Virtual Reality leads participants through the minds of school shooters


"If we better understand their history, we might be able to prevent future school shootings."

WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM)– Thousands of families across the United States have been affected by mass shootings, by either losing a loved one or knowing someone involved. But, what if you were able to see inside the mind of the shooter? 

With the help of virtual reality, local researchers have made it their mission to get inside the mind of teenage shooters.

“What we’re trying to do is create an experience in which highlighted the various topics guns, video games, bullying, family situations, and the idea was to create an experience to teach a few lessons,” said Producer & Writer “The Mind of a Teen Shooter” Graham Knight.

After hundreds of hours of interviews, Shenandoah University researchers are able to create a timeline in reverse to see what events took place in a teenage shooter’s mind. The virtual reality world is based on the minds of nine shooters including 11-year-old Drew Golden, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

“Hopefully take away a few things so that we can be proactive in our community,” said Participant Whitney Mauck. “Just in case something like this happens, it’s not if it happens, it’s when.”

Once the goggles are on, participants are transported into a different world. The creators said the virtual reality demonstration is absolutely not meant to glorify the shooters, but instead could reveal the leakage cues and see from inside the shooter’s eyes. In 2019 alone, there have been over 30 school shootings in the United States. 

“We’re not looking at identifying potentially violent offenders, but we’re recognizing these situations don’t necessarily have rhyme or reason, but there is a significant amount of history,” said U.S. Department of State Law Enforcement Consultant Matt Watson.

Researchers are hoping that by understanding the minds of teen shooters through virtual reality, future disasters can be prevented and the community can be aware of red flags earlier.

“We can’t live in a society where we can’t go to church, we can’t go to a movie, a concert or to school and not worry about getting shot at,” said Knight.

While the demonstration was going on, the room started buzzing with confirmation of two students being killed Thursday morning at the Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. Students started asking each other and wondering what could they have done to prevent another shooting.

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