Tag: Don’t F*ck With Cats

Uvalde And Buffalo Mass Shooters Both Had History Of Killing Cats

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.

brown tabby cat lying down on gray bed sheet
Credit: Mark Burnett/Pexels

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.

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone was widely condemned for putting one of the Boston marathon bombers on its cover as if he were a rock star, but the issue was its best selling of the year.

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?

My Thoughts On ‘Don’t F*ck With Cats’

I finally got around to watching Netflix’s Don’t F*ck With Cats, a documentary about the effort to track down a narcissistic killer whose victims included several kittens, an adult cat and finally a Chinese-Canadian engineering student.

If you’re not familiar with the three-part documentary, here’s the short version: A man uploaded sadistic videos of himself torturing and killing cats, prompting a group of online vigilantes to conduct their own investigation and offer the information to police, who promptly ignored all of it.

The cat killer taunted the horrified netizens for two years, vowing to continue taking life and leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow each time he killed more kittens, until finally someone found the headless, limbless torso of his first human victim in a garbage dumpster in Ontario.

The murderer had arranged to meet another man he’d met on Craigslist, then filmed himself killing the incapacitated man just like he’d filmed himself killing kittens. The video appeared online shortly after the murder.

The police, who couldn’t be bothered when it was “just” cats, suddenly got really interested. The killer fled to Paris — where he became the subject of an international manhunt and media circus — then to Berlin. He stopped in an internet cafe to Google stories about himself,  but the cafe’s clerk recognized him and called the police. He was taken into custody without incident, then promptly extradited back to Canada for trial.

The police don’t exactly cover themselves in glory with this case. Not only did they fail to act on information from concerned tipsters, they were either unaware or uninterested in the statistical correlation between people who kill animals for pleasure “graduating” to human victims once killing animals loses its thrill.

junlin3
Jun Lin, 33, the victim of the cat killer.

They had a man in their jurisdiction torturing and killing cats, capturing the horrific deeds on camera and regularly uploading new videos. They failed to act.

The thing is, animal life has intrinsic value. We delude ourselves into believing that because the voiceless — human and animal — can’t express their suffering,  it doesn’t exist. The police should have acted when the killer’s victims were “just” cats for the sake of the cats, and not only because animal abusers often move on to harming human beings.

Canadian police culture

It was also surprising to see how deferential and naïve the Canadian investigators seemed in comparison to their American counterparts. At various turns they failed to preserve evidence, missed important clues and underestimated the killer. In one scene an investigator casually mentions the discovery of a dead puppy in the same trash the human torso was found, failing to connect the dots despite the many warnings her agency had received.

When Canadian police finally got the killer into custody they handled him with kid gloves, allowing him to play the part of scared little boy who didn’t know what he was doing rather than what he was: A calculating 32-year-old man who clearly enjoyed inflicting suffering on people and animals, playing to his captive audience of several thousand people on Facebook as he led them on a scavenger hunt.

The killer routinely interrupted police interviews, shrugged off difficult questions by complaining that he was tired, and tried to buy time for himself to think by asking for things like warmer clothing, cigarettes and beverages.

In short, they allowed him to manipulate them as he had manipulated everyone else.

When the killer’s mother appears on camera, you can see the beginnings of his psychosis. She believes her son is a sweet little angel who was himself manipulated by a phantom, a person her son invented to excuse his deeds.

She also admits she knew about the cat videos and did nothing. In her view, people concerned about animal welfare are “crazy,” and those crazies shouldn’t have gotten so wound up over a few videos in which her son kills kittens while singing along to pop songs. Just a sweet little boy having fun.

Remembering Jun Lin

As for the killer himself, I’m not going to name him. His victim was Jun Lin, a 33-year-old engineering student who moved from China to Canada because, as his friend Benjamin Xu explained, the latter country is more accepting of gay men.

xu
Benjamin Xu/Credit: IMDB

Toward the end of the documentary, Xu mentioned something I’ve often thought about: Society’s obsession with “true crime” and how our morbid curiosity gives would-be murderers precisely what they want. If they can’t achieve fame, infamy is the next best thing.

We do a great disservice by immortalizing the killers and forgetting the victims. Everyone can name the two Columbine killers, but how many of us can name the victims?

“The really sad thing is, everybody is talking about [the killer] and nobody has ever remembered Jun,” Xu said. “That doesn’t seem fair at all to my friend. He doesn’t deserve that.”

The other stars of the show

Finally, there are the two “sleuths” at the center of the documentary, who spent two years of their lives ostensibly investigating the killer while giving him exactly what he wanted. Contrary to what the documentary’s title suggests, they weren’t cat lovers, just a couple of people motivated by the thrill of the hunt.

As their Facebook group about the murderer swelled to thousands of members he reveled in the attention, intentionally leaving clues for them in each subsequent video like a scavenger hunt, a fun little game for them to play as long as he remained the star of the show.

The documentary glosses over their mistakes, and there were some big ones: At one point they were so sure a South African man was the killer that they made his life a living hell, with an entire team of online vigilantes across the world harassing him from afar.

That man killed himself and was likely collateral damage in this fun little game the “sleuths” had going, but who has time for that when there are fresh clues and leads to track down? We got the wrong guy, LOL! Oops!

In the end it was someone else — quite likely the killer himself — who provided the alleged sleuths with the killer’s name once they’d exhausted their leads and the hunt became stale. He wanted them to continue the chase.

While the would-be detectives did manage to collect some information via their own efforts, it’s not accurate to say they solved the mystery.

On the other hand it’s fair to question whether the killer would have gone as far as he did if he didn’t have tens of thousands of people on Facebook hanging on his every video and utterance.

deannathompson
Deanna Thompson, who has now appeared in two documentaries about the killer and has parlayed her role into a side business.

The documentary ends with one of the killer’s obsessives, a Las Vegas woman named Deanna Thompson, looking at the camera and admonishing the audience for being interested enough to watch the documentary, as if everyone shares in the guilt for the killer’s actions.

But what she’d like everyone to forget is that her actions egged him on while he was on the loose and actively taking life. Playing into his scheme is a much different thing than passively watching a documentary more than half a decade after his conviction. There’s a good argument to be made that the vigilantes should be embarrassed by their role in this story, rather than reveling in the attention they’re getting as a result.

Remember Jun Lin. Remember the poor cats. Forget about the killer and the people who helped him achieve the fame he so desperately craved.

 

Note: I realize refusing to name the killer on this blog is like putting a single grain of sand back in a bottle after the whole thing has been spilled, but hey, we have to start somewhere.