School shooters are a kind of rampage killers who commit violence with firearms at an educational facility, such as a high school or a university. The term is to be distinguished from shootings committed by law enforcement near schools against students or intruders, such as the Kent State massacre. School shootings are one of two notable types of rampage killings, the other being workplace shootings.

School bombers are a rare kind of rampage killers who commit violence with explosives (and possibly firearms as well) at educational facilities. Rampage killers rarely attack schools with explosives, but they are not nonexistent. Examples include the Bath School bombing, the Columbine High School massacre, and recent Taliban attacks on schools that educate girls.


School Shooter

The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective, an FBI text.

School shooters commit their sprees and are "set off" for a number of different reasons. One can be that they have recently gone through a very emotional romantic breakup. Another can be an academic failure. Sometimes, school shooters might be inspired by more recent school shootings. They might also have suffered a lot of bullying. Some personal traits listed by the FBI in their text The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective are:
  • Almost always male, with few exceptions
  • Almost always Caucasian (in America and Caucasian dominate countries)
  • Easily frustrated
  • Poor coping skills
  • Study and talks about violent subjects
  • Show interest in the military
  • Signs of depression
  • A lack of trust towards people
  • They might lose interest in activities they were previously very involved with
  • They might be narcissistic and have a high sense of self-importance, sometimes to mask feelings of unworthiness or insecurity, and feel entitled to special treatment.
  • They might have feelings of alienation, isolation, sadness and/or loneliness.
  • They might have difficult relationships with their parents who accept their unusual behavior and aren't intimate.
  • The student has access to weapons, often owned by the family.
  • Bullied by others. 84% of school attackers reported being bullied and persecuted by others, even those that committed suicide or was killed on the scene left evidence behind of past bullying.

Modus Operandi

As with most rampage killers, school shooters, by definition, use firearms during their massacres, though extremely rare exceptions, such as the Cologne school massacre, which involved a flamethrower, do exist. Some of them, such as the Columbine shooters, may also use homemade or easily accessible explosives (although half of their bombs failed to detonate, including the two propane bombs planted in the cafeteria). The deadliest school massacre in American history, the Bath School bombing, used explosives instead of guns, though Andrew Kehoe, the bomber, fired a Winchester rifle in the back seat of his truck to detonate dynamite.

Half of school shooters commit suicide once their rampages are finished or they cannot continue due to law enforcement presence, being subdued by students and/or staff, or if they surrender. Those that are taken into custody are usually talked down by law enforcement or people at the school.


  1. Traumatized - They come from broken homes, suffered physical and/or sexual abuse, has at least one parent dealing with substance abuse, and at least one parent with a criminal record.
  2. Psychotic - They come from intact families with no history of abuse; have no parental substance abuse or incarceration; and exhibited symptoms of either schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder, including paranoid delusions, delusions of grandeur, and auditory hallucinations.
  3. Psychopathic - They come from intact families with no history of substance abuse or significant family dysfunction; and demonstrate narcissism, a lack of empathy, a lack of conscience, and sadistic behavior.

On Criminal Minds

  • Season One:
    • Cally's Tribe ("The Tribe"): In a delusional attempt to instigate an apocalyptic race war, six of Jackson Cally's followers attempted to commit a massacre at a Native American school with an arsenal of stolen shotguns, but they were stopped by Aaron Hotchner and John Blackwolf in a fight that left two of the followers dead, three incapacitated, and the sixth surrendering.
  • Season Seven:
    • Randy Slade ("Painless"): On October 12, 2001, Slade arrived at the cafeteria of his school, North Valley High, and fired four shots from a pistol, proceeding to take everyone present hostage. Killing three of his hostages by execution-style shooting, presumably injuring another and taunting other students, Slade then screamed, "I am God!" and detonated a SEMTEX bomb using his cell phone, committing suicide and killing ten more students and wounding dozens of others.
  • Season Ten:
    • James Burke ("Hero Worship"): As part of a retaliation scheme against the city of Indianapolis for firing him from the school board, Burke set a TNT bomb at an elementary school. The bomb detonated, claiming the life of a school custodian despite Burke's intention to not kill anyone at the school.
  • Season Eleven:
    • Michael Peterson ("Tribute"): In an attempt to emulate the M.O. of mass murderer Richard Speck, Michael took three girls hostage at Mason Hall, a sorority dorm in Northeast State University, and killed one of them by shooting her in the head with a .44 revolver. He then tried to kill the other two, firing another shot in the process, before being confronted and killed by the BAU.

Injustice Collectors

"Injustice collectors" are a type of school shooter who are motivated by an intent to avenge perceived wrongdoings, as profiled by the BAU. In the show, injustice collectors do not actually attack a school directly, instead going after specific targets outside of the institutions.

  • Season Three:
  • Season Seven:
    • Robert Adams ("Painless"): Robert was a survivor of the 2001 North Valley High School massacre (see above) and the only one to look the gunman Randy Slade in the eye without being shot. On the tenth anniversary of the massacre, he began targeting other, more popularized survivors as a means to get attention when his act of bravery during the massacre went unnoticed, thus enraging him.
    • Chris Shelton ("Self-Fulfilling Prophecy"): After his son committed suicide after being bullied by his classmates at a military academy, Chris killed the five students who bullied him the most in a mass hanging.
  • Season Nine:
    • Ronald James Underwood ("Bully"): Underwood began targeting bullies and irresponsible adults whose actions contributed to the suicide of a friend of his during high school.
    • Sheila Harrison ("What Happens in Mecklinburg"): Hoping to avenge the rape of her sister, who then slipped into a coma, Sheila abducted people whom she held responsible for the attack, including two of her sister's actual rapists. Holding them captive, she tortured them through various methods.
  • Season Twelve:

Real World


  • The deadliest school shooting in modern history was the Beslan massacre, which began on September 1, 2004 and ended violently two days later. In the incident, 32 armed separatist militants from the Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion took over 1,100 people inside School Number One, a.k.a. SNO, hostage; 777 of those hostages were children. Their leader, Chechen separatist warlord Shamil Basayev demanded the recognition of Chechnya's independence from Russia as well as Russia's withdrawal from the country. On the third day of the crisis, heavily-armed Russian security forces breached the building and engaged the militants, leaving all but one of them dead along with 334 hostages, including 186 children. Ten other civilians and at least ten special forces members were also killed in the course of the attack. An estimated 783 others were wounded. The sole surviving militant was captured and incarcerated. The incident prompted a heavy focus on Russian security and politics, including the consolidation of power in the Kremlin and the strengthening of the Russian President's powers.
  • The earliest known U.S. school shooting was the Pontiac's Rebellion school massacre, in which four Lenape Native Americans attacked a schoolhouse located at what is now Greencastle, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1764. Schoolmaster Enoch Brown and nine or ten children (sources vary between these numbers) were killed in the massacre, with only three children surviving. A park and memorial dedicated to the victims, called Enoch Brown Park, were constructed to commemorate the tragedy.
  • The youngest known school shooter in modern history was Dedric Darnell Owens, who was six years old at the time of the shooting. On February 29, 2000, he brought a .32-caliber handgun and a knife to Buell Elementary School and fatally shot classmate Kayla Rolland after telling her, "I don't like you." Because he was one year too young to be found guilty of a felony, he was not convicted for the crime. A man living with Owens, on the other hand, was charged with involuntary manslaughter for leaving the gun within reach for Owens and served two and a half years in prison.