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Monday 23 September 2019

Man who killed two at yoga studio was fired for touching girl

Paul Scott Beierle posed as a customer during a yoga class in Florida.

The scene of the shooting (Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
The scene of the shooting (Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

By Gary Fineout and Tamara Lush, Associated Press

The man who shot and killed two women at a yoga studio had been fired from his job as a substitute teacher for inappropriately touching a middle school girl, a Florida school district has said.

Paul Scott Beierle, 40, posed as a customer during a yoga class on Friday, then began shooting, authorities said.

A 61-year-old faculty member at Florida State University and a 21-year-old FSU student from Georgia were killed, and five others were injured. Beierle then killed himself.

It is unclear why Beierle chose that yoga studio in the Florida capital. He had lived in Tallahassee from 2011 to 2013 but had recently been living several hours away. Police have not released information on a motive.

Paul Scott Beierle (Leon County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

Beierle had a history of harassing women and acting inappropriately, from pinching women’s buttocks to tickling a middle school student to appearing to make misogynistic videos, there were several red flags surrounding his behaviour.

Kelly Schulz, a spokeswoman for Volusia County School District, said Beierle was fired in May after he asked a female student if she was ticklish and then touched her at the top of the stomach “below the bra line”, a district report said.

“Student was frightened and hid behind another student,” the report said.

School personnel records show that students and a parent complained about Beierle’s conduct at a different school before the May incident.

Nicole Gillespie said her twin eighth-grade daughters told her on the first day of school in August 2017 that Beierle, who was teaching language arts, was “creepy”.

She encouraged her daughters to give him a chance, but they insisted his behaviour of calling only girls to the front of the room was inappropriate.

When Ms Gillespie looked him up on the internet, she found pictures of burlesque dancers, inappropriate sexual discussions and photos of him with weapons on his Facebook page.

Her daughters told school authorities of their discomfort, and he was moved to a different school.

Ms Schulz said Beierle was hired in 2017 after he passed a federal and state criminal background check with Volusia County Schools and the Department of Education. He was issued a teaching certification by the DOE in July 2015, she said.

Beierle was a military veteran with degrees from Binghamton University and Florida State University.

Raised in Vestal, New York, he appeared to have made videos detailing his hatred of everything from the Affordable Care Act to girls who had allegedly mistreated him in middle school.

The videos were posted four years ago, and were removed from YouTube after the shooting.

Beierle, who had moved to the central Florida town of Deltona after getting a graduate degree from FSU, appeared to post a series of videos in 2014 where he called women “whores” if they dated black men, said many black women were “disgusting” and described himself as a misogynist.

A Tallahassee police spokesman would not confirm the videos were Beierle’s, but the man speaking in the films looks like him, and biographical details mentioned in the videos match known facts about Beierle.

In 2012, he was arrested twice for grabbing women on FSU’s campus, but charges were dropped.

Four years later, he was arrested for battery after a woman said he approached her at the swimming pool of a Tallahassee apartment complex, complimented her bottom and offered to rub sunscreen on it, records show.

The woman said she declined the offer and Beierle then slapped her on the buttocks and grabbed her.

Court records indicate prosecutors agreed to dismiss the battery charge after Beierle completed a six-month diversion agreement requiring him to stay out of trouble, not drink alcohol to excess and to follow a psychologist’s recommendations.

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