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Criminologist: Mass Shooters Typically Aim To Top Previous Death Tolls To ‘Become Infamous’

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooter Adam Lanza (credit: CBS 2)

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooter Adam Lanza (credit: CBS 2)

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NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – Connecticut State Police said it is not accurate to say that a motive has been established for the Dec. 14 shooting rampage in Newtown.

But investigators may have pieced together a big part of the puzzle in determining what drove gunman Adam Lanza to murder 26 people, including 20 first graders, that day.

Lanza was apparently obsessed with Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a July 2011 attack in downtown Oslo and at a teen summer camp, according to sources who spoke to CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr.

Criminologist Jack Levin at Northeastern University said Lanza’s isolation and a possible rivalry with other mass killers are characteristics that the Sandy Hook gunman shares with other shooters.

“It is not surprising that a school shooter would be inspired to break a record that was left by another school shooter. We’ve seen this happen at Columbine, a massacre that inspired killers all over the world – in Finland, in Germany, in Brazil, Australia, Canada and the United States,” Levin told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane. “They want to capture the attention of the world. They want desperately to become infamous and that’s why they talk about setting records, amassing large body counts.”

Levin added that the discussion of a possible motive for a mass shooting stirs anger, but Levin noted that it’s an important topic if it is not obsessive and non-stop.

“We put them in the position of anti-heroes and we give them tremendous amounts of publicity that they simply don’t deserve. And in the process, we fuel a copycat phenomenon,” Levin told Murnane.

Sources told CBS News that Lanza had designs on topping Breivik’s death toll and targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School because it was an easy target with a large cluster of people. Lanza may have intended to kill more, but was interrupted when police responded to the shooting.

“He cut off his attack, apparently, short when police responded in a fairly quick fashion,” Orr said.

Officials have not publicly revealed what evidence they have relating to Lanza’s obsession with Breivik. However, they did recover a large quantity of video games from the basement of the home he shared with his mother.

“We do know that he was very interested in violent shooting games,” said Orr. “Is it the complete picture? Probably not, and we don’t know everything yet that will might eventually find out. But this is a key piece of information for investigators moving forward.”

Authorities said Lanza fatally shot his mother on the morning of Dec. 14 before driving to the elementary school to finish his rampage.

Lanza did not seem to have a presence on social media, but authorities are said to be looking at connections that Lanza may have developed online in hours of playing video games, Murnane reported.

A state report on the case is not expected before summer.

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