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Shooting in School - Averted Tragedy in Waseca, Michigan

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Application Paper: Averted Tragedy in Waseca, Michigan

Julia Hinsleu

Jessica Mauerman

Minn. teen allegedly plotted to bomb schools, kill his family

Gun violence is erupting in America’s schools and colleges at a rate of more than three incidents a month, with 13 school shootings recorded in the first six weeks of 2014 alone. Violence taking place in schools has been a reoccurring news story during the past year. The news story that I chose to analyze deals with a close call in Waseca, Michigan. A 17 year old named John LaDue had his plans of violence thwarted before he could hurt anyone. A young woman named Chelsie Shellhas noticed that John LaDue was acting suspiciously at a storage unit so she reported the activity to the police. The police who responded to the scene were surprised at what they found inside the storage locker. There were guns, bombs, and a detailed description of his plans of violence that he intended to carry out. He planned to murder his family and then make his way to Waseca High School to continue his killing spree. Luckily for the city of Waseca, a resident made the courageous call to authorities to report something that seemed out of the ordinary. In this paper I will outline the various social psychology theories that apply to this news story.

An important social psychology concept that was present in this news story deals with altruism. Altruism is helping someone without expecting anything in return. When Chelsie called authorities to report a possible break in at the storage unit, she did so without any vested interest in the storage units themselves. She did not have any personal belongings in the units, nor did she know anyone who had any belongings within the units. Her sense of duty towards others stems from a similar social psychology concept that deals with helping others. People who live in small towns tend to be more willing to help people than people who live in big cities. (Dr. H, 4/24/14). This is very similar to the bystander effect:

“A person who faces a situation of another person in distress but does so with the knowledge that others are also present and available to respond is slower and less likely to respond to the person in distress than is a person who knows that he or she is the only one who is aware of the distress. “ (Garcia, Weaver, Moskowitz, Darley, 2002, pg. 843)

If Chelsie would have exhibited the bystander effect in this situation, it could have led to people being killed by John LaDue. It would be interesting to know if she would have called the police if there were other people around who may have seen the same things as she did or if she lived in a town of 100,000 people as opposed to a town of 9,410 people. We could explain her actions by saying she acted the way she did because she lives in a small town, or we could explain her actions by analyzing social scripts and the role that they played in this situation. In small town culture, it is very important that each member of the community pulls their weight in regards to making the community a good place to live. Whether this is volunteering at a sporting event, picking up trash along the highway, or calling in suspicious activity at a storage unit, the social script for being a good community member was used by Chelsie and it saved the lives of numerous people in her community.

Chelsie is not the only character in this news story that exhibited social psychology concepts. The actions of the plotter of this would be attack, John LaDue, can be explained by a few social psychology concepts that I am going to analyze. One would assume that in order for John to want to act out in such a violent manner he would have to have been experiencing a lot of hostile aggression. Hostile aggression is described as “aggression that strings from anger; its goal is to injure” (Meyers, 2010). There is no doubt that John had intentions to cause bodily injury to many people with the various guns and bombs that he had been stockpiling in his storage shed arsenal. If John was experiencing aggression, he may have taken it out on something or someone in a less serious way than killing people. It is evident that John’s aggression progressed into hostile aggression because of his plan to kill people.

Another important social psychology concept that was evident in this news story dealt with testosterone and the effect that it may have had on John’s mental wellbeing and decision-making process. “After handling a gun, men’s testosterone levels rise, and the more their testosterone rises, the more aggressive they are toward others” (Meyers, 2010). An interesting thing to point out is John’s love for weapons. According to an article on, John is a huge fan of guns and “he "likes" assault rifles: the AK-101, Heckler & Koch SL8 and Steyr TMP” (Ford and Brumfield, 2014). I do not think that John handling guns and his hostile aggression are unrelated. I think that John handling guns caused his testosterone to rise. In turn, his higher testosterone levels causes him to experience hostile aggression and he planned to take out his hostile aggression on innocent people by killing them.



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