One of the takeaways from the 2019 documentary Don’t F*** With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer is the connection between violence toward animals and violence toward humans.
The 30-year-old who killed college student Jun Lin previously announced himself to the world with a series of videos in which he killed cats and kittens, then led online groupies on a years-long goose chase, parceling out crumbs of information to keep them interested until he finally “graduated” to humans and murdered Lin.
If police had taken the cat-killing videos more seriously, some of the documentary’s subjects believed, detectives could have caught the killer before he set his sights on a person. Of course, this blog’s position is that animal life has intrinsic value and animal abuse should be investigated for its own sake, but if police are more motivated out of fear that animal abusers could commit violent crimes against people, that helps cats and other animals too.
Now we’ve learned that the 18-year-old gunman responsible for the Texas school shooting and the 18-year-old who gunned down 10 people in a Buffalo, NY, supermarket were both cat killers before they were murderers of human beings. The former murdered 21 people, including 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 while the latter took the lives of 10 people, all black, in a hate-motivated massacre on May 14.
The Texas shooter filmed himself grinning while holding “a bag of blood-soaked dead cats,” the New York Post reported on Sunday. David Trevino Jr., who knew the shooter, said he was “known for hurting cats.”
“He liked hurting animals,” Trevino told the Post. “I’m told he killed the cats and carried around the bag of bodies for s–ts and giggles The video shows he was not right in the head. He’s not all there. The video raises all sorts of red flags.”
The Buffalo murderer told online acquaintances he’d beheaded a cat, and wrote about it in a journal as well. Like the Texas shooter, his animal abuse wasn’t a secret. His mother knew, and gave him a box to bury the dead animal.
The shooters both fit the profile of animal abusers who move on to hurting people: Most animal abusers are men younger than 30, according to the Humane Society, and studies have found men who abuse cats often target them as an emotional proxy for women. More than 70 percent of women who have companion animals and were in an abusive relationship reported their significant others harming their pets.
Classmates of the Texas shooter described him as “eerie,” “scary” and quick to lose his temper. He was known for physically threatening girls and women, and for harassing them online. One classmate, 17-year-old Keanna Baxter, said he got “super violent” when he dated her friend.
“He was overall just aggressive, like violent,” Baxter said. “He would try and fight women. He would try and fight anyone who told him no — if he didn’t get his way, he’d go crazy. He was especially violent towards women.”
The Texas shooter spent a lot of time creeping on women on social media and in group chat services, which brings us full circle back to Don’t F*** With Cats. In a conversation with a teenage girl on group video chat app Yubo, he told her he “wanted his name out there” like the deranged killer at the center of that documentary.
The shooter, who lurked in group chats uninvited, also showed off the guns he bought after he turned 18 on May 16.
“He would be active every day and join our lives, repeating girls’ names until they paid attention to him,” the girl said.
Although the blame game begins while the bodies of the victims are still warm, as shrieking heads speculate on cable news, no one ever talks about the obvious and uncomfortable truth, which is that these disaffected young loners desperately want to show people they’re important, that they matter.
If they can’t find fame, infamy is a second prize they’re happy to embrace, and they’re motivated in part by the notoriety that previous members of their grim brotherhood “achieved” by massacring fellow human beings.
Major media figures aren’t merely willing to grant that wish. They’re wholeheartedly, enthusiastically in on it, filling hours of airtime looping the same short bits of footage, breathlessly reporting every nugget of information, and holding court over panels of “experts” who are happy to speculate on motivations regardless of how little they know. They blame video games, society, the lack of nuclear families, the lack of male role models, white supremacy, bullying, guns — everything but their own role in turning the killers into household names.
After all, almost everyone who was alive in 1999 can name the two trenchcoated murderers who perpetrated the Columbine massacre, back when things like that still shocked the country. But how many of us can name a single one of the 13 victims?
That’s why I won’t name the killers on this blog. It’s just one blog, in one small corner of the internet, and it won’t make a difference. But if everyone stopped naming them, stopped making them household names and the stars of obsessive crime porn, stopped turning them into objects of fascination whose faces are plastered on magazine covers like rock stars, maybe it would change things.
If would-be killers knew infamy was off the table, that if they survive they’ll remain anonymous nobodies without prison groupies begging for face time, journalists begging for interviews, and grief vampires discussing them for years in “true crime” books and on podcasts, would they go through with it?