A man who signed up for a yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida, and opened fire there in 2018 had a well-documented history of disturbing behaviour — warning signs that were missed. The shooting that left two women dead and wounded six others spotlights the growing concern posed by extremists with hatred toward women, according to a case study the US Secret Service released Tuesday.
The deep look at the killings, conducted by the Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Centre, was an effort to study how contempt for women can radicalise men and spark violent and deadly behaviour. The research is aimed at helping to train law enforcement, school and community officials to better identify potential attackers and stop them before they strike.
So-called misogynistic extremism has increased in recent years, proliferating on the internet. Though this attacker didn't have a specific label, he identified with the growing movement of men who call themselves anti-feminists, male supremacists or incels — involuntary celibates. Many recent mass shooters had a history of violence against women, officials said.
“The hatred of women requires increased attention from everyone,” said Steve Driscoll, a research specialist at the centre.
The shooter, 40-year-old Scott Paul Beierle, killed himself after opening fire at Hot Yoga Tallahassee, law enforcement officials said.
The case study stressed the importance of speaking up when someone's behavior is concerning and the need for community stakeholders — including residents, school officials, law enforcers and business owners — to have a role in helping to prevent violence.
“Over and over again, we see a tolerance for these objectively concerning behaviours,” said Dr Lina Alathari, chief of the National Threat Assessment Center. “The goal is to ID and assess behavior and to intervene. It is not about prosecution or criminalizing.”
The center is tasked with researching, training and sharing information on the prevention of targeted violence. Alathari said the Florida yoga class shooting case study, which drew on publicly available documents and details, will be used to train communities on how to better spot warning signs and intervene before violence happens.
A superficial look into Beierle's history shows a man who “pursued higher education, served in the military, and held highly regarded professional positions of trust,” the study said.
Beierle was a substitute teacher and an Eagle Scout. But his history of isolated if not disturbing incidents, when pulled together, showed red flags. He was arrested for groping women, was banned from a college campus, wrote violent songs about torturing women and posted hateful videos online. He also idolized mass killers who targeted women.
At times, his behaviour “elicited concern from parents, siblings, friends, roommates, coworkers, workplace managers, school officials, students, law enforcement, the online community, neighbours and other community members," the study said.
But those concerns were rarely elevated, and when they were they weren't taken as a whole across the community. A few people reported his actions to police. He got banned from local bars because of his treatment of women. His parents slept with their door locked and were concerned about his inappropriate touching of girls. But no one was looking at the whole picture, they said.
“What we can say is early intervention is key,” Alathari said. “This clearly demonstrates that preventing targeted violence is a whole of community approach.”