The Making of a Rampage Murderer: What the Brutal Life of Oakland Shooter One L. Goh Says About America
I was working on an article about last month’s rampage massacre in Afghanistan that left 17 villagers dead, when news hit of this past Monday’s massacre at an Oakland, California, religious college, leaving seven dead. In both cases, the shooters survived and face a possible death penalty — which is rare: Usually these rampage killings end with self-inflicted bullet in the mouth.
These “going postal” rampage killings like the one that just took place at the Oikos University campus happen so often and with such relentless rhythm, a lot of people might easily assume that these mass-shootings at American schools and workplaces have always been with us.
It’s not true, of course — as I wrote in my book Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion — it’s an exclusively American phenomenon specific to our time. The first post office rampage killing took place in Edmond, Oklahoma, in the mid-1980s, at the height of the Reagan Revolution’s war on the American worker.
Those post office massacres quickly migrated into private workplace massacres by the end of the 1980s, where they’ve become a regular rhythmic staple of our murder culture ever since – and from the adult workplace, the massacres migrated to our schools.
We’ve had mass-killings before; and every now and then, you’ll read about a rampage killing in some other country. But only in America, and only since the mid-1980s, do American employees attack their own workplaces and offices, and middle-class students attack their own schools, with such consistency, year after year.
It was only after the crash in 2008 that some Americans began to accept the obvious: That the cruelty, predation and concentration of wealth and power introduced by the Reagan Revolution sparked a new type of murder that has more in common with insurgency violence or rebellious peasant violence than, say, the psychopathology of a serial murder.
Like so many school rampage killers, last Monday’s alleged murderer, One L. Goh, was reportedly bullied and mistreated at his nursing school program at the small Korean Christian nursing program he enrolled in. Bullying also was blamed for the high school rampage killing a few weeks ago in suburban Cleveland that left three students dead and five wounded.
The gruesome details about the way Goh is said to have lined up and executed his victims, the way he apparently singled out women, make it hard not to caricature him as a monster, a demonic psychopath — and yet, without excusing Goh’s killings, one should try to make sense of what happened to him, the downward-trending bleakness, the slow water-torture of low-five-figure debts, the broken marriage, the $23,000 tax bill owed to the IRS.
In the Naughts, One L. Goh helped run a construction company. But construction collapsed as an industry in 2006-7; and unless you were Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo, you’d have nothing to show for the few good years.
In late 2007, Goh moved into the Yorkview Apartments complex in Hayes, Virginia — a bleak, prefab looking structure in a rural corner of Virginia. By the following summer, One L. Goh found himself unable to cover his $575 rent payment two months in a row. He was evicted; and on the same day that they they evicted him, creditors took his car.
The future rampage-murderer took it all stoically, even politely, according to one of Goh’s apartment complex neighbors, Thomas Lumpkin: “You would never expect it out of him. He just don’t seem like that type of person.”
Here is how his neighbor described the scene of One L. Goh’s last day at the Yorkshire Apartments: