After it was reported that the El Paso mass shooter allegedly held white supremacist and xenophobic beliefs, both bad-faith actors on the right and supposedly impartial news outlets sought whether similar motivations could be attributed to Dayton, Ohio, shooter Connor Betts. A cursory look at his Twitter account showed that he did not follow a slew of right-wing personalities or retweet white nationalist memes. Instead, early reporting from CNN highlighted that Betts “retweeted extreme left-wing and anti-police posts, as well as tweets supporting Antifa.”
The CNN piece has been edited several times over the course of the last week, but for a few days prominently highlighted Betts’s apparent leftism, at one point even spouting the headline “Dayton shooter appeared to have leftist Twitter feed.” The outlet noted that Betts retweeted Elizabeth Warren and liked tweets calling the El Paso shooter a white supremacist.
On August 10, ABC News reported that Betts “demonstrated a misogyny that was far more extreme than any of his political leanings.”
Amidst the overblown hysteria over Betts supposedly supporting antifa and retweeting Bernie Sanders came a steady drip of reports that Betts was a violent man who had a hit list, rape list, and allegedly choked a girl he once dated.
From the Associated Press:
The former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to two of the classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.
“There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list,” said the female classmate.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer:
A former acquaintance said he was shocked by the emotionless way Betts once choked a girl he had dated.
Another former classmate told The Cincinnati Enquirer in an interview that Betts had threatened to kill her multiple times when they were in a school musical as seniors. But the classmate, Eva Lewis, didn’t speak up because she didn’t want to encourage his behavior even though she was on Betts’ “kill list.”
From the New York Times:
[Betts’s] threats were frightening enough that some girls altered their behavior: Try not to attract his attention, but don’t antagonize him, either.
“I remember we were all distant, like maybe we should just shy away from him,” said Shelby Emmert, 24, a former classmate. “My mom wanted me to just not associate. She said to stay away from Connor Betts.”
These findings should not be news to anyone paying attention. It is known that the biggest common denominator among mass shooters is an immense disdain toward women. Of the 20 mass shootings that occurred in 2018, 10 were prompted by domestic violence, ABC News reports. And Everytown Research notes that in more than half of all mass shootings from 2009 to 2017, the perpetrator’s victims included a domestic partner or family member.
Betts’s leftism making headlines was a cynical attempt to present the Dayton shooting as a political maneuver—an example of “look, the left does violence, too.” But of course the idea was a red herring. Betts’s gravitation toward socialism and antifa is less important than the fact that he had a long history of treating women poorly and access to guns, things research demonstrates are actually correlated with acts of mass violence. Investigators are still trying to determine Betts’s motive, but nine people, including Betts’s transgender sibling, are now dead regardless.
Domestic violence cannot only be viewed as an intimate act, an interpersonal misfortune occurring behind closed doors. Legislation may one day be passed to make it significantly more difficult to purchase weapons like the AR-15-style pistol Betts used during the attack, but until misogyny is seen as less of a personality flaw and more of a public safety issue, we shouldn’t expect such violence will stop.