Saturday, December 10, 2011

Update on the Virginia Tech Shooter - New Details

Virginia State Police via AP
Police identified the Virginia Tech gunman on Friday as Ross Truett Ashley, 22, a part-time college student from nearby Radford University.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The man who authorities say killed a Virginia Tech police officer was described as a typical college student in many ways, making it difficult to understand why he would commit an armed robbery and then, apparently at random, target the patrolman before killing himself.
The gunman was identified Friday as Ross Truett Ashley, a 22-year-old part-time business student at Radford University, about 10 miles from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg. He first drew authorities' attention Wednesday when, they say, he walked into his landlord's office with a handgun and demanded the keys to a Mercedes-Benz SUV.
As investigators worked to unravel a motive, thousands of people gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday night on a campus all too familiar with tragedy.
Those who knew Ashley said he could be standoffish. He liked to run down the hallways and recently shaved his head, a neighbor said.
Virginia State Police said he walked up to officer Deriek W. Crouse after noon on Thursday and shot him to death as the patrolman sat in his unmarked cruiser during a traffic stop. Ashley was not involved in the stop and did not know the driver, who is cooperating with police, they said.
Authorities said Ashley then took off for the campus greenhouses, ditching his pullover, wool cap and backpack as police quickly sent out a campus-wide alert that a gunman was on the loose. Officials said the alert system put in place after the nation's worst mass slaying in recent memory worked well, but it nevertheless rattled a community still coping with the day a student gunman killed 32 people and then himself.
A deputy sheriff on patrol noticed a man acting suspiciously in a parking lot about a half-mile from the shooting. The deputy drove up and down the rows of the sprawling Cage parking lot and lost sight of the man for a moment, then found Ashley shot to death on the pavement, a handgun nearby. No one saw him take his life and he wasn't carrying any ID.
State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Ashley appears to have acted alone and didn't know the slain officer: "At this time we have no connection between the two of them, that they knew one another or had encountered one another prior to the shooting," she said.
'Nothing unusual'
Ashley lived in an apartment on the top floor of a worn, gray three-story brick building in the small city of Radford, a college town. He lived above a yogurt shop, consignment store, barber shop and a tattoo parlor.
On Friday night, students popped in and out of the building visiting friends. Mandy Adams, a Radford grad student, said Ashley had recently shaved his head. Other than running down the hallways, he was quiet, she said.
"He would just run down the hallway — never walk, always run," said Adams, who was out on a rear fire escape with a glass of white wine and a cigarette to calm her nerves. "It's going to be really creepy when they come to take his stuff out of here."

From John Lott's Website, the Lime Story !

I was curious as to how our Red Az got the silly notion that the story in the Daily Mail was factual.  I figured it came from someone like Rush Limbaugh, so I browsed the distribution of the story on the web.

I have had an issue with the fact aversion of the right wing for some time now, including the lapses of my own member of Congress from the district in which I live, as well as that of another Minnesota member of Congress, Michele Bachmann's notorious lack of connection to either fact or reality.

I found the story on the website of John Lott, of More Guns, Less Crime fame.  An excerpt of the story appeared right next to this bio:
Virginia, United States

Amazed how lucky I am that I have had jobs where I could just think about whatever I wanted to think about. I have published over 90 articles in academic journals. I received my Ph.D. in economics from UCLA in 1984.
The headline of the post read:


Limes are classified as a weapon in the UK?

What is next? Lime registration? From the UK Daily Mail:
and over the labels 'GunControl, Terrorism'

all of which are under this giant banner, apparently intended to impress the gullible:

Posting that story, that brief comment, right next to the bio where he tells his web site readers about his academic accomplishments certainly seems to me to be an attempt to give the imprimatur of fact and accuracy to this. There is no criticism, no skepticism, no challenging thinking that this might not be true, plausible, or reasonable. That impression is further conveyed by the labels at the end of the excerpt.

I shouldn't be surprised.  Looking at his book entry on, under controversy, the studies in support of Lott's work seem largely to derive  or be funded by fairly far right sources, rather than independent academic sources.  The list of sources which oppose or contradict Lott's work is considerably longer.

So, now it is clear that Mr. Lott doesn't do his fact checking on the content of his web site.  On top of the challenges to his other work, perhaps that shouldn't surprise me.  But it does go a long way to explaining where  the story got its original circulation, because I don't really find it plausible that there are a lot of gun nuts who make a habit of reading a UK tabloid.

Shame on Mr. Lott for lending even his limited credibility with the gun loonz to such nonsense.  Shame on Lott and the rest of the loons for single sourcing content and for doing so without any research into the credibility of their sources.

But it sure is fun to be on the debunking side of the story.

In case our readers are wondering, I've left comments on Lott's site and others noting the factual inaccuracy of the story as well as the poor credibility of the source, and a criticism for promoting it without fact checking it first.

Like our gun nuts so often do.  How fortunate they have us to do those necessary critical thinking exercises for them.