The man who over the weekend allegedly killed 20 people and injured 26 others at a busy Walmart store in Texas in the US lacked empathy for families and wanted to demonstrate his potency, according to Professor Gillian Eagle of the Wits University school of human and community development.
In one of the many incidents of violence to trouble the US – the second fatal shooting in less than a week at Walmart – the gunman armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, mowed down his victims, leaving a note rallying against “the His-panic invasion of Texas”.
Asked what went on in the mind of mass killers, Eagle said, “The shooting was impersonal and driven by rage at a particular race group.
“Remember that it is difficult to target someone that you know. The judgment of people who do things like this, shows no sense of weighing up the impact on harm that could be caused to people.
“He chose people who were helpless and could not defend themselves. The note he left behind shows that he could have grown up in a home and community where racism was condoned.”
Eagle said the main difference between the US, South Africa and other countries, was that the American system of gun ownership, provided for “no checks and balances on who can legally obtain a weapon”.
“As seen in the latest Texas incident, someone with hatred and bitterness, had easier access to something lethal. The incident also shows that this shooting is different compared to a mass killing at a school or workplace, where someone may harbour a grudge,” explained Eagle.
On whether intentional killers could be rehabilitated, Eagle said: “An engagement with families of people he has killed or harmed, can go a long way towards sobering up to what he has done. But in this instance, you have to assess whether he wants to change his attitude. It will take him a long time to shift his mindset.
“Families of the dead certainly need trauma counselling to cope with the horror of loss of relatives and friends. If the perpetrator is found guilty and punished, that will go a long way to help with traumatic bereavement, demonstrating that the world still has justice. But this incident will leave them fearful forever.”
Eagle believes the victims and their families will continue to feel marginalised in the US where there are signs of anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican prejudices driven by the Donald Trump administration.