What goes through the mind of a killer before they make the decision to take a life?Whether politically motivated or mentally deranged, the lone gunman does the unthinkable. Not only does he murder in cold blood, he also takes the lives of sometimes dozens of victims, often in a matter of moments. Some of these killers plan. Some make videos to document their crimes. They desperately and cowardly engage in brutal acts of violence that, although devastating and shocking, are unfortunately not entirely isolated incidences.
The following list of 20 terrifying shootings in North America and Europe were all perpetrated by one man. The events described below are sobering, reminding us of the tragedies which destroyed lives and shook communities. Some occurred decades ago while others only in the last few weeks. Regardless of when they happened, and the number of killers, they are vicious crimes that have proven memorable for all the wrong reasons.
20 Michael Zehaf-Bibeau
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is the man believed to be responsible for a tragic shooting in Ottawa, Canada, in October 2014. In broad daylight, Zehaf-Bibeau pulled his car up to the Canadian War Memorial site where soldiers perform regular ceremonies. In seconds, he got out of his car and shot one soldier. The soldier died on the scene.
Immediately after, Zehaf-Bibeau returned to his car and drove only a short way to the Canadian Parliament building and attempted entry. He was intercepted by armed security and RCMP and was shot dead before he could pursue his murderous rampage. According to some reports, the killing may have been politically motivated.
19 Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald is perhaps the most well-known lone gunman in history. With military skill, he assassinated John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States - again, in broad daylight.
After retreating from the scene, he also murdered a police officer who stopped him for questioning. Oswald was found out and captured by police. However, without wearing a bulletproof vest, he was shot while being transported by Mafia man Jack Ruby.
18 Eching Gunman
A 20-year old German in Eching shot and killed his former boss and a foreman in a factory where he was a former employee in 2002. After he opened fire, he travelled to his old high school and set off pipe bombs, killing the principal. Before the gunman could be apprehended, he put the gun on himself and fired. A total of four people, including the gunman, were killed.
17 Oak Creek Gunman
A Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee became the scene of untold violence when an unidentified shooter killed six people and wounded three more in 2012. The police were called and the lone gunmen began a shootout with officers. The gunman was shot to death by police. The man was caucasian in his early 30s, and the murders may have been religiously motivated.
16 Jared Loughner
Jared Loughner became increasingly paranoid before he shot and wounded former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He posted numerous rants online that detailed government conspiracies and killing the police. At a public event in Arizona, he emptied a 30-round magazine into an unsuspecting crowd. Before the shooting, he had been asking where Giffords was located, but nobody had caught on to his strange behaviour. Loughner was apprehended and tried in court.
15 Jiverly Wong
In April 2009, Jiverly Wong shot to death thirteen people in Binghamton, New York. He wounded four others and killed himself after creating a scene of chaos and shock. Wong, in only a matter of minutes, entered the office of the American Civic Association at around 10:20 a.m. and opened fire. It is still unclear what motivated the brutal attack.
14 Paul Michael Merhige
After finishing a Thanksgiving dinner with relatives in his Florida home in 2010, Paul Michael Merhige left and returned with a handgun. He began to fire at the seventeen relatives present at the dinner, killing four of them, including a six-year old child. Merhige then fled the scene and became the subject of a nation-wide manhunt before he was captured. He is currently awaiting trial and prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty.
13 George Hennard
Media called the shooting perpetrated by George Hennard “The Texas Massacre.” Hennard often frightened people he came into contact with, but he was calm and almost friendly on the date of the massacre.
After stopping at a convenience store, he made his way to Luby’s Cafeteria. With two semi-automatic pistols, he began firing at the patrons—mostly women—with surprising skill. Before committing suicide, Hennard killed twenty-two people and wounded twenty-seven.
12 Patrick Henry Sherrill
Patrick Henry Sherrill was a postman in Edmond, Oklahoma. After being reprimanded by his superiors, he entered the post office one morning with three pistols hidden in mail bags. He suddenly shot one postal worker who criticized his performance. He then stormed through the office to find hiding people.
After killing fourteen of his fellow workers, he committed suicide as police attempted to negotiate. The lives of the survivors were spared as they hid under tables, in vaults, and broom closets.
11 Jeff Weise
The people of the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota were shocked when 16-year Jeff Weise became a cold-blooded killer. In 2005, without any notice, he began shooting innocent victims, starting with Weise’s grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend. His grandfather was a member of the police force.
Weise took his grandfather's bullet-proof vest and weapons before heading to his high school. He shot one security guard, five students and a teacher. Weise then turned the gun on himself.
10 Patrick Purdy
In the summer of 1989, 26-year old Patrick Purdy drove up to a playground in Stockton, California. With with an AK-47 assault rifle, he shot more than 106 bullets across the playground as children screamed for their lives. He killed five and wounded dozens more before he put a pistol to his head and committed suicide. The shooting lasted only four minutes.
9 George Banks
George Banks was a former prison guard in the Wyoming Valley. In September 1982, Banks went on a shooting spree on Schoolhouse Lane and killed thirteen people in total. Five of them were his own children.
Although he claimed in court that it was the police who killed the people so as to frame him, the jury disagreed, and he was sentenced to death. To the horror of police, infants were among Banks’ victims.
8 Wellington Menezes de Oliveira
In April 2011, a 20-year old lone gunmen entered the Escola Municipal Tasso da Silveira school in Rio de Janeiro and began firing with two revolvers on students of all ages. He made his way into the building by telling security that he was there to give a lecture. The gunman then immediately entered a classroom and shot at children hidden under desks. He wounded many children and killed eleven.
7 Charles Whitman
Charles Whitman is one of the most notorious mass shooters of all time. In 1966, after killing his wife and mother, the 25-year old ex-Marine made his way to the University Texas and climbed the Tower with three rifles, two pistols, and a shotgun.
Just before noon, he began shooting at any unfortunate pedestrian in his sight walking below. The entire rampage lasted for 96 minutes and he murdered sixteen people. It was the first mass murder of its kind in a public space.
6 Aaron Alexis
In 2013, the Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. became the epicentre of violence and destruction when Aaron Alexis came to the scene. He entered the building with a bag containing a disassembled shotgun. He went to a nearby bathroom, assembled the gun, and went to the fourth floor where he opened fire.
Alexis stayed in one spot until police and security confronted him. A shootout began and a security guard was killed. After Alexis went missing for 15 to 20 minutes, he was confronted again by police, shot, and killed. He murdered twelve people and wounded eight.
5 Seung-Hui Cho
Virginia Tech has become synonymous with tragedy. The 2007 rampage committed by Seung-Hui Cho is regarded as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. After he purchased multiple pistols, Cho mailed packages containing incriminating photographs and video to media sources. In the early morning, he entered the school and shot thirty people including students and faculty members. Two years earlier Cho was ordered by a judge to seek treatment for suicidal tendencies as reported by his roommates.
4 David Gray
Aramoana, New Zealand, was the scene of a mass murder the likes of which was unprecedented. David Gray was a 33-year unemployed resident of the small community. In November of 1990, Gray used his semi-automatic rifle complete with a scope to murder his neighbour and the neighbour’s daughter after a verbal dispute.
He proceeded to shoot at anything nearby, including people, and killed thirteen pedestrians. He was eventually tracked down by police and killed.
3 Adam Lanza
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 is possibly the most tragic school shooting ever committed. Before going to the building, 20-year old shooter Adam Lanza killed his mother. Lanza then took three weapons, including an assault rifle, and shot his way inside the building.
After killing two faculty members, Lanza made his way to a kindergarten class. He killed the substitute teacher and all fourteen students. He proceeded to another classroom and killed another teacher. He then killed seven students. Lanza took his own life in a classroom as police began to arrive on the scene.
2 James Holmes
Twelve people were tragically murdered in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. James Holmes entered a packed theatre that was showing The Dark Knight Rises. He purchased his guns legally at various sporting goods stores. He attended the movie like a normal patron but exited shortly after through a back door.
Eighteen minutes later, he returned wearing full protective gear, and began shooting at the crowd. Fifty-eight people were wounded. One of the twelve victims was younger than 10-years old.
1 Mark Lepine
In 1989, Mark Lepine entered the l'École Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada, and confronted 60 engineering students. He then separated the men from the women and demanded the men leave the class. He shouted at the women and said he hated feminists. Despite pleas from students that they were not feminists, he opened fire and killed fourteen of the women.
The shooting is perhaps the most brutal crime ever committed in the province of Quebec, and certainly Montreal. It is remembered today to create awareness of violence against women.