What We Know About the 'Male Supremacist' Who Shot Up a Florida Yoga Studio
Two people were killed and several more injured by an army vet with a history of violence against women and online rage.
Left Image: Scott Paul Beierle, courtesy Leon County Sheriff's Office. Right Image: The aftermath of the shooting Friday. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
On Friday night, a hulking man entered a hot yoga studio in Florida's capital city of Tallahassee and posed as a would-be customer. Soon after, he opened fire, killing two women—a student and a medical school professor—and injuring several others, including a man who tried to stop the massacre with a broom and got pistol-whipped in the process, the police said. After he killed himself, the shooter was identified as Scott Paul Beierle, a 40-year-old who left behind a trove of hate-filled musings.
Before a van barreled through a crowd in Toronto this past April, killing ten, the man police said was driving it, Alek Minassian, suggested on Facebook that he was committing an act of "incel rebellion." While Beirerle does not appear to have described himself using that term—short for "involuntarily celibate"—in videos quietly published online, he mentioned at one point identifying with Elliott Roger, who became an antihero in the darker corners of that very subculture after killing six people in Isla Vista, California. Keegan Hankes, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the reference showed he was nurturing specific grievances that aligned him with the "male supremacist" movement more broadly, even if his views also included racism and other hate.
"He was clearly familiar with these spaces and ideas and sat with him for a long time," Hankes told me. "I don't know if we can ever say that he self-identified with the term of 'incel,' but he spent time documenting his beliefs, and they are full of tropes familiar to anyone who follows the male supremacy movement, such as the 'virginity burden,' and 'the collective treachery of women'—horrible, dehumanizing language that clearly festered."
Besides those videos, Beirerle also left behind a group of people who were never quite sure that his erratic—sometimes terrifying—behavior was enough to take to authorities. Like the stickers on the van belonging to the alleged pipe bomb mailer, some of those videos seemed to push right up against the line of being a "true threat" without crossing it. But in Beirerle's case, there was also a history of alleged violence against women that very much did cross the line and raised questions about just when authorities can or should intervene to rein in dangerous men.
Beierle earned a bachelor's degree from State University of New York at Binghamton and taught high school English and social studies in Maryland from 2005 to 2007 before resigning, according to WTOP. He served in the US Army and moved to Tallahassee to pursue a master's degree in planning from Florida State University, which he earned in 2013. Acquaintances from his grad school years told the Associated Press Beierle seemed "angry" and "odd," and that people generally tried to steer clear of him.
Roommates also kept their distance as best they could. He showed a lack of regard for others, like refusing to put on pants when his assigned roommates' friends came over, and possible signs of post traumatic stress, such as screaming in his sleep. All of this added up to an unpleasant living situation, but not necessarily enough to justify a 9-1-1 call. "He was very weird and made everyone uncomfortable," a woman who lived with him in 2011 told the Tallahassee Democrat. "It worried me at the time. There was concern for sure. But there wasn’t enough evidence, and I would have been wasting the police's time if I had made any kind of report. I had nothing."
The roommate also said that she and her friends privately referred to Beierle as "Ted Bundy" and wouldn't leave him alone with guests due to his tendency toward making inappropriate comments and being creepy around women. Their fears were apparently founded: The following year, Beierle was arrested for allegedly grabbing a young woman's buttocks at a campus dining hall. In 2014, he was banned from FSU's campus for allegedly following a volleyball coach. He was again charged with grabbing a separate woman's buttocks at a pool in 2016. (In the case of the first groping incident, the charges were dismissed, and in the other, Beierle avoided prosecution by way of pre-trial intervention.)
Beierle also creeped people out more recently while working as substitute teacher in Central Florida—a gig he somehow got after passing federal and state background checks and a hiring process a spokesperson for Volusia County Schools called "stringent." Middle-school students interviewed by the Democrat said that he would often be expressionless and sleep in class. They also described him as someone who gave off a "weird aura" and seemed to consider the kids in his charge an afterthought. He was eventually fired in May, according to a personnel file obtained by WFTV, after asking a student if she was ticklish and touching her stomach.
Beirerle's neighbors in Deltona, northeast of Orlando, barely saw him. But Beierle had a history of holing up inside to craft shockingly hateful and racist videos with names like "Dreadlocks are the Black Man's Mullet." In another clip called "The Rebirth of my Misogynism," he ran through a list of women who humiliated him, similar to what Roger did in his book-length manifesto "My Twisted World."
The two people killed in the shooting Friday were both women: Nancy Van Vessem, who was 61, was a doctor of internal medicine as well as a faculty member at FSU, and Maura Binkley, who was 21, studied at the college and was set to graduate in May.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, which first reported on the videos, a YouTube spokesperson suggested Beierle's content flew under the radar because he only had three subscribers. And it's still unclear what any of the people he lived with, taught, or attended school with might have done to intervene before the deadly shooting—if anything.
"You don't want to accidentally play a role in their radicalization process by approaching them too early and further pushing them down that path," Hankes told me. "On the other hand, with some of these cases in hindsight it seems like a progressive escalation. This is basically the million dollar question when it comes to domestic terrorism."
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