Press Conference: FBI investigating gunman's interest in violent ideologies

FBI launches investigation into Dayton shooter, citing ‘violent ideologies’

The investigation will focus on ideologies that might have influenced 24-year-old Betts to carry out the attack, whether anyone helped him or had advanced knowledge of his intentions, and ultimately why he committed the shooting.

“We are initiating an FBI investigation side-by-side with the police homicide investigation to make sure we get to the bottom … and we try to understand the best we can why this horrific attack happened,” said FBI Special Agent Todd Wickerham.

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This undated photo shows alleged Dayton, Ohio, gunman Connor Betts. Police say Betts, 24, opened fire outside a bar in the city's Oregon District early Sunday leaving nine people dead and dozens more injured.  Photo: Dayton Police Department

Wickerham wouldn’t say what constitutes a violent ideology, but said the Bellbrook resident was “very specifically seeking out information that promotes violence.”

The Dayton Daily News has reported Betts’ classmates and others found the would-be shooter’s disposition disturbing, reporting some of his behavior to the police. One friend told the Dayton Daily News that Betts discussed shooting up Timothy’s, a local bar near UD.

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Wickerham said the bureau would look into allegations Betts created a “hit list” of classmates in high school, something the Dayton Daily News first revealed hours after the attack.

“We are going back as far as we need to to try to find out why he did this and also if anybody else knew about this or was involved with this,” he said. “This community and our country deserves an answer as to why this happened.”

The FBI said Betts wasn’t on their radar before Sunday. Wickerham said they’ve found no evidence race was a motivating factor.

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The shooting in Dayton came following a shooting Saturday in El Paso, Texas. The incidents left 31 people dead, but authorities have said there’s no indication the events were related.

Separately, the FBI also announced it’s opening a domestic terrorism investigation in California after learning that a shooter in Gilroy, California, had a list of other potential targets as well. Three people were killed in the July 28 shooting.

The shooter, Santino William Legan, donned a bulletproof vest before shooting 39 rounds at the festival.

The Gilroy motive hasn’t been uncovered, though the FBI used language similar to that in Dayton to describe preliminary findings. Authorities have made no indication the shootings are related.

“We have uncovered evidence that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies,” FBI Special Agent John Bennet said of Legan, who killed himself.

In Dayton, Betts’ ex-bandmate and ex-girlfriend each have said that relationships with Betts broke off before the massacre. Ex-girlfriend Adelia Johnson, a Sinclair Community College student, said she grew close to Connor this year.

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“He trusted me with so much of his darkness that I forgot most of it. Another thing between mentally ill friends: the capacity to forget things can be a blessing if the person is telling you something in confidence,” Johnson said.

The two met in January this year, according to Johnson’s account. Betts, of Bellbrook, majored in psychology at Sinclair.

“We bonded over the laughable conspiracy theories that our professor tried to preach as we walked to similar parking spots in the college parking garage,” Johnson wrote. “We also were very open about our mental illnesses from the very beginning.”

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Johnson said Betts told her that he had bipolar disorder and possibly obsessive compulsive disorder.

“That didn’t scare me, some of the sweetest people I know have those conditions,” Johnson said. “I told him that I have depression, generalized anxiety, and ADD. We bonded over depression humor, something that only people who have been in the throes of it really ever understand and find humorous.”

Johnson said that by May she knew she had to end the relationship.

“He needed to do more work on himself and find more coping mechanisms so he didn’t become so dependent on other people. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to be his therapist, and that wasn’t my job.”

Cierra Mallory takes video of a memorial to her friend Thomas “TJ” McNichols on the sidewalk of East Fifth Street on Tuesday morning. McNichols was one of nine people gunned down early Sunday morning in the Oregon District. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

It’s unknown whether any of the Dayton victims were targeted. Besides Betts’ sister Megan, 22, the others who died were Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36.

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Hospital officials said 37 people have been treated for injuries, including 14 with gunshot wounds.

The El Paso and Dayton killings have contributed to 2019 being an especially deadly year for mass killings in the U.S. A database by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that there have been 23 mass killings so far this year, claiming the lives of 131 people. By comparison, 140 people died in mass killings in all of 2018. The database tracks every mass killing in the country dating back to 2006.

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DO YOU HAVE INFORMATION?

The FBI has asked anyone with information about Sunday’s shooting in the Oregon District to call 800-CALL-FBI.

Staff writer Tom Gnau and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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