Y! Big Story: Oakland shootings

The story has been updated with victims’ names and latest reports.

In recent months, Oakland, Calif., had been the center of national attention as a flash point in the Occupy Movement. Now, a horrific spree shooting at a religious vocational school has once more focused on the city’s persistent homicide rate, among the highest in the nation.

As families and community come together to mourn the victims, questions about gun control and why school shootings happen have surfaced, as well as the most troubling one of all: What makes a lone gunman pull the trigger.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered at a  memorial service in Allen Temple Baptist Church, one of several vigils for the seven victims. The suspect, One L. Goh, will be charged with seven counts of murder.

Timeline, according to press reports: Goh, a 43-year-old Korean-American, moved from Virginia, where he left more than $23,000 in debts, to California. He attended Oikos University, a Korean-founded vocation school. There, he was reportedly expelled for behavioral issues. On Monday, April 3, Goh allegedly returned to the campus, where 35 people were on the premises. He sat down at the morning acupuncture class before standing and telling students, “Get in line and I’m going to kill you all.” Goh, who had a hunting license in Virginia, reportedly began shooting around 10:30 a.m. He stole a Honda Civic belonging to victim Tshering Rinzing Bhutia, who worked nights cleaning San Francisco airport terminals while studying for his nursing degree.

Goh drove to a nearby Safeway one town away. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he allegedly told the customer service desk that he had shot some people. Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, however, noted that Goh called his father, who called authorities. He was booked at 5 a.m. on Tuesday in Santa Rita Jail on the charges of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and carjacking. Arraignment takes place on Wednesday. Divers have looked for the weapon, a semiautomatic purchased legally in mid-February, in a nearby estuary.

Dispatchers first received word of the shootings at 10:33 a.m. Police were on scene by 10:36 a.m., and they warned residents via Twitter to stay away from the scene.

[Related: Oakland shooting: Oikos gunman lined up victims and “started shooting,” police say]

Oikos University and its students: Founded in 2008 by Pastor Jong Kim, Oikos University offers master degrees in religious studies and Asian medicine. The school has a small campus, according to KTVU:

Jerry Sung, the university’s accountant, said the school offers courses in both Korean and English to less than 100 students. He said the campus consisted of one building.

Sung said many of its students went on to work in nursing and ministry.

“The founder felt there was a need for theology and nursing courses for Korean-Americans who were newer to the community,” Sung said. “He felt they would feed more comfortable if they had Korean-American professors.”

Oikos’s mission statement clearly lays out its biblically rooted objectives:

The mission of Oikos University is to educate men and women to be the leaders to serve the church, local communities, and the world by using their learned skills and professions in the areas of biblical studies, music performance, Asian medicine and practical vocational nursing.

In addition to taking a literalistic view of the Bible, the school seeks to instill “an appreciation for the Korean and Korean-American church denomination heritage including its knowledge, history and distinct.” The website lays out its 11-point doctrinal statement, which professes beliefs in the Bible and ends with outlining its belief in Satan.

We believe the existence of a personal, malevolent being called Satan who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom the place of eternal punishment was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity. He can be resisted by the believer through faith and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.

The students and the victims reflected the diversity of the school and the larger Bay Area. The dead included immigrants from the Himalayas, Ko and Nigeria. A memorial service takes place Tuesday at the Berkeley Korean United Methodist Church, which is located on the Oakland-Berkeley border, to remember Tshering Rinzing Bhutia (38), Doris Chibuko (40), Sonam Chodon (33), Grace Kim (23), Katleen Ping (21), Judith Seymour (53), and Lydia Sim (21).

Motives: Why did Goh kill seven people? The triggers have been laid out: His brother, U.S. Army Sgt. Su Wan Ko, died in March 2011 in a car accident when he hit a fallen boulder. His mother, Oak Chul Kim, who had moved back to Korea, attended the memorial with her husband and son, but died later that year in Seoul. Goh, reportedly living with his father, faced thousands in federal tax liens and was working intermittently to pay them.

Goh himself has signaled out teasing: He blames his expulsion especially on one unnamed female administrator who was not present and on bullying. (Six of the seven victims were female, but currently the campus gender breakdown is unknown.) One witness did tell local TV station KTVU that Goh had been bullied:

Goh, a South Korean national, had difficulty speaking English. Fellow students and police have told KTVU that he had been picked on.

“We learned from the suspect and witnesses he was distraught because he was picked on,” the [police] chief said.

The Oakland police chief spoke to “Good Morning America” about Goh, whom he described as not appearing “to be remorseful at all”:

“We’ve learned that the suspect was upset with the administration at the school. He was also upset that students in the past, when he attended the school, mistreated him, disrespected him and things of that nature,” Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said today on “Good Morning America.” “He was having, we believe, some behavioral problems at the school and was asked to leave several months ago.

“We’ve learned that this was a very chaotic, calculated and determined gentleman that came there with a very specific intent to kill people, and that’s what his motive was and that’s what he carried out,” Jordan added.

Oakland back in the limelight: Deserved or not, the reputation of Oakland has been tied to violence. In 2006, the city had 145 homicides, and it has earned the informal title of “murder capital.” Since then, Oakland has intermittently come into the national spotlight—during the 2008 state gubernatorial race (Jerry Brown served as mayor before returning to the governor’s seat), the “Moneyball” film that featured the Oakland Athletics, and most notably during the Occupy Oakland movement.

Only a year ago, the city seemed poised to reinvent itself through this movement. The multicultural metropolis, with its broad swath of races, economic classes and even sexual preferences seemed to be an ideal breeding ground for an economic reinvention. The killing, though, underscores another aspect of economic hard times: chronic police understaffing. As the Oakland Tribune noted:

In a flash, Oakland’s homicide total had surged to 34 dead. As if its image wasn’t already associated in the national consciousness with violent crime, the city can now add the following tag—site of the worst mass murder in the Bay Area since 1993.

Searches for Yahoo! surged as the news, and extent, of the killing spread: oakland, california college shooting, oikos university, christian school shooting, college shooting, oakland shooting, one goh, one l goh, shootings at oakland school, oakland school shooting, virginia tech shooting.

Gun control: Inevitably, mass shootings such as this raise questions about how the gunman obtained his weapons, and the issue of gun control overall. The last California massacre led to the national ban on assault rifles. The Trayvon Martin case in Florida had started up that discussion again, and searches for “gun control” on Yahoo! popped up 18 percent on the day of the Oakland shooting.

Spree killings: They are rare, but the nature of spree killings horrifies many, because the victims’ deaths often arise out of sheer happenstance. They are also even more rare in California. The local CBS station noted:

Monday’s attack was also California’s deadliest campus shooting since 1976, when 37-year-old Edward Charles Allaway opened fire at California State Fullerton killing seven and wounding two.

The story also pointed out that the last massacre, in San Francisco’s financial district, took place in 1993, when nine died in a workplace shooting. The summer-camp shooting in Norway, in which 80 were shot, ranks among the world’s worst episodes.

Some of the worst spree killings in the U.S.
Gunman Location Year Death toll
Seung-Hui Cho Blacksburg, Virginia 2007 32, including gunman
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold Columbine, Colorado 1999 13, including gunmen
Nidal Malik Hasan Fort Hood, Texas 2009 13
Michael McLendon Geneva County, Alabama 2009 11, including gunman
Jeff Weise Red Lake, Minnesota 2005 9, including gunman and family members
Gian Luigi Ferri San Francisco, California 1993 9, including gunman
Rodrick Dantzler Grand Rapids, Michigan 2011 8
Christopher Speight Appomattox, Virginia 2010 8
Michael Hance Copley Township, Ohio 2011 8
One L. Goh Oakland, Calif. 2012 7


Some of the worst U.S. school massacres
Gunman Location Year Death toll
Andrew Philip Kehoe Bath Township, Mich. 1927 45, including gunman
Seung-Hui Cho Blacksburg, Virginia 2007 32, including gunman
Charles Whitman Austin, Tex. 1966 15, gunman shot by police
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold Columbine, Ohio 1999 13, including gunmen
Jeff Weise Red Lake, Minnesota 2005 9, including gunman and family members
One L. Goh Oakland, Calif. 2012 7
Edward Charles Allaway Fullerton, Calif. 1976 7