Update 8/5 11:45 a.m ET: Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said during a press conference Monday that police are exploring reports of a hit list and rape list, among other pieces of evidence. But he cautioned assigning any motivation to Sunday's shooting based on the years-old rumors.
"Taking pieces of evidence and coming to a conclusion about its significance creates mistakes, large mistakes at times," Biehl told reporters.
The man who allegedly gunned down nine people as they socialized in a popular Dayton, Ohio, entertainment district early Sunday morning, reportedly kept a hit list. He also reportedly kept a list of girls he’d threatened to rape.
Connor Betts, 24, was suspended from Bellbrook High School near Dayton several years ago after scrawling a hit list on a bathroom wall, according to former high school and middle school classmates who anonymously spoke to the Dayton Daily News. (“I would not dispute that information,” Chris Baker, the school’s former principal, told the Daily News.)
A few years before that, as a middle schooler, he reportedly told one girl he fantasized about tying her up and slitting her throat. The girl and her parents reported the threat to police.
Around 1 a.m. on Sunday, Betts stormed Dayton’s historic, bustling Oregon District wearing a mask and body armor, and wielding an assault-style weapon and several .223-caliber high-capacity magazines. In less than a minute, he killed nine people, including his own sister — Megan Betts, who reportedly had traveled with him to the area — and wounded 27 others. He was gunned down by nearby police before he could murder others fleeing the area, home to multiple bars and restaurants.
“This isn’t a mystery to me,” the woman who reported the middle school threat told the Daily News. “I’m furious.”
As is typical in these mass shootings, peers say there were red flags indicating Betts was prone to violence. Four former high school classmates of Betts’ told CNN they were alerted to being on his hit list years ago. One student told CNN that Betts had a “kill list” for boys and a “rape list” for girls.
"He had a plan to shoot up the high school," Laura Wakeley, who attended Bellbrook High School with Betts, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Betts’ motives for Sunday’s shooting are entirely unclear, and Dayton police have said it’s irresponsible to speculate on what spurred the massacre. He had no prior criminal record — just a handful of traffic tickets — and his gun was legally purchased, according to the Washington Post.
"We don't know the why, we don't know the whats," Bellbrook Police Chief Doug Doherty told the Cincinnati Enquirer as FBI agents searched Betts’ home. "But we do know that there's a mom and dad down there that are really hurting."
Demoy Howell, another former classmate, told the Dayton Daily News he was once enrolled in a junior ROTC military program. His former high school classmates told the Post that he was “obsessed” with guns.
Facebook appears to have taken down his private profile. His LinkedIn page, which previously listed him as an employee at Chipotle and former community college student, has also been removed.
Federal authorities, including the Secret Service, have recently asked for the public’s help in identifying potential lone actors who might be particularly prone to brutal violence. Ohio has so far failed to enact a “red flag” law, which would allow family members or friends to petition for someone’s guns to be taken from them if they’re threatening others. Gov. Mike DeWine has been working to install such a law, along with several other states.
Cover: Mourners visit a makeshift memorial outside Ned Peppers bar following a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. A masked gunman in body armor opened fire early Sunday in the popular entertainment district in Dayton, killing several people, including his sister, and wounding dozens before he was quickly slain by police, officials said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)