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Threat assessment experts highlight danger posed by ‘involuntarily celibate’ men

<i>Steve Cannon/AP</i><br/>Police investigators work the scene of a shooting on November 2
Steve Cannon/AP
Police investigators work the scene of a shooting on November 2

By Whitney Wild, CNN

On a Friday evening in November 2018, 40-year-old Scott Beierle signed up for a hot yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida, and told the receptionist he would wait outside.

When the class began, Beierle grabbed his ear protection and a loaded gun, walked into the classroom and opened fire. He killed two women, injured four others and then turned the gun on himself.

Police, through the course of their investigation of the incident, discovered a long history of hatred toward women, sexual assault allegations, and homophobic and racist comments.

Now, threat assessment experts with the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center are using the Tallahassee murder-suicide to bring greater understanding to the threat posed by so-called involuntarily celibate men, often referred to as “incels.”

“The term ‘incel’ is often used to describe men who feel unable to obtain romantic or sexual relationships with women, to which they feel entitled,” according to researchers in a new case study report released Tuesday.

“This attacker’s history highlights the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism,” researchers wrote in the case study. “This gender-based ideology, sometimes referred to as ‘male supremacy’ has received increased attention in recent years from researchers, government agencies and advocacy groups due to its association with high-profile incidents of mass violence.”

The detailed review of Beierle’s history illustrated common behavioral patterns and highlights many opportunities for intervention.

“The behavioral history of the Hot Yoga Tallahassee attacker illustrates many of the behavioral threat assessment themes identified through years of U.S. Secret Service research examining targeted violence,” the report states.

The Secret Service’s report showed Beierle had regularly written about and engaged in violence toward women. “The Hot Yoga Tallahassee attacker was motivated to carry out violence by his inability to develop or maintain relationships with women, along with his perception of women’s societal power over men,” said Steven Driscoll, the assistant director of the National Threat Assessment Center.

Beierle’s behavioral history, the report said, “highlights the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism.”

One theme the report points to is Beierle facing a lack of consequences. For example, the report notes that he had been charged multiple times with battery, but charges were dropped. Other behavior threat assessment themes the Secret Service identified included failed aspirations, lack of financial stability, bizarre behavior, harassment and homicidal ideations.

The number of mass casualty events such as school shootings and misogynistically motivated murders in recent years has prompted a dramatic increase in requests for training from the Secret Service, researchers said.

Lina Alathari, the chief of the National Threat Assessment Center, estimated the number of participants in threat assessment and targeted violence trainings topped 26,000 last year.

Researchers noted that Beierle’s behavior was extreme and reflected a combination of misogyny and White supremacy, highlighting the need for more studies on male supremacy as a motivating ideology.

“You often see a crossover between misogynistic views and White supremacy, far-right ideology, as well as in some cases far-left ideologies,” Driscoll said.

“The body of research examining misogyny as an extreme ideology and incels specifically, as well as its intersection with other ideologies like White supremacy, as a field of research, is growing.”

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