DAYTON, Ohio - Dayton's police chief said there's a "clear picture" of the Oregon District gunman's mindset: A history of obsession with violent ideologies and mass shootings, and the expression of a desire to carry out a massacre.
But answers to the biggest questions aren't obvious. Authorities can't yet say why the 24-year-old gunman targeted the Oregon District on Aug. 4. They know it was planned, but the details still aren't clear.
One question - did the gunman intend to kill his sister and shoot his friend? - is so perplexing to investigators that Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said it will likely remain inconclusive, unless additional information comes to light during the FBI's query into the gunman's past.
"He did know where they were at, because they were communicating during this hour back and forth," Biehl said Tuesday, referring to the hour between when the gunman left his sister and friend behind at Blind Bob's restaurant and when the killer began shooting.
"It's an interesting question," Biehl said. "We have radically different views in that regard."
Biehl said some of his investigators have argued "absolutely not, he was not intentional" in shooting his sister and friend. Others investigators, Biehl told reporters during a news conference, say gunman Connor Betts had to have known he was shooting the pair, who were near a taco stand.
"Basically, the evidence has been debated in both directions," Biehl said. "We may get a better insight through historical data looking back, but based on the evidence from that night, I don't think we can make that call."
The friend, Chace Beard, sent a text message seven minutes before saying they would be at the taco stand.
Biehl said the investigation strongly suggests that the sister, Megan Betts, and Beard didn't know weapons were in the trunk of the shooter's vehicle. The trio arrived in the Oregon District together, but Connor Betts left the other two at 12:13 a.m., about 50 minutes before he started shooting.
Biehl attempted to distinguish between mindset and motivation. The motivation for carrying out the shooting at the specific time and place is unclear, and that might never become clear, he said. But the mindset the gunman brought to the massacre is well documented.
"There's this history of obsession with violence, with violent ideations, the discussion of interest in mass shootings and the expression of desire to carry out a mass shooting," Biehl said. "I think that should be enough, thematically, that you should get a pretty clear picture of what was going on here."
Biehl said the department is relying on the FBI's investigation into the shooter's background to help complete the picture of what led up to the killings.
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