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Oakland school shooting: Is there a lesson to be learned from the tragedy?

As police put together possible motives for the Oakland school shooting, a profile is emerging of frustration and despair that has a familiar ring to some experts.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / April 3, 2012

Police officers speak to bystanders near the scene of a college shooting in Oakland, Calif.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

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Los Angeles

Would a school counselor have detected the shooter’s mounting frustrations before he attacked? Should students have reacted more forcefully in their own defense?

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As more details trickle out about the shooting rampage Monday morning that claimed the lives of six students and a receptionist at Oikos University in Oakland, criminologists, behavioral experts, and others are trying to glean possible patterns and lessons from the episode.

Police say they have established several ostensible motives – from the suspect having been teased for bad English, to his despair over the recent deaths of two family members, to a combination of factors.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters Tuesday that the suspect – a South Korean national, 43-year-old One Goh – had recently been expelled from the university, for his apparent inability to curtail his own anger. He said Goh was being congenial with police interrogators but showed no regret for the murders.

Several students, interviewed on NBC, said that Goh, being from South Korea, didn’t fit in because of the language barrier.

Six of the victims were women, foreign nationals from Nepal, Korea, the Philippines, and Nigeria.

“This shooting does seem to be a rather typical ‘going postal’ killing, [with] many similarities to other shootings … indebtedness, depression, alienation … [a] sense of injustice and hopelessness,” says Emil Chiaberi, director of the 2010 documentary film, “Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal,” via e-mail.

“The frustration tends to build up over a period of time. Like other mass killers, this person didn’t just snap, but had meticulously planned the shooting,” he says.

Mr. Chiaberi and others say one factor that has not been given much attention in America is bullying among adults.

Chiaberi says bullying tends to be the main driving factor in most mass killing incidents, quoting a Zogby poll that found close to 50 million people experienced bullying in the workplace.

“It's a huge problem. It's really a hidden epidemic. Workplace killings are just a tip of the iceberg, because only a very tiny percentage of people who experience bullying resort to violence," says Chiaberi. "Same could be said about schools. The real problem is that somehow our culture produces a lot of depressed, powerless, alienated, angry, and hopeless individuals who blame others (employers or society) for their problems.”

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