Nineteen-year-old John T. Earnest, the gunman in Poway, California who shot and killed one person and attempted to shoot many more, pleaded not guilty to these crimes, as well as to setting fire to a mosque in Escondido (a crime he admitted to in an open letter posted on 8chan shortly before the shooting).
Earnest said he was inspired by the Christchurch shooter and the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, and that he was trying to defend his nation from the Jewish people and their “meticulously planned genocide of the European race.”
Once again, we hear that this young man was intelligent, athletic and had a promising future ahead of him. This is often a common theme among young people that are attracted to hate-filled ideologies.
Once again, his family seemed shocked at his acquired belief system – again, a common reaction from many families of loved ones that turn to violence based on their extremist ideologies.
There is some speculation by those who are not educated about the pull of these extremist ideologies that something must be amiss within the family, but that is not always the case. There is no single or simple reason that draws someone or would even indicate who would be drawn into these ways of thinking.
Not only does his family have the shock of losing a son, but they also have the guilt of what he has done. We often don’t think of the families of these people as victims, but they, too, are a hurt by the hatred and acts of violence that their child has committed.
At times, and particularly in retrospect, there are indicators that family members might have been be able to perceive to identify the shift in their child. Yet, more often than not, these indicators are passed off as a phase or not noticed because they are slight and there is nothing to help put them into context.
How do we to combat such radicalization?
It can only be done through education – both in the family and through programs that work closely with schools and communities. Only then can we begin to start breaking down the emotions that motivate these ideologies and begin to remove the fear and hatred that is showing up all too often in our world today.
Find out what you can do to Prevent Violent Extremism by clicking here