Tuesday 20 August 2019

Ohio gunman had ‘hit list’ and ‘rape list’, say ex-classmates

Police said there was nothing in the background of Connor Betts that would have prevented him from purchasing an AR 15-style rifle.

The home of Connor Betts (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, Pool)
The home of Connor Betts (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, Pool)

By Michael Biesecker and Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press

High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people in Ohio say he was suspended years ago for compiling a “hit list” and a “rape list”, and questioned how he could have been allowed to buy the military-style weapon used in the weekend attack.

The accounts emerged after police said there was nothing in the background of 24-year-old Connor Betts that would have prevented him from purchasing an AR 15-style rifle with an extended ammunition magazine that he used to open fire outside a crowded bar in Dayton early on Sunday.

Police on patrol in the entertainment district fatally shot him less than a minute later.

Former classmates told the Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school toilet.

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Connor Betts (Dayton Police Department/AP)

That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to two of the classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list,” said the female classmate.

The former cheerleader said she did not really know Betts and was surprised when a police officer called her during her first year to tell her that her name was on a list of potential targets.

“The officer said he wouldn’t be at school for a while,” she said. “But after some time passed he was back, walking the halls. They didn’t give us any warning that he was returning to school.”

Most people avoided him. He would say shocking things just to get a reaction. He enjoyed making people feel scared Former classmate

The male classmate, who was on the track team with Betts, said Betts routinely threatened violence to other students.

“Most people avoided him,” the man said. “He would say shocking things just to get a reaction. He enjoyed making people feel scared.”

Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools officials declined to comment on those accounts, only confirming that Betts attended schools in the district.

The discovery of the hit list early in 2012 sparked a police investigation and, according to a Dayton Daily News story at the time, roughly a third of 900 Bellbrook students skipped school one day out of fear of a planned attack.

Another former Bellbrook student said he was on a school bus when a uniformed police officer came on board, asked for Betts by name and escorted him off.

Although Betts, who was 17 at the time, was not named publicly by authorities as the author of the list, the former classmates said it was common knowledge within the school he was the one suspended over the incident.

There was an incident in high school with this shooter that should have prevented him from ever getting his hands on a weapon. This was a tragedy that was 100% avoidable Drew Gainey

Drew Gainey was among those who went on social media on Sunday to say red flags were raised about Betts’s behaviour years ago.

“There was an incident in high school with this shooter that should have prevented him from ever getting his hands on a weapon. This was a tragedy that was 100% avoidable,” he tweeted.

Hannah Shows was another former Bellbrook student who took to social media.

“Connor seriously threatened to hurt women who rejected him, myself included,” she wrote on Facebook. “Connor Betts has been openly talking about doing this for a decade and no one could do anything about it.”

Former Bellbrook principal Chris Baker said he “would not dispute that information” when the Daily News asked him about the hit list suspension.

Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult. It is not clear what, if any, criminal charges he faced when he was under 18 because juvenile records are generally sealed. Ohio law bars anyone convicted of a felony as an adult, or convicted of a juvenile charge that would have been a felony if they were 18 or older, from buying firearms.

“There’s nothing in this individual’s record that would have precluded him from getting these weapons,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said on Sunday.

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