Gunman in yoga studio killings raised red flags that were missed, US says


A long trail of red flags signaling a Florida man’s growing hatred of women was missed by authorities ahead of a 2018 shooting at a Florida yoga studio that left two dead and five injured, the Secret Service says Americans in a new report.

In a 28-page case study published Tuesday, the agency said the Nov. 2, 2018, attack led by Scott P. Beierle at Hot Yoga Tallahassee highlighted the specific threat posed by “misogynist extremism,” which is sometimes called as “male supremacy”.

The report was compiled by the National Center for Threat Assessment, which is part of the Secret Service and whose role is to analyze threat data and law enforcement response.

Investigators say the red flags have multiplied exponentially over the years. They included arrests for assault, repeated allegations of harassment and outward displays of animosity towards women.

Mr Beierle once wrote a screenplay about a teenage outcast who becomes a serial killer, demanding revenge against the girls who rejected him, investigators have found. When the police close in, in a foreshadowing of events, the boy kills himself.

“Communities must remain aware of misogynistic extremism, while continuing prevention efforts designed to identify and intervene with those at risk of violence,” said Lina Alathari, head of the threat assessment center, on Tuesday.

In the months leading up to the attack, which ended when Mr. Beierle, 40, took his own life, he had been researching a cheerleading camp in Florida, investigators found. The Secret Service said it also learned Mr Beierle once visited a Florida State University sorority house in Tallahassee, where serial killer Ted Bundy murdered two women and attacked several others.

Credit…Leon County Sheriff’s Office via AP

“The perpetrator was motivated to commit acts of violence by his inability to develop or maintain relationships with women, as well as his perception of women’s societal power over men,” the report said. “For decades before, he engaged in numerous instances of inappropriate and criminal behavior towards women and girls.”

His views, according to investigators, align with those of men who identify as involuntary celibates or “incels”, whose lack of successful relationships with women fuels their hostility towards them.

The Secret Service said in the report that those who committed such acts of violence did not fit a common profile.

“What most attackers share, however, is observable regarding behaviors displayed prior to engaging in violence,” the report said. “While not every act of targeted violence can be prevented, the risk of future tragedies can be reduced if the proper systems are in place to identify warning signs, gather information to assess the risk of violence, and apply community resources appropriate.

Alex DiBranco, executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, said Tuesday that the report reinforced disturbing details about Mr. Beierle that emerged in the weeks and months after the shooting.

“It’s an example of where there are a lot of red flags,” Ms. DiBranco said. “It’s a little shocking that he could do this stuff in the future.”

The targeting of a yoga studio fit a pattern, she said, adding that it was no surprise Mr. Beierle became obsessed with cheerleaders and sororities.

“They are associated in the minds of abusers with young, unattainable and attractive women,” Ms. DiBranco said.

According to the Secret Service report, Mr Beierle was fired from his job at an insurance call center while at university due to harassment by a colleague, who refused to press charges. This episode, along with others, inspired him to write a song called “Stalker”.

In 2006, Mr. Beierle was investigated by police in Maryland, where he was teaching at the time, and was accused of inappropriate conduct by a high school student, investigators found. No criminal charges have been brought against Mr. Beierle, who authorities say asked the student if she would ever appear in Playboy magazine and wear low-cut shirts.

While Mr. Beierle was serving in the US military in Europe from around 2008, four US Air Force airwomen accused him of improper conduct, the report said. In 2010, he was honorably discharged for “unacceptable conduct”.

In 2012, Mr. Beierle was arrested for groping two women in a dining hall at Florida State University, but those charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

And in 2016 he was charged with battery after he slapped and groped a woman poolside at his apartment complex, a charge that was dropped after Mr Beierle completed court-mandated counseling sessions for sex addiction.

That same year, Mr. Beierle was fired from his job as a substitute teacher by a Florida public school district for violating its internet use policy, according to investigators, who said he had viewed pornography and images of cheerleaders on a school apparatus.

On Nov. 2, 2018, Beierle used his first and middle names to sign up for a class at Hot Yoga Tallahassee, where he paced around with his newly purchased yoga mat. Class had already started when he put on hearing protection, pulled out a Glock pistol, and opened fire.

Ms DiBranco, whose research specializes in violence against women, said it was encouraging to see investigators focusing on missed warning signs of misogynistic extremism.

“We have certainly seen progress in recent years in recognizing male supremacy as an ideology,” she said.

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