, who used it to fuel his November 7th attack on humanity. Although it’s unclear whether Pekka Eric-Auvinen wore his customized black T-shirt, bearing “Humanity is Overrated” in white letters during the shooting at his school, it was featured in videos on his YouTube account, where he spoke of ridding the world of unfit humans. According to a section of the report highlighted by @radical-and-radiant, he also made another T-shirt that read “Natural Selector,” likely signifying his perceived role in the murder of seven classmates and a teacher, followed by his suicide.
Steven Kazmierczak’s T-shirt may not have been custom-made, but his choice to wear it on February 14, 2008 offered an irony that was certainly not lost on his humor. It was a black shirt with “Terrorist” printed in white, complemented by a red AK-47 graphic. The 27-year-old entered a lecture room in Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University armed without an AK-47, but he used a shotgun and Glock pistol to fire at students while on stage of the auditorium-style room before targeting others from the aisle, killing six people, including himself.
Perhaps, the clearest expression against the school institution was scrawled on the T-shirt worn by 18-year-old Georg R.: “Made in School.” Georg’s “Apocalypse Day” landed on September 17, 2009, and it involved throwing Molotov cocktails into two classrooms and attacking one student with an axe at the Gymnasium Carolinum, his school in the German city of Ansbach, Bavaria. He was incapacitated by three shots from responding police officers and taken into custody, eventually being placed in a psychiatric clinic.
On August 16, 2011, a tragedy was thwarted when 17-year-old Jared Cano was arrested for planning an attack at Freedom High School in Tampa, Florida the first day back. Investigators discovered a manifesto, detailing plans for a bombing, as well as the materials to carry it out. A homemade white T-shirt was also found with the quote, “Lessons Not Learned in Blood are Soon Forgotten” written in red marker and “War to All” on the collar. The quote is from a movie that came out that year titled Law Abiding Citizen, and it’s assumed he intended to wear the shirt during his rampage.
When 17-year-old TJ Lane entered Ohio’s Chardon High School, he left no doubt of his intention by sporting a gray long-sleeve pullover with “Killer” printed in bold black letters. He did indeed kill three students on February 27, 2012 before being arrested outside the school. Then, as a needless reminder, he exposed the same word written on his prison-issued white tee under his dress shirt at his sentencing hearing. With a smug expression plastered across his face, he made a vulgar statement to the victim’s families before he was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole.