Most monsters are created, not born. Created by circumstance, created by upbringing, created by the messages they hear in the world around them.
Last Sunday Colorado woke up to a monster who murdered five and injured 18 more before being subdued and beaten bloody by Richard Fierro and other patrons of Club Q.
A week after the mass shooting, there are more questions than answers about what created that monster. Nothing the shooter has said since the shooting has been made public and it seems the monster is unwilling to speak with investigators. No manifesto or explanation has yet been revealed. With little online presence, no rants or ramblings have been discovered.
About the only thing we have heard from the killer, that they claim to be nonbinary, was issued in a legal pleading footnote. Whether that is a legal ploy or actual identity is beside the point. The killer chose to target the LGBTQ+ community with rage.
But as days passed and the global media began digging through the monster’s life, details about their past began to emerge.
The Club Q monster began life in an unstable, volatile family environment. Their father served time in a federal prison, exited as a mixed martial arts fighter making money through violence, picked up a crystal methamphetamine addiction, and became an adult film actor.
Upon learning that his child had killed five people at a gay bar, he responded, “I’m glad he’s not gay” and subsequently displayed his contempt for members of the LGTBQ+ community. In a rambling interview, the father also said, “I praised [the shooter] for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results.”
While the father expressed remorse for the victims and their families, he also fleshed out how shattered the monster’s own family had been. He hadn’t seen his child since 2011 and at one point his ex-wife, the shooter’s mother and a woman also struggling with addiction and mental health disorders, told him that their child died by suicide in 2016.
That came shortly after the monster changed their legal name after being the target of relentless online bullying as a teen and after their father appeared on an episode of “Intervention.” As the episode explains, the father “learned aggressive behavior from his father” and “got attention from his father through negative behaviors.”
The cycle continued when the killer called their father after they had been prosecuted for threatening to use a homemade bomb against their mother. While the two had not spoken in years — and the father thought the killer had been dead — the discussion escalated until their father threatened that he would “kick your ass.”
While the killer’s maternal grandfather served as mayor of a small California town and far-right member of the state Assembly, the killer ended up spending their most recent years living in Colorado Springs with their grandmother.
Primed for violence by a lifetime of turbulence, society surrounded the killer with bloodlust rhetoric that demonized the LGBTQ+ community and glorified guns.
It seems more than coincidental that this happened in a state where the most visible member of the Republican party carries a gun prominently strapped to her hip and spews anti-LGBTQ+ lies and misinformation on a regular basis.
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It is not accidental that a gay bar became an easy target in state where a university regularly sponsors anti-transgender vitriol. It could only happen in a city where neither the district attorney nor police stopped someone threatening to use weapons of mass destruction to obtain the assault-style rifle of choice for mass shootings.
People are born into broken families and unstable circumstances every day in this state and country. Most do not become mass murderers. But if we do not change the environment in which we surround them, we can only expect more monsters in our future.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq.
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