Creepy

37 Mass Shooters Who Were On Antidepressants

Every time there’s a mass shooting in America it understandably starts up another “national conversation” about gun rights because, by definition, there would be no mass shootings without guns.

But since mass shootings are perpetrated by an extremely tiny minority of gun owners, many of whom don’t even own their guns legally, perhaps it’s naïve to think that gun ownership is itself the sole or even primary cause of mass shootings. Countries such as Norway, France, and Switzerland—all of which have stricter gun laws and lower per-capita gun ownership than the United States—have far higher per-capita rates of mass shootings.

When searching for other reasons for mass shootings, people blame things such as one-parent households, video games, loss of religious faith, or simply the vague sense that the nation is falling apart.

Although only 8.6% of American males are on antidepressants at any given time, they seem much better represented as a percentage of mass shooters. Here are 39 mass shooters who were either on antidepressants at the time of their rampage, had abruptly quit taking their medication when they went on their spree, or had been prescribed antidepressants at some point in the past. None of this is to imply that antidepressants make certain people go on mass shootings—just as few people with guns go on shooting sprees, so do few people on antidepressants. But it is an area that is definitely worth researching.

1.

Name: James Eagan Holmes
Age at Time of Shooting: 24
# of Casualties: 12 dead, 70 wounded
Antidepressant: Zoloft (generic)

James Eagan Holmes. (Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department)

James Eagan Holmes, AKA the “Batman Movie Killer,” shot up a movie theater in Aurora CO in July 2012 during a screening of The Dark Knight. In the weeks prior to the shooting, his psychiatrist had increased Holmes’s dosage of Zoloft. In his personal notebook, which he sent to his psychiatrist the day of his murder spree, Holmes said that along with losing his anxiety, he’d lost the fear of reprisal:

Anxiety and fear disappears. No more fear, no more fear of failure. No fear of consequences.

According to a psychiatrist who interviewed Holmes after his arrest, “I believe if he hadn’t taken the sertraline [generic name for Zoloft], he wouldn’t have murdered anyone.” In every mug shot ever taken of Holmes, he looks medicated up to his eyeballs.

2.

Name: Eric Harris
Age at Time of Shooting: 17
# of Casualties: 14 dead, 23 wounded
Antidepressant: Zoloft, Luvox

As one-half of the deadly duo known as the “Columbine Killers” who blew away 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves at a high school in Littleton, CO in in 1999, Harris had switched antidepressants from Zoloft to Luvox, which has been known to cause mania and attendant violence. The SSRI was found in his bloodstream during an autopsy.

3.

Name: Patrick Purdy
Age at Time of Shooting: 25
# of Casualties: 5 dead, 30 wounded
Antidepressant: Amitriptyline

Patrick Purdy. (California Department of Corrections)

Purdy killed five children and wounded 30 others at a schoolyard shooting spree in Stockton, CA in January, 1989, leading to a movement to ban semiautomatic assault weapons. He had been taking the antidepressant Amitryptyline as well as the antipsychotic Thorazine.

4.

Name: Seung-Hui Cho
Age at Time of Shooting: 23
# of Casualties: 32 dead, 23 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac, Paxil

In one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, Seung-Hui Cho walked onto the campus of Virginia Tech University on April 16, 2007 and murdered 32 students. He had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, and selective mutism. He had been prescribed Prozac and had previously been on Paxil for about a year, but at the time of his shooting he had ceased taking his medication.

5.

Name: Jeff Weise
Age at Time of Shooting: 16
# of Casualties: 10 dead, 12 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

Jeff Weise. (Wikimedia Commons)

Although only 16, Jeff Weise had been prescribed 60MG daily of Prozac, which is triple the average daily dose for adults. He was reportedly prescribed antidepressants after a suicide attempt. One day in 2005, he shot and killed his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend, and then 7 people at a high school in Red Lake, MN before killing himself.

6.

Name: Robert Hawkins
Age at Time of Shooting: 19
# of Casualties: 9 dead, 4 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified

Robert Hawkins had reportedly been taking antidepressants since he was six years old. One day in 2007, when he was 19 and his brain had been soaking in these drugs for most of his life, he walked into an Omaha mall and shot dead eight people and then himself. An hour before the shooting, his mother had given the local sheriff’s department his suicide note, which included the line, “I just want to take a few pieces of shit with me…just think tho, I’m gonna be fuckin famous.”

7.

Name: Andrew Engeldinger
Age at Time of Shooting: 36 (estimated)
# of Casualties: 7 dead, 2 wounded
Antidepressant: Mirtazapine, Trazodone

Andrew Engeldinger. (Bloomington, MN Police Department)

One afternoon in September 2012 at his job in Minneapolis, employee Andrew Engeldinger was informed he was being fired. He said “Oh, really?,” withdrew a Glock pistol from its holster, wounded the man who’d told him he was being let go, and murdered a manager. He then walked through the factory, methodically picking away lower-level menial labors. Police searched his house and found prescriptions for Mirtazapine and Trazodone.

8.

Name: Robert Kenneth Stewart
Age at Time of Shooting: 45
# of Casualties: 8 dead, 3 wounded
Antidepressant: Lexapro

Robert Kenneth Stewart. (Carthage, NC Police Department)

According to a police-mandated blood test taken after Robert Kenneth Stewart killed eight people at a North Carolina nursing home in 2009, he had Lexapro, Ambien, Benadryl, and Xanax in his system during the massacre. The level of Ambien was 12 times the therapeutic dose, which may explain why Stewart says he doesn’t remember the incident at all.

Name: Christopher Wood
Age at Time of Shooting: 34
# of Casualties: 5 dead
Antidepressants: Wellbutrin, Elavil, Pamelor

On an April day in 2009, Christopher Wood of Middletown, MD shot and killed his wife, their three small children, and then himself inside their house. A toxicology test revealed he’d been medicated with a staggering trio of antidepressants.

9.

Name: Steven Kazmierczak
Age at Time of Shooting: 27
# of Casualties: 6 dead, 21 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

Steven Kazmierczak. (Dekalb, IL Police Department)

Three weeks before Valentine’s Day, 2008, Steven Kazmierczak had been prescribed Proza, Ambien, and Xanax. On Valentine’s Day, he walked into Northern Illinois University and killed five people before killing himself. Autopsy results showed he still had traces of Prozac in his system. He’d told his girlfriend he had stopped taking the Prozac because it made him “feel like a zombie.”

10.

Name: Joseph T. Wesbecker
Age at Time of Shooting: 47
# of Casualties: 9 dead, 11 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

One day in 1989, after taking Prozac for a month, Joseph T. Wesbecker walked into his former Kentucky employer’s office and shot 20 workers, killing eight of them before killing himself.

11.

Name: Luke Woodham
Age at Time of Shooting: 16
# of Casualties: 3 dead, 6 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

One day in October 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham of Mississippi stabbed his grandmother to death then drove to his local high school to shoot two students and wound six others.

12.

Name: Kip Kinkel
Age at Time of Shooting: 15
# of Casualties: 4 dead, 22 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

Fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel’s “anger control classes” apparently didn’t help much. In late May of 1998, he shot both of his parents to death and then traveled with three guns to his school, where he killed two classmates and wounded 22 others. His rampage began shortly after he began taking Prozac.

13.

Name: Christopher Pittman
Age at Time of Shooting: 12
# of Casualties: 2 dead
Antidepressant: Paxil, Zoloft

Shortly after he began taking Zoloft after switching from Paxil, 12-year-old Christopher Pittman told his psychiatrist he was hearing voices that said, “Kill, kill, do it, do it.” His dosage was doubled only days before he pulled out a shotgun and killed both his grandparents.

14.

Name: Aaron Alexis
Age at Time of Shooting: 34
# of Casualties: 12 dead, 8 wounded
Antidepressant: Trazodone

Aaron Alexis. (Wikimedia Commons)

At the Navy Yard in Washington, DC on September 16, 2013, contract laborer Aaron Alexis shot and killed 12 people and wounded eight others before being shot dead by police. He had been taking Trazodone, which has been linked to mania and violent behavior.

15.

Name: Dylann Roof
Age at Time of Shooting: 21
# of Casualties: 9 dead, 1 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified

Dylann Roof. (Charleston Police Department)

White supremacist Dylann Roof made international headlines in 2015 when he attended a ceremony at a black church in Charleston, SC and shot nine churchgoers dead. Much was made of his political beliefs, while very little mention was made of the fact that he was taking antidepressants at the time of his attack.

16.

Name: Pekka-Eric Auvinen
Age at Time of Shooting: 18
# of Casualties: 9 dead, 12 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified SSRI

Pekka-Eric Auvinen had been taking an unspecified SSRI—keep in mind that not all antidepressants are SSRIs—before the day in November 2007 when he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at a high school in southern Finland before turning the gun on himself.

17.

Name: James Wilson
Age at Time of Shooting: 19
# of Casualties: 2 dead, 9 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified

James William Wilson, Jr. during his 1988 murder trial. (Wikimedia Commons)

James Wilson had been medicated with various psychiatric drugs—among them an unspecified antidepressant—before going to Oakland Elementary School in Greenwood, SC and killing young Shequila Bradley and Tequila Thomas along with injuring nine others.

18.

Name: Jason Hoffman
Age at Time of Shooting: 18
# of Casualties: 5 wounded
Antidepressants: Celexa, Effexor

While facing a sentence of 27 years to life in prison for a 2001 school shooting in El Cajon, CA that wounded five, Jason Hoffman hanged himself in his jail cell. Described as “an obviously troubled young man,” Hoffman had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting and was taking the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor.

19.

Name: Neal Furrow
Age at Time of Shooting: 37
# of Casualties: 5 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

A white supremacist who had worked as a security guard at the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho, Furrow drove from Washington State to Southern California in a Chevrolet van in August 1999 with seven guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition. He used an Uzi to shoot up a children’s playground in the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the Granada Hills section of Los Angeles. Although 250 children were playing at the time, none died and only three children and two adults were wounded.

20.

Name: Stephen Leith
Age at Time of Shooting: 39
# of Casualties: 1 dead, 2 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

Stephen Leith. (Michigan Department of Corrections)

Facing a disciplinary matter at the Michigan high school where he was a chemistry teacher, 39-year-old Stephen Leith shot the school’s superintendent to death and wounded the school’s principal and a journalism teacher. He’d been seeing a psychiatrist and taking Prozac at the time of the shooting.

21.

Name: Laurie Wasserman Dann
Age at Time of Shooting: 30
# of Casualties: 2 dead, 6 wounded
Antidepressant: Anafranil

Blood tests revealed that Laurie Wasserman Dann was taking Anafranil on May 20 1988 when she walked into an Illinois grade school and killed one child and wounded five others. Then she fled to a nearby house and wounded a young man before killing herself.

22.

Name: Matti Saari
Age at Time of Shooting: 22
# of Casualties: 11 dead, one wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified SSRI

Motivated by what he called a “hatred of mankind,” 22-year-old culinary student Matti Saari killed a teacher and nine students at a Finnish high school in September 2008 before killing himself. Handwritten notes he’d left in his dormitory indicated he’d been planning the shooting for six years. It is said that this may have been a copycat murder, as Saari had expressed admiration for fellow Finnish mass shooter Pekka-Eric Auvinen. In addition to an SSRI, Saari had also been taking Xanax, which tends to blunt the emotions.

23.

Name: Asa Coon
Age at Time of Shooting: 14
# of Casualties: 1 dead, 4 wounded
Antidepressant: Trazodone

On October 14, 2007, armed with a gun in each hand, Asa Coon stormed through the SuccessTech Academy in Cleveland, OH and wounded four before killing himself.

24.

Name: Mamoru Takuma
Age at Time of Shooting: 40
# of Casualties: 8 dead, 16 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified
A Japanese janitor who’d been imprisoned for rape prior to the shooting, Takuma killed eight people and wounded 16 others in 2001’s Osaka School Massacre. He was executed by hanging in 2004.

25.

Name: Devin Kelley
Age at Time of Shooting: 26
# of Casualties: 26 dead, 20 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified

Devin Kelley. (Texas Department of Corrections)

Prescribed psychotropic drugs almost since he was a toddler, at age 26 Devin Kelley entered a church in Texas and killed 26 people while injuring an additional 20. His oldest victim was 77; his youngest was a mere 18 months. According to a student who asked to be identified as Reid, “His parents had him on high doses of ‘psych’ meds from 6th to 9th grade, the time I knew him.”

26.

Name: Scott DeKraai
Age at Time of Shooting: 41
# of Casualties: 8 dead, 1 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified

Scott DeKraai. (Seal Beach Police Department)

In what would be the deadliest mass shooting in Orange County, CA history, Scott DeKraai—who’d been prescribed an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer—entered a hair salon and shot nine people, only one of whom survived. He’d been involved in a custody dispute with his wife, who was one of his shooting victims.

27.

Name: Myron Deshawn May
Age at Time of Shooting: 31
# of Casualties: 3 wounded
Antidepressant: Wellbutrin

Before police shot him dead at Florida State University on November 20, 2014, former honor student Myron May had been prescribed Wellbutrin for depression and Vyvanse for ADHD. Police shot him after he’d opened fire in the school’s library, wounding three.

28.

Name: Aaron Ybarra
Age at Time of Shooting: 26
# of Casualties: 1 dead, 2 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac

Yet another in a long line of school shooters, 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra blasted his shotgun at Seattle Pacific University on June 5, 2014. His plan was to kill as many people as possible before killing himself, but he was apprehended before being able to put the plan into action. Ybarra had a long history of mental health problems and was also prescribed an antipsychotic.

29.

Name: Jose Reyes
Age at Time of Shooting: 12
# of Casualties: 2 dead, 2 wounded
Antidepressant: Prozac (generic)

Only 12, Jose Reyes shot up Sparks Middle School in Nevada on October 21, 2013, killing one and wounding two others before killing himself. He’d been seeing a psychiatrist, and autopsy results revealed he had a generic version of Prozac in his system at the time of his death.

30.

Name: Alvaro Rafael Castillo
Age at Time of Shooting: 19
# of Casualties: 1 dead, 2 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified

Alvaro Rafael Castillo. (Orange County Sheriff’s Department)

Alvaro Castillo was on two separate antidepressants and one antipsychotic on the day in late August 2006 when he shot and killed his father at home and then drove to a high school and opened fire, injuring two before being tackled.

31.

Name: Toby R. Sincino
Age at Time of Shooting: 15
# of Casualties: 2 dead, 1 wounded
Antidepressant: Zoloft
In October 2005 at a high school in Blackville, SC, Toby Sincino slipped into the rear entrance and shot two teachers, killing one before killing himself. His aunt said he’d been taking Zoloft “for emotional problems.”

32.

Name: Ivan Lopez
Age at Time of Shooting: 34
# of Casualties: 4 dead, 16 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified SSRI
In 2014, Iraq War veteran Ivan Lopez opened fire at Ft. Hood, TX, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before shooting himself. The Veterans Administration confirmed he’d been taking an SSRI and Ambien at the time of the shooting.

33.

Name: Bradley Stone
Age at Time of Shooting: 35
# of Casualties: 7 dead
Antidepressant: Trazodone
Bradley Stone was yet another Iraq War veteran who’d been prescribed antidepressants and went on a rampage. In December 2015, the former Marine Corps reservist murdered his ex-wife, her mother, grandmother, and sister, the sister’s husband and his 14-year-old daughter before killing himself. In addition to the antidepressant Trazodone, he’d been found with the antipsychotic risperidone in his system at the time of his death. A week before the shooting, his psychiatrist had cleared him as having no homicidal or suicidal ideation.

34.

Name: Ali David Sonboly
Age at Time of Shooting: 18
# of Casualties: 10 dead, 27 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified
After leaving a German hospital in 2015 where he’d received psychiatric treatment for two months, Sonboly “continued to receive outpatient treatment for social anxiety disorder and depression for which he was receiving medication.” On July 22, 2016, he shot and killed 9 people and injured 27 others before shooting himself.

35.

Name: John Shick
Age at Time of Shooting: 30
# of Casualties: 1 dead, 6 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified
Described as an “exceptionally bright” man with degrees in computer science and chemistry, Shick went on a spree at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Western Psychiatric Institute in March 2012 and killed one person, injuring six others before being shot dead by police. Forty-three different prescriptions were found in his apartment, including antidepressants, sedatives, and anxiety medication

36.

Name: Richard Baumhammers
Age at Time of Shooting: 34
# of Casualties: 5 dead, 1 wounded
Antidepressant: Unspecified
A man who considered Adolf Hitler and Timothy McVeigh to be heroes, Baumhammers embarked on what was described as a “20-mile trail of blood across two counties” in Pennsylvania on April 28, 2000. Prior to the shooting, he’d been treated by a dozen different psychiatrists and prescribed 17 separate medications.

37.

Name: Michael McDermott
Age at Time of Shooting: 42
# of Casualties: 7 dead
Antidepressant: Prozac, Unspecified Others
“No one saw it coming,” said a fellow employee of the shooting spree that Michael McDermott went on at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, MA the day after Christmas in 2000. He’d been taking Prozac and other antidepressants for over a year leading up to the shooting. TC mark

Related

About the author
Read more articles from Jerome on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.