POLITICS

Columbine resurfaces: referenced on site linked to dead suspect in Halifax

02/17/2015 06:03 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - After almost 16 years, the notorious slaying of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado continues to make its way into the news, surfacing this month when images of it were found on a website believed linked to the deceased suspect in the alleged plot to open fire at a Halifax shopping mall on Valentine's Day.

Christopher Ferguson, a behavioural psychologist at Stetson University in the United States who has researched mass killings, said there are those who worship the Columbine shooters _ students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris _ as though they are rock stars. The pair killed themselves after their rampage.

Columbiners are members of an online community who share information and post content related to the notorious massacre.

"Columbine was really the first mass shooting to kind of get this international press attention," he said, adding that there are some shooters who revere Klebold and Harris, mentioning them in their own plans.

"Sometimes they may even make statements that they want to beat the body count of these other previous mass shooters and so on."

"A good example was the Virginia Tech shooter from 2007 who also seemed to in some ways idolize the Columbine shooters," he said.

But Ferguson cautioned that the Columbine massacre isn't what motivates mass shooters, saying such people "got to where they were in terms of their mental health status ... through things that had nothing to do with Columbine."

In Halifax Tuesday, 23-year-old Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath of Geneva, Ill., and 20-year-old Randall Steven Shepherd made a brief court appearance. They face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit arson, illegal possession of weapons for a purpose dangerous to the public and making a threat through social media.

The Crown alleges the offences took place between Jan. 6 and Valentine's Day and were carried out in concert with James Lee Gamble, a 19-year-old man found dead in his Halifax home.

A blog on the social networking site Tumblr that is thought to be linked to the deceased man features pictures of weapons, Nazi symbols and images relating to the Columbine school shooting.

Matt DeLisi, a professor of sociology at Iowa State University, said Columbine stands out in history because of the way it unfolded on TV.

"(I remember) just how vivid video was of the kids, the glass being broken, basically hanging out of the window trying to escape the shooting," he said, adding that he was living in Colorado at the time. "The severity of the violence and the number of kids that were shot, that's what really stuck with me."

In addition to those slain, more than 20 people were wounded.

DeLisi added that the fact that Klebold and Harris appeared to be from affluent homes also resonated with a lot of people.

"(People) were wondering why would you be so angst-ridden, how could you perpetrate this crime?," he said.

DeLisi, who researches homicide offenders, said people with antisocial personality disorder may gravitate towards darker content on the web.

— By Clare Clancy in Regina