Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Buddhist Temple Massacre

Profiling the Killers

It appeared to have been an incomplete robbery—leaving valuable objects and money intact in the temple--with violence done to eliminate witnesses. The evidence of two offenders who engaged in random vandalism with the fire extinguishers pointed to youth, the profilers said, and a fair amount of stupidity.

Altar of the Buddha
The Altar of the Buddha in
the Temple

"In profiling a crime scene," says former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary in The Unknown Darkness, "we might not know the answer to some things right away, but it may make sense to us later. We have to get a sense of the totality of the circumstances, the overall pattern, and stay alert to what's odd or out of place. At the risk of oversimplification, an equation for profiling is that if you know this about the crime scene, then you can say that about the offender."

The Unknown Darkness
The Unknown Darkness by
Greg McCrary & Katherine

As one of the two profilers who went to the scene, McCrary recalls a clear impression: "For me the totality of the circumstances kept coming back to three things: disorganization, youth, and stupidity. These characteristics were abundantly apparent."

Gregory Moffatt says that mass killings, unless they're done impulsively or for symbolic reasons, tend to occur at places with which the killer has some association. It's more likely than not that the person will act out in this way only in a particular situation, with all the right triggers, rather than doing such a crime again.

Thus, the recommended investigative focus was to look for kids in the area, because they would be familiar with the temple and would be more likely to have some association with it..

It's also unlikely, if robbery was the original motive, that the killers would keep the cameras and start using them. They probably hocked the cameras right away to get money and to get rid of evidence.

Now, just because you have narrowed the geography of the suspects, that doesn't mean that the kids are walking around with guns. It won't necessarily be easy to pinpoint a suspect. However, certain procedures can be put into place.

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