A graduate student at the University of Idaho was fatally shot on Monday night by a professor with whom she'd had a relationship. He later committed suicide.
According to KTVB, 22-year-old Katy Benoit was baking cookies with her roommates in the small town of Moscow, Idaho when she stepped outside to smoke. Her roommates heard shots, and rushed to find Benoit lying on the ground. She was dead by the time police arrived. Her roommates didn't see former psychology professor Ernesto Bustamante, but they suspected him. He and Benoit had been in a relationship that had "deteriorated" in March, and in June she had filed a complaint against him that resulted in his losing his job. He had apparently resigned effective August 19, just days before the shooting. Benoit had told her roommates that he had threatened her with a gun multiple times previously, and even put it in her mouth.
Police tracked Bustamante down to a hotel room, where they found him dead on the bed, apparently having shot himself. According to a police report, a friend and former girlfriend said that Bustamante had kept several guns in his home — another friend "confirmed that Bustamante had multiple handguns and multiple personality disorders to include one Bustamante calls a 'psychopathic killer' and one Bustamante calls 'the beast.'" Early reviews on RateMyProfessors.com describe Bustamante as charismatic and engaged — one from 2009 says he "definitely has a sense of humor, and is very friendly/easily approachable." One from this July, however, paints a different picture:
[W]alking the line between genius and insanity. He's totally nuts but knows his sh*t. He is easily distracted and can drone on about one subject forever. When I took the class it was pretty easy and I learned a lot but I've heard it's sometimes really hard depending on his mood.
It's unclear how much the university knew about Bustamante's apparent psychological problems. In a statement, her family said,
After receiving threats and intimidation from Bustamante, we believed Katy had obtained a restraining order, changed addresses and filed a complaint with the University of Idaho. Our family had grave concerns when we learned that the University of Idaho had received dozens of complaints from other students about Bustamante, and that, from what we understood, Katy was the only one willing to sign her name to a complaint. We hope that the University of Idaho will be forthcoming in disclosing everything that went on this past summer in response to Bustamante's behavior toward Katy and others, including the university's involvement.
The AP couldn't confirm the existence of a restraining order, and it's not obvious how much local police were involved, if at all, before the shooting happened. What is obvious is that many people close to Bustamante and Benoit — including Benoit herself — knew that Bustamante was dangerous. The case raises questions about how universities in general and the University of Idaho in particular handle complaints and protect their students. And more than anything, the fact that no one was able to stop a man who kept multiple guns and called himself a "psychopathic killer" from killing a woman who was pretty clearly a target reveals how bad we sometimes are at protecting the people who need it most.