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FBI reviewing Ohio gunman’s interest in violent ideology

Federal investigators will try to determine what ideologies influenced 24-year-old Connor Betts to carry out the shooting which killed nine people.

Connor Betts was shot dead by police (Dayton Police Department via AP)
Connor Betts was shot dead by police (Dayton Police Department via AP)

The gunman who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, had expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting and showed an interest in violent ideology, investigators have said.

Federal investigators will try to determine what ideologies influenced 24-year-old Connor Betts, who might have helped him or knew in advance of his plan, and why he chose the specific target of Dayton’s Oregon entertainment district for the shooting.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Betts had “violent ideations that include mass shootings and had expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting”.

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The firearm used by Connor Betts is projected on a screen during a press conference (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Special Agent Todd Wickerham, the head of the FBI’s Cincinnati field office, said Betts had not been on the FBI’s radar. He declined to discuss what specific ideologies might be linked to Betts’ actions but said there was no evidence so far that they were racially motivated.

Meanwhile, public conversation around the shooting shifted towards how to address people with mental health issues who might pose a threat of violence, as a woman who briefly dated the gunman recounted their bonding over struggles with mental illness and the governor called for more mental health support along with gun safety measures.

Investigators have not publicly offered a motive for why Betts, wearing a mask and body armour, opened fire with an AR-15 style gun outside a strip of nightclubs in Dayton early on Sunday, killing his sister and eight others before officers shot him dead less than 30 seconds into his rampage.

A woman who said she briefly dated him earlier this year wrote in an online essay that Betts had “dark thoughts” including about wanting to hurt people. Adelia Johnson, 24, said they met in a college psychology class and bonded over dealing with mental illness, which she said allowed Betts to open up to her.

Johnson said she was in treatment but that Betts “didn’t want to seek help because of the stigma”. He told her he thought he had mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, she said.

“When he started joking about his dark thoughts, I understood,” she wrote. “Dark thoughts for someone with a mental illness are just a symptom that we have to learn how to manage.”

Johnson said on their first date, Betts showed her a video of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. She said Betts had “uncontrollable urges” that she called “red flags” which eventually led her to call things off in May. When she broke up with him, she said she reached out to his mother to express her concern.

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Mourners embrace near a makeshift memorial near the scene of the shooting (AP)

It’s unknown whether any of the Dayton victims were targeted. Besides Betts’ sister Megan, 22, the others who died were Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36.

Betts was white and six of the nine killed were black, but police said the speed of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely.

Hospital officials said 37 people have been treated for injuries, including 14 with gunshot wounds.

The shooting and another mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, over the weekend left 31 people dead and more than 50 injured in less than 24 hours.

PA

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