Gunman In Yoga Studio Attack Had A Criminal History, Posted Racist And Sexist Videos
Updated at 3:22 p.m. ET
More information is being revealed about the online and criminal history of the man who killed two people, injured five others and then killed himself in a Tallahassee, Fla., yoga studio Friday evening. He had been charged with battery twice, and multiple news outlets have reported on evidence of his misogynist and racist beliefs.
In a press release Saturday, Tallahassee Police identified the assailant, who shot six people with a handgun and pistol-whipped a seventh person during the attack, as 40-year-old Scott Beierle. He was a resident of Deltona, Fla., and a graduate of Florida State University.
Tallahassee Police said investigators were still working to determine a connection between Beierle and his victims; Saturday's press release stated that the Volusia County Sherriff's Office served a search warrant at Beierle's residence. Police have also obtained multiple search warrants on his electronic devices and social media profiles.
A search of court records from Leon County, Fla., indicates that a man named Scott Paul Beierle born in 1978 was the defendant in two battery cases — one in 2012 and one in 2016 — and the defendant in a case of trespassing in 2014. According to the Associated Press, Scott Beierle, the assailant in Friday's shooting, was charged by police with battery in 2012 for grabbing women's buttocks in a campus dining hall at Florida State University. The AP also reported that Beierle was banned from FSU's campus in 2014.
Official incident reports provided to NPR by the Tallahassee Police Department say that in 2016, a woman told police Beierle slapped and grabbed her buttocks without her consent at an apartment complex pool. The report shows that her account was corroborated by video evidence, and Beierle was charged with "Battery Touch or Strike."
Both battery charges, according to the AP, were eventually dropped. The 2016 charges were dismissed after Beierle followed a deferred prosecution agreement, which grants a defendant amnesty in exchange for obeying certain requirements. And one woman, Courtnee Connon, who told the Tallahassee Democrat that Beierle grabbed her buttocks in her dining hall at FSU in 2012, said she spoke with police but ultimately decided not to pursue charges against Beierle. Connon, who was 18 at the time of the incident, told the Democrat she was scared by the idea of going to court and unsure criminal charges would deter Beierle from assaulting women in the future.
On Saturday, Buzzfeed News reported that Beierle had uploaded a series of racist and misogynist videos to YouTube in 2014, and that he had also posted songs on SoundCloud in the past few months. According to Buzzfeed News, a song posted shortly before Friday's shooting included the lyrics: "To hell with the boss that won't get off my back /To hell with the girl I can't get in the sack." Additionally, one of Beierle's YouTube videos reportedly expressed sympathy with Elliot Rodger, who went on a misogynist killing rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., in 2014.
All of Beierle's original videos were removed from YouTube after Buzzfeed News published its story, but a video posted to YouTube on Saturday appears to be a duplicate of one of Beierle's original video rants. In it, a man whose likeness matches the photo of Beierle released by the Tallahassee Police Department uses a racial slur to describe black people and goes on to list the reasons he despises them. It includes a section in which he called black women "ugly and disgusting."
The AP also reported that "a man who looks like Beierle" appeared in a series of videos posted to YouTube in 2014, and that in the videos he called women who date black men "whores," spoke of an "invasion" from Central America and ranted about women.
Buzzfeed News and The New York Times report that in his videos, Beierle described times when women rejected his romantic advances. Both outlets report that when he described a woman he says did not show up to dates they had scheduled, he said he "could've ripped her head off."
The Tallahassee Police Department has not yet released information about a suspected motive in Friday's attack. But Officer Damon Miller, Jr., a spokesperson for the Tallahassee Police Department, told NPR over the phone that the department is focused on the question of why the gunman chose to attack the specific business he attacked, Hot Yoga Tallahassee. "It's kind of off the beaten path," Miller says. "If you didn't know it was there, you basically wouldn't know [about the studio]."
Miller says the investigation is looking into all of Beierle's social media accounts, though he could not confirm which accounts investigators were specifically looking at. Since the gunman killed himself, Miller says, "We can only go by what was left behind."
Miller could not confirm misogyny as a motive in this attack. But Beierle's online emphasis on romantic rejection — and his reference to Elliot Rodger — does call to mind the group of men on the Internet who term themselves "incels," which is short for "involuntarily celibate."
The Gimlet podcast Reply All reported that the term "involuntary celibate" was actually coined by a queer Canadian woman who started an online support group to help others who struggled romantically like she had. Others eventually co-opted the term, and it took on an entirely different meaning than its original creator intended.
In April, a man linked to the incel community plowed his van into a Toronto sidewalk and killed 10 people. In the aftermath of that attack, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke with Arshy Mann, a Toronto-based reporter who covers incels and defines them as an "online subculture of young men who feel very frustrated with their sexual and romantic lives."
Mann says incels "move toward a very virulent misogyny, and they spend a lot of time engaging in really violent ideation about the horrible things that they want to do to women and sexually successful men."
Incels, Mann told NPR's Garcia-Navarro, tend to revere figures like Elliot Rodger. Mann also noted that the "incel" brand of misogyny is often connected to racial panic: He said that while men of all ethnicities have been involved in the incel community, "at least for a good number of them, these more misogynistic movements can often be an entry point into the more racialized or anti-Semitic branches of the alt-right."
This year, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes and hate groups, added "male supremacy" to the list of ideologies it tracks on its "hate map."