Psychological Reports: Disability & Trauma 2014, 115, 1, 28-31. © Psychological Reports 2014

MURDER-SUICIDE IN WORKPLACE VIOLENCE1 DAVID LESTER The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Summary.—In an analysis of 105 incidents of workplace violence in the USA from 1982 to 2002, the murderers who killed themselves after the incident killed more victims than those arrested. The workplace violence occurring at schools resulted in significantly more injured victims, but not more deceased victims.

Mass murderers sometimes commit suicide during (or soon after) their rampage. A rampage mass murder is one in which an individual sets out, typically with an arsenal of guns, to kill as many people as he or she can, sometimes randomly and sometimes those against whom he or she has a grudge. Definitions of “mass murder” vary, ranging from a minimum of 2, 3, or 4 victims in the same incident. Lester, Stack, Schmidtke, Schaller, and Müller (2004) studied 143 incidents of mass murder reported in a German newspaper (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) during the period 1993 to 2002. The average death toll was 4.0, and the death toll for mass murderers who died by suicide was significantly higher (5.6) than those captured (3.1) or killed by police (4.2). The average death toll was significantly lower in the Americas (3.8) and Europe (2.8) than elsewhere in the world (6.3). In a follow-up study, Lester, Stack, Schmidtke, Schaller, and Müller (2005) studied 100 incidents of rampage killers in the United States listed in a series of articles in the New York Times in the year 2000.2 Lester and his colleagues searched for information on these killers using Lexis-Nexis and found that those killed by police murdered and injured more victims that those who died by suicide, who in turn murdered and injured more than those who were captured. For example, those killed by police killed an average of 8.1 victims, those who killed themselves 4.8 victims, and those who were captured 3.2 victims. Thus, the suicidal murderers in this sample killed fewer victims than those killed by police, in contrast to the result of the earlier study. In this American sample, 57% of the mass murderers were captured, 35% died by suicide, and 7% were killed by police. Lankford (2013a, 2013b) compared rampage murderers, workplace murderers, school shooters, and suicide terrorists and found that they have similar life paths and similar precipitating crises. Lankford argued Address inquiries to David Lester, Ph.D., Psychology Program, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Galloway, NJ 08205-9441 or e-mail ([email protected] stockton.edu). 2 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE3DD173EF933A25757C0A9669C 8B63 1

DOI 10.2466/16.17.PR0.115c14z4

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ISSN 0033-2941

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that studies of these types of offenders might assist those developing security policies and hoping to intervene in the lives of these individuals. Deadly violence often occurs in the workplace (Lester, 2011) and is a growing concern to law enforcement. Perline and Goldschmidt (2004) listed 139 incidents of workplace violence in the United States resulting in dead and injured victims from 1982 to 2002, of which 125 had estimates of the numbers dead and injured. Wolfgang (1958) suggested that murderers who committed suicide did so either because they felt guilt after the murders or because their anger had not dissipated and so they turned the remaining anger inward onto themselves. The present study was designed to explore whether the murderers in these incident who died by suicide killed and injured more or fewer victims than those arrested, a possible difference that may provide evidence for these alternatives. METHOD The list of workplace violence from 1982 to 2002 was obtained from Perline and Goldschmidt (2004), who recorded 139 incidents of workplace violence resulting in dead and injured victims from 1982 to 2002. Only 125 incidents had estimates of the numbers dead and injured reported. Of these, 13 were classified as terrorist/hate crimes (including “9/11”), six as transportation crimes (including airplane crashes), and one as a civil disorder (a riot). These involved the most deaths on average (232, 27, and 38, respectively) and the most injured (132, 22, and 1,421, respectively). The remaining 105 incidents were classified as occurring in corporate and small businesses (n = 28), schools (n = 21), the United State Postal Service (n = 21), government facilities (n = 19), and as a result of interpersonal relationships (n = 16). The present analysis was conducted on only these 105 incidents. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Overall, the mean number killed or injured was 5.86 (SD = 7.50), with a median of 3 and a range of 1 to 36. The numbers killed and injured in these incidents are shown in Table 1. The difference in the number killed in these incidents was not statistically significant (F = 2.27, df = 4,100, p > .05), but the number injured did differ significantly (F = 7.40, df = 4,100, p < .001). Significantly more victims were injured in school incidents (7.6 vs 1.9), suggesting that the violence in these incidents was less focused on particular individuals. Overall, those involved in school workplace murders had significantly more victims (dead or injured) than the other types. Among these murderers, 67 were arrested and 31 died by suicide.3 These two groups differed significantly in the number killed, with the suicides killing more than those arrested (4.2 vs 1.8; t96 = 3.60, p = .001; The remaining murderers were killed by police officers (n = 6) or were never identified (n = 1).

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D. LESTER TABLE 1 MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS OF THOSE KILLED AND INJURED IN INCIDENTS OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE Analysis

n

Number Killed

Number Injured

M

SD

M

SD

By type of incident Corporate/business

28

4.54

5.74

3.04

4.08

Schools

21

2.81

2.75

7.57

8.50

U.S. Postal Service

21

2.00

2.95

1.62

2.06

Government facilities

19

2.21

1.55

1.05

1.72

Interpersonal

16

1.88

1.63

1.06

1.48

Arrested

67

1.84

1.50

2.19

3.76

Suicides

31

4.16

4.83

3.84

6.09

By outcome

Table 1), but the groups did not differ in the number injured (3.8 vs. 2.2; t96 = 1.64; see Table 1). Overall, the suicides had more victims (dead plus injured) than those arrested. This supports the results reported by Lester, et al. (2004) that mass murderers who kill themselves kill more victims than those who are arrested. The discrepant results from Lester, et al. (2005) on American rampage murderers indicates that more research is needed to confirm the reliability of the present finding. The limitation of this study is that the data are old, and it is not known the extent to which the list of workplace violence compiled by Perline and Goldschmidt (2004) is complete or the criteria that they used. However, their list was compiled without relevance to the disposition of the murderers, and so there is no reason to think that their selection of cases may have biased the present results. The results of the present study indicate that suicidal mass murderers may have a great level of anger and so kill and wound more victims. However, such speculation can be investigated only by detailed psychological autopsies on suicidal and non-suicidal mass murderers. REFERENCES

LANKFORD, A. (2013a) A comparative analysis of suicide terrorists and rampage, workplace, and school shooters in the United States from 1990 to 2010. Homicide Studies, 17, 255-274. LANKFORD, A. (2013b) The myth of martyrdom: what really drives suicide bombers, rampage shooters, and other self-destructive killers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. LESTER, D. (2011) Violence in the workplace. In S. Clarke, R. J. Burke, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Occupational health and safety. Burlington, VT: Gower. Pp. 179-194.

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LESTER, D., STACK, S., SCHMIDTKE, A., SCHALLER, S., & MÜLLER, I. (2004) The deadliness of mass murderers. Psychological Reports, 94, 1404. LESTER, D., STACK, S., SCHMIDTKE, A., SCHALLER, S., & MÜLLER, I. (2005) Mass homicide and suicide deadliness and outcome. Crisis, 26, 184-187. PERLINE, I. H., & GOLDSCHMIDT, J. (2004) The psychology and law of workplace violence. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. WOLFGANG, M. E. (1958) Patterns of criminal homicide. Philadelphia, PA: Univer. of Pennsylvania Press. Accepted June 10, 2014.

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Murder-suicide in workplace violence.

In an analysis of 105 incidents of workplace violence in the USA from 1982 to 2002, the murderers who killed themselves after the incident killed more...
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