Speaking to a full house of law enforcement, school officials, juvenile workers and politicians at the Braham Event Center Aug. 22, author, speaker and TV personality Phil Chalmers spoke about an unfortunate topic in our culture: shootings and killings.
Chalmers, author of “Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer” and “True Lies,” has been researching homicide and interviewing offenders for 30 years, with his work featured on dozens of television shows and networks including A&E’s “Killer Kids” and Fox’s “Crime Watch Daily.” Having interviewed over 200 killers face to face, including teen killers, school shooters, mass murderers, and serial killers, he had a few things to say about our culture.
Topics Chalmers addressed at the seminar included causes, warning signs and triggers of teen killers and school shooters, dangerous youth culture (including cop-killing music, violent video games, dangerous social media, and phone apps), the latest trends in mass murder and serial murder including the new profile, gangs, cults, crime preventions, school safety, home safety and personal safety.
Chalmers, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio with a violent, alcoholic and abusive father, was determined to learn as much as he could about disturbed juveniles and teens and what makes them harm others or themselves and how we, as a society and law enforcement, can prevent such killings.
“I first interviewed David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam, a high profile New York City murderer,” recalled Chalmers. “After that, I turned my attention to juvenile killers and serial killers. I’m not an expert; the experts are the killers, and I talk to them directly. Many people like me didn’t make it and are on death row or in prison. I had the same father as John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy … my experience has made me very passionate about saving kids.”
Chalmers began his talk addressing the profile of a killer.
Profiling school shooters and killers .... there are always warning signs
Chalmers said the first school shootings were between 1900 and 1920, but they really stepped up in 1990. “We started teaching kids to kill and mass murder each other through video games,” he said. “In the 90s, we saw a new trend. Before that, only one or two people died, and it was usually someone who wronged you. But in the 90s, kids started going into schools and killing as many people as they could.” Chalmers noted that what makes a school shooting deadly is how much time the killer has and how accessible the victims are.
“When we profile these killers, they are typically male, with about 10 percent of them being female. About 93 percent of the serial killers are men. There have been over 300 female serial killers in the U.S.,” said Chalmers. School shooters are mostly white, he said, and the same is true for mass murderers, with approximately 60 percent of serial killers being white. The “new trend” now is the black killer, he said.
There are warning signs which include cruelty to animals, fire starting and bed wetting, along with being a Peeping Tom. On social media, kids may post pictures of mock stabbing someone or pictures of themselves with blood coming out of their mouths.
Other warning signs include making threats about killing themselves or others at home or school. Violent or depressing content in school work or doodles in notebooks, art projects, class speeches or on websites/social media are all warning signs, he added.
“Most school shooters come to school prepared to die, were bullied and feel like they have been wronged, and are obsessed with violent media and plan their crime for months,” said Chalmers. Chalmers said there aren’t as many school shootings as one would think and that schools and law enforcement are doing a good job at keeping school shootings down.
Part of what sets Chalmers apart in his speaking engagements is his connection to murderers he has personally interviewed. During the conference, one murderer called in from prison, and the audience was allowed to ask questions. For the purpose of not glorifying the assailant, his name has been omitted. One audience member asked, “If you weren’t locked up, would you keep killing?” The murderer responded by saying that he most likely would because people would still be angering him.
Another murderer called in from prison. The Mille Lacs Messenger asked, “What would have prevented you from killing?”
He responded and said, “I tried reaching out for help, but I didn’t feel like anyone heard me or I mattered. There were 70 people who knew what I was going to do. If one of those people would have come forward, it could have changed.”
Another audience member asked,
“Why did you do it, and were you bullied?”
He responded, “I was bullied, and I thought if I died, my life would be better. And if I lived, I would have proven that they should have taken me seriously. I thought I would have just gone back to school … your brain isn’t fully developed at that age. I played video games like Grand Theft Auto and Rainbow Six and army games. I was molested by one of the best friend’s step dads, who I went to confide in.”
“But killers don’t always look like killers,” Chalmers added. “I’ve talked to people [who have done some terrible things] that seem nice and kind of fun, but will also kill you.” One young lady was a track star and sings in the church choir; another was an alter boy, and another was a football player, said Chalmers. “Typically, there are signs though if people pay attention.”
The six types of teen killers
Teen murder peaked in 1993 when 3,800 juveniles were arrested for murder. In recent years, teen murder has leveled to about 2,000 teen murders per year, said Chalmers. He classified teen killers into six types: the family killer, the school killer, the gang/cult killer, the crime killer, the baby killer, and the thrill killer.
The thirteen causes of teen murder
Chalmers stated there is no single cause of teen murder and that juvenile homicide is a multifaceted crime. Chalmers acknowledged that violent video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, are just one piece of the puzzle.
Lack of discipline is another piece. He used the analogy of his wife, who is a school teacher, and how students are allowed to walk up to her and say profane things and there is nothing teachers can do about it. “They can’t discipline anymore,” noted Chalmers.
Obsession with video games is not being on a game for two hours; being on it all night is obsession, he added.
Based on his research, Chalmers broke the causes of teen murder into 13 categories: 1) Fatherlessness (no father or abusive father); 2) Unstable home (physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, abandonment); 3) Bullying at school and home; 4) Obsession with violent entertainment, video games, torture films, and violent music; 5) Obsession with deadly weapons (guns, knives, bombs, etc.); 6) Suicidal ideologies; 7) Use of illegal drugs, alcohol and prescription medication; 8) Thirst for fame; 9) Cults, gangs and hate groups; 10) Peer-pressure, wrong friends; 11) Poverty and street crime (drugs); 12) No spiritual guidance and no discipline; and 13) Mental illness and brain injuries.
Chalmers said we live in a culture of “missing fathers and broken boys.” He pointed to the culture dismissing men as valuable human beings and marriage as something that is crucial to the well-being of children. “Often others remain the custodial parent in divorce and have the most control, many times limiting the contact with the father, and worse, turning the children against the dad,” he said. “Others can be great parents, but they can’t be dad.”
Death culture, what parents don’t know and where are all the women’s groups?
Culture, media and entertainment make a big deal in the life of a kid, cautions Chalmers. “In the 80s, everything was satanic … do we have a lot of satanic killers now? No, because we stopped promoting it. In the 1990s, killers had the Grand Theft Auto influence. We continue to sell it, so it continues to happen. Juvenile killers are piqued when we introduced these types of video games,” Chalmers said.
“In the 1990s, we introduced a torture movie called ‘Saw,’ and now we have kids killing their families. Often the media and politicians seem to be against police,” he noted.
“There are no more easy calls,” he cautions law enforcement in the audience. “Every call can be serious.”
Parents think it’s a car and racing game, he said. In the video game Grand Theft Auto, cops are targeted, and gamers can pick up prostitutes, Chalmers noted. “We continue to sell this game, so this kind of mindset continues to happen. People need to know this. You can kill women and cops for sport during the whole game, and the sex in the video games is pornography,” he said.
“There are no laws against this,” he added, gesturing to the senator in the audience. “I’m pushing for laws. I’m pushing that you have to be 18 years old to buy this. If dumb parents want to buy this, that’s their problem. Many people have bad parents.”
“What if I told you could hire a prostitute and kill her in a ‘kid’s’ video game,” said Chalmers. “Then proceed to set her body on fire. We are allowing kids to kill cops in these games. You can kill women in the comfort of your own home. Where are all the women’s groups at? How is this happening? You can go to strip clubs and get lap dances and take her home and kill her. How is this happening?”
Chalmers said he doesn’t believe all kids are doing this in the video games, but they certainly can, he said.
“Why are kids so violent? It’s all they see,” said Chalmers. “We live in a culture of murder, death and guns. You can learn about guns by playing video games, and a potential killer can get attracted to certain weapons and know what it feels like to kill people everyday.”
Chalmers called out popular rappers, one of which is a current top ten artist, who blatantly shoot people in the face in their videos. Another popular female artist, Rihanna, kidnaps, hangs a woman by her feet, tortures her, and is shown with blood on her naked body covered with money at the end of her video, “B*tch Better Have my Money.”
“We raised a generation with rape, torture and murder. You can go into a theater and watch someone be dismembered and killed,” said Chalmers.
He noted there are dangerous apps that parents can look for because of the violent and sexual content, along with the vulnerability created within them for young people. The apps he listed are Down, Omegle, Blendr, Yik Yak, Kik Messenger, Snapchat/Snapsave, Ask FM, 4Chan.com, Yeti, Periscope, Phhhoto, Youknow, Findmyfriends, Bumble, Live.me, Holla, Hot or Not.
Crime prevention tips for
personal defense and home security
“You are the first responder if someone busts into your house,” said Chalmers. “This is what you need in your house to keep you safe: a dog, a gun and a security system … Make sure your dog isn’t caged.”
For home safety, he recommended having a dog (because the perpetrator doesn’t want to be noticed), a gun (for personal safety) and a security system, which is a deterrent when an intruder sees there are cameras on the property.
“Some people actually lay down and let the killer hurt them,” said Chalmers. “Always run. It’s hard to shoot people when they’re running.”
He also cautioned gun owners to lock up their guns when children live in the home, adding that oftentimes shooters will obtain their weapons within their household to either use against themselves or others.
He also suggested doing practice drills with your family, similar to a school lockdown, so that family members are out of harm’s way.
Skip the window stickers on your car, he also advised, which will let people know about your family.
For book links, tour dates or how to schedule Chalmers for a speaking event, blog, and more information, go to https://www.philchalmers.com/.