Some tragedies seem to come out of nowhere, but it’s often likely that there were clues before the fact. The recent theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. is a great example. Deranged killer James Holmes actually sent a package to his school psychiatrist that detailed his plans before he executed them. It sat in the mailroom for over a week, and its warning didn’t come in time to save any lives. In this gallery, we’ll share 10 hideous atrocities that could have been prevented if people had just heeded the warning signs.
Luka Magnotta, 2012
One of the most common warning signs for murderers is animal abuse. Many serial killers and mass murderers took the lives of pets as children. For Canadian cannibal Luka Magnotta, the brutal torture of two kittens, which he posted videos of on the Internet, should have put him on a serious watch list. Unfortunately, the troubled gay-porn star then escalated things to the next level, abducting a Chinese exchange student and murdering him, mailing some of his body parts to political figures and posting gruesome video of the torture on the Internet. If authorities had taken his earlier videos more seriously, Magnotta would never have been free to move on to taking human lives.
Columbine Massacre, 1999
The school shooting in Columbine, Colo. freaked out parents around the country, as trenchcoated outcasts Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into their high school armed to the teeth, murdering 13 people before taking their own lives. But if parents and administrators had paid closer attention to the boys’ extracurricular activities, it’s possible that the massacre could have been prevented. Harris actually had a website on AOL that contained multiple violent threats toward other students, as well as descriptions of pipe bombs and an inventory of the firearms he had available. After Harris and Klebold were arrested for stealing some tools, Harris took the incriminating site down, but anybody who had read it had to have known they were up to something.
Gota Tsutsui, 2011
Here’s another tragic situation where police didn't act upon their knowledge of a troubled individual who was obsessed with a target and capable of violence. Japanese man Gota Tsutsui had been pulled in by cops multiple times for stalking a young woman, but the victims were told that the police had “more important” cases to pursue and they could do nothing about the obviously deranged stalker. The more important cases turned out to be 12 officers taking a three-day vacation to Hokkaido. All the better for him, as he proceeded to track down and murder the girl’s mother and grandmother, stabbing them brutally in their minivan. A textbook case of police ignoring warning signs that cost innocent lives.
Brandon McInerney, 2008
How much more warning do you need to have than somebody saying “I’m going to kill you”? For Oxnard school officials, apparently more than that. Larry King was an openly gay student at E.O. Green Junior High School, which is already pretty tough, but then he was shot twice, execution-style, in the back of the head by a fellow classmate, Brandon McInerney. McInerney, a burly white supremacist, had a previous run-in with King, who mocked him for his homophobia, and the day before the shooting told numerous people that they would “never see King again.” McInerney stated flatly and calmly that he was going to kill the other boy the next day. No administrators intervened or even spoke to McInerney in the ensuing time period, allowing him to commit murder with ease.
Munich Olympics, 1972
One of the most hideous blots on the history of the Olympics came in 1972, when members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September kidnapped and murdered members of the Israeli Olympic team. The kidnappers wanted the release of 236 prisoners held in Israeli jails, and when they didn’t get their wish, they killed 11 athletes and coaches. The worst thing about the whole event was that it was completely preventable. Just weeks before the massacre, German intelligence authorities received a tip from an informant that the Palestinians were preparing for an “incident” at the Games, but no police or intelligence agencies ever followed up on it, instead covering up the information after the tragedy happened.
Akihabara Massacre, 2008
Japan’s insular culture has spawned a number of horrific outbursts of violence. One of the most notorious came in 2008, when Tomohiro Kato rented a two-ton box truck and plowed it into a crowd of shoppers in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Kato then jumped out of the truck and pulled a knife, stabbing and slashing wildly at the panicked crowd. He was taken down by police without harming him. After his arrest, it was revealed that Kato had sent multiple warnings into the world via the Internet, sending messages to a website saying “I will kill people in Akihabara” and referencing the mass murder spree of Masahiro Kanagawa earlier in the year. He even stated that he posted the messages in the hopes that the police would see them and stop him before he committed his crime.
Fort Hood Shooting, 2009
The worst shooting ever to take place on an American military base, Nidal Malik Hassan walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center and shot 42 people for radical Islam to shock the world. But the U.S. shouldn’t really have been shocked, as the FBI had conducted a preliminary investigation into Hassan that revealed he had been in communication with Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Alwaki where he was told that “fighting against the U.S. army is an Islamic duty.” Bizarrely enough, the FBI cleared him of any suspicion a year before that. Not to support profiling, but a closer eye on Hassan’s activities could have prevented the carnage.
Joseph Weisbacker, 1989
The office environment can create some incredible hostility, and a number of workplace shootings have shocked the nation. After the fact, survivors often say they saw it coming, as in the case of Joseph Weisbacker. A pressman for Standard Gravure in Louisville, Ky., Weisbacker had been put on disability leave as a result of his mental illness, and was very vocal in his displeasure with the company. He had threatened to “kill a bunch of people” on more than one occasion, and told other workers when he was leaving that he was going to come back and “wipe out the place.” One survivor said that Weisbacker spoke incessantly of killing the company’s executives for over a year, and in 1989 he came into the plant and killed eight people with a variety of weapons before killing himself.
T.J Lane, 2012
Here’s another school shooting where the perpetrator made his intentions known before he ever pulled a trigger. Ohio teenager T.J. Lane walked into Chardon High School outside of Cleveland in February of 2012 wearing a t-shirt that said “Killer,” and opened fire in the cafeteria, killing three and wounding two. But if people had been paying attention to Lane's Facebook page, they might have kept a closer eye on the quiet, seemingly normal young man. In December of the previous year, Lane wrote an epic post on his Facebook page that detailed murder fantasies against the “selfish and conceited,” ending the missive with “Die, all of you.”
Next: Missing People Survival Stories
Mark Essex, 1972
Mark Robert Essex had a pretty rough life. After being subjected to racial abuse in the U.S. Navy, he went AWOL and was given a general discharge. He moved to New Orleans, where he had several run-ins with the cops. In December of 1972, Essex delivered a note to TV station WWL that said he was going to attack the downtown New Orleans police department at 11 p.m. on December 31. The letter went unopened, the warning went unheeded, and Essex proceeded to embark on a rampage that left two policemen dead. On the run, Essex proceeded to kill several other people before being brought down a week later by police sharpshooters while he was holed up on the top floor of a Holiday Inn.