Last weekend, a shooter killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio before being killed by police. The suspect was identified as Connor Betts, a 24-year-old, and among the victims was his younger sister Megan. “It seems to just defy believability that he would shoot his own sister,” said Dayton’s police chief. “But it’s also hard to believe he didn’t recognize that was his sister, so we just don’t know.”
Many in Dayton, and in the country, are trying to make sense of the incident, not least the parents of the siblings. Having lost two children, they are left with a brutal twist on a question faced by so many other parents in the era of mass shootings: How does one make sense of having a child who has killed several people?
The parents of the Dayton shooter have not yet issued any public statements, but the reflections of others in similar situations illustrate the many confusing emotions a parent might experience after an incident like this. Andrew Solomon, the author of Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, has had intimate conversations with multiple parents of people who committed violent crimes. In those conversations, he told me, he was struck by how different parents’ reactions could be.