Indiana Mall Gunman Appears to Have Posted Plans on 4chan

Police have told VICE News they are familiar with the posts and are investigating.

Hours before a 20-year-old gunman opened fire on a food court in a suburban mall near Indianapolis on Sunday, he appears to have posted a grim message on the notorious imageboard site 4chan. 

“Name is jonathan and today seems like a good day to die,” he wrote. The post was accompanied by a colorized image of a wedding in Nazi Germany. He also shared a link to the image-hosting site Imgur, which contained several images of himself wearing a white button-down shirt, blue jeans, a face-covering, and posing with two AR-15-style rifles, a handgun, and multiple magazines.

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That post was shared on July 17 at 1:13 p.m. (the site lists no time zone) to the website’s /BANT board—which is its International/Random board. Just before 6 p.m. local time the gunman, identified as Jonathan Sapirman, walked out of the Greenwood Park Mall’s food court restrooms armed with the same type and number of weapons as seen in the photo and began shooting into the crowd with an assault rifle (specifically, a Sig Sauer model M400 5.56). He killed three people and injured two more. Less than 30 seconds after his rampage began, a civilian shot him dead from over 40 yards away with a handgun. 

Police have not yet identified any clear motive in the attack. At a press conference Monday, they said the shooter had left his laptop in a heated oven, alongside a can of butane, and submerged his cellphone in the toilet.  Police did not speculate on the reasons the shooter did this but said investigators were trying to acquire as much information from the damaged devices as they could. The FBI took the damaged laptop to their lab in Quantico for further analysis. Police told VICE News that they were familiar with the comments and images purportedly posted by the gunman prior to the attack. 

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Meanwhile, an apparently leaked image from the crime scene has further complicated matters. 

VICE News asked Greenwood Police about a sensitive, graphic photo, apparently taken inside the mall, and uploaded to 4chan on Tuesday. The picture purports to show the deceased gunman lying on the floor of the mall alongside a placard identifying him as “dead.” The police chief did not dispute the image’s authenticity, and said that they were investigating where it came from. The dead body is wearing the same clothes as the person who posted on 4chan linking to the Imgur album.  

Evidence of the shooter’s presence on 4chan first began circulating online Monday, raising questions about his motive. The infamous anonymous imageboard site has been linked to a slew of ideologically motivated killings in recent years. The imageboard site was a primary source of radicalization for the 18-year-old who killed 10 people in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket earlier this year, according to the vitriolic screed he’d posted online prior to the shooting.

The man who killed 51 people in an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 also said that he frequented 4chan. The man who killed 10 people in a misogyny-inspired Toronto van attack said he frequented the site as well. In the weeks before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, 4chan was awash with violent rhetoric and threats against lawmakers, Congressional investigators said at a recent hearing. 

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Despite 4chan’s reputation as a cesspool for violence and hate, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson recently praised it as “kind of the website of last resort for people who want to get information out there but can't because everything is so completely censored at this point.”

Blyth Crawford, a radicalization researcher who has long researched 4chan, told VICE World News that the site is popular among extremists and violent actors for several reasons. To begin, the site is incredibly lax in its moderation, meaning that users can easily distribute graphic images, spew hate, and make violent threats. Popular posts are often archived or reshared, which can expand the reach of particularly problematic content, including “manifestos.” 

Do you have information about the Greenwood Mall shooter? Please contact Mack Lamoureux at mack.lamoureux@vice.com or Tess Owen at tess.owen@vice.com or DM either on Twitter and ask for a Signal number.

On top of that, some corners of the site are steeped in a “mass shooting culture”, “where violent actors, particularly those who kill a lot of people, are immortalized and revered on the site,” Crawford said. 

“This means that there is a large aesthetic appeal for using 4chan or a similar chan site to announce an attack,” said Crawford. “By aligning themselves with this mass shooter subculture and emulating past shooters who have announced their attacks on chan sites, they are effectively positioning themselves to potentially become regarded as ‘saints’ online as well, providing them with personal glory within a community that might be very important to them, and also acting as a new aspirational figure that can be used to radicalize others. “

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The relationship between 4chan and the Greenwood Park Mall shooting became even murkier after the attack, but not because of further actions by the shooter. 

The post and image the shooter may have posted to 4Chan.

On Tuesday, a graphic image showing the deceased shooter surfaced online. 

The photo showed the young man, in the same white button-down shirt and blue jeans he’d worn in his earlier posts, covered in blood, surrounded by empty bullet casings, lying dead on a tiled floor. 

Next to the shoes of the corpse is a small placard with the word “dead,” indicative of a crime scene. The photo was posted several times to 4chan on Tuesday around noon EST. The first post was simply accompanied by the caption “MALL GUY HAHAH!” and a follow-up caption. It was later re-shared with the caption “he ded.” It was also posted at a similar time to the Mass Killers subreddit with the caption "don’t know if this has been posted I live really close to greenwood and buddy sent me this." It is unknown if the image originated on 4chan or Reddit or was taken from a separate site; reverse image searches turned up nothing.

Because of the similarity of the clothing, VICE News was able to use this image to verify the gunman’s 4chan posts. We also matched the tiles surrounding him to those seen in the Greenwood Park Mall food court’s restroom, which was where police said the gunman had been shot. (In a recording of scanner traffic that day, police are also heard describing the shooter as wearing a “white shirt”.)

But the image also raised troubling questions about who may have had access to images from such a sensitive crime scene, and why that person chose 4chan to share them. 

When VICE News contacted Greenwood Park Police on Tuesday, Detective Doug Mullins said he was familiar with the gunman’s 4chan posts prior to the shooting but was not aware of the image showing his corpse. On Wednesday, Police Chief James Ison told VICE News in a statement that they were “currently working to identify the source” of the image, and that it was under investigation.

Follow Tess and Mack on Twitter.

Tagged:

Mass Murder, greenwood, Mass Shootings, The Extremism Desk, 4chans

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