Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

'Movies Made Me Murder'

Teenage Rage

Movie Poster: The Basketball Diaries
Movie Poster: The Basketball Diaries

The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 film adaptation of Jim Carroll's book by the same title about his immersion into drug addiction. As a member of a successful high school basketball squad, he must deal with a coach who takes inappropriate liberties and his own appetite for heroin.  His mother's anger over his activities drives him into the streets of New York, where he becomes a thief and whore to support his habit.

While the film was controversial for its graphic portrayals of drug addiction and prostitution, one scene in particular appeared to inspire several school shootings.  It's a dream sequence in which Jim (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) enters his school dressed in a black trench coat and shoots several students and teachers with a shotgun.  His friends egg him on.

Barry Loukaitis
Barry Loukaitis

Not long after the film was released, on Feb 2, 1996, fourteen-year-old Barry Loukaitis dressed in a long coat entered his algebra class in Moses Lake, Washington.  Concealed in his long duster were two pistols, seventy-eight rounds of ammunition, and a high-powered rifle.  He pulled the rifle out and began to shoot, hitting Manuel Vela, 14, who later died.  Another classmate fell with a bullet to his chest, and then Loukaitis shot his teacher in the back as she was writing a problem on the blackboard.  A 13 year-old girl in the front row took the fourth bullet in her arm.

"This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" he reportedly said with a smile. 

Then Loukaitis took hostages, allowing the wounded to be removed, but was stymied by a teacher who rushed him and put an end to the irrational siege.  In all, three people died, and Loukaitis blamed "mood swings" and being bullied.

Book Cover: Rage
Book Cover: Rage

In his bedroom the police found a novel by Stephen King, Rage, that features a boy shooting his algebra class teacher and a video of The Basketball Diaries.  In addition, Loukaitis said that he'd been inspired by a music video by Pearl Jam called "Jeremy," which featured a similar scene of violence in a classroom, although the teenager who takes guns into the school kills himself along with his classmates.

Michael Carneal
Michael Carneal

Michael Carneal, another school shooter, looked to The Basketball Diaries as well for his inspiration.  In 1997, after ruminating on "doing something big" for over a year, he killed three classmates in Paducah, Kentucky and wounded five others.

Movie Poster: Natural Born Killers
Movie Poster: Natural Born Killers

One other movie inspired Loukaitis: Natural Born Killers, and this one was cited as an influence by several of the kids who went to shoot up their schools in subsequent years.  Another students who knew Loukaitis said that the shooter had thought it looked like fun to go on a murder spree like that.

Let's look at the plot.

 

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