What happened in Arizona was a tragedy for all involved. We are fortunate the losses were not higher and I thank all the heroes of that day for what they did.
The alleged shooter left a trail of digital footprints. Some of his own making through posts on a gaming forum called Earth Empires and Myspace or videos on YouTube. Some via other people that encountered him and worried for their safety. In hindsight, these digital footprints look like potential clues.
On his MySpace account which is now inactive, he posted:
“Goodbye friends Dear friends…Please don’t be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven’t talked to one person who is literate…I want to make..”
The question is, what responsibility does the online community have to follow up on bizarre posts? What should the protocol be? Should there be a forum for alerting law enforcement of bizarre posts? How would something like that work effectively?
These are challenging questions, but if we can find the right balance, perhaps there are lessons to be learned from this tragedy that can be used to prevent future tragedies.
"Jared Lee Loughner’s Secret Online Life on Earth Empires", Alexandra Berzon, Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2011.
"Arizona Shooter Jared Lee Loughner – Internet Profile, Photographs", Prefect, Praetorian Prefect, January 8, 2011.