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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Alan Judd
May 20, 2014
Geddy Kramer favored video games set in dystopian worlds. He listened to music with angry lyrics. He dabbled with drugs. He desperately wanted to have sex. He watched porn on his iPhone. He saw a therapist for depression. He grieved, mostly in silence, over his parents’ divorce.
He was an American teenager in the 21st century.
One day in September 2012, Kramer sat in school, quietly mocking his classmates. And plotting to kill them.
“These … idiots have no idea what I’m writing,” Kramer typed into a journal on his phone. “I wish I could kill all of them, but there’s just not enough time and so much to do. And, like Dylan Klebold, I think I’ll have some followers. Maybe a few at least. All I have to say to them is kill those that stand in your way.”
Kramer killed no one in high school. His grasp for notoriety, his attempt to emulate Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine High School shooters, didn’t happen until almost a year after he graduated. On April 29, armed with a shotgun and homemade explosives, Kramer shot and wounded six people at the suburban FedEx warehouse where he worked. He was a would-be spree killer who took only one life. His own.
Many rituals follow mass shootings in the United States, prominent among them a search for meaning — for the hidden clues that would somehow make sense of why the shooter snapped; for the missed signals that, if detected in time, might have forestalled the tragedy.
But a close examination of Geddy Kramer’s final months finds no obvious cause for his rampage. It suggests no dramatic descent into madness. And, perhaps most important, it reveals nothing that Kramer did that necessarily would have alerted anyone to the looming assault.
Kramer’s case shows the difficulty of predicting and preventing acts of mass violence, and of understanding what drives its perpetrators. Common traits, including some form of mental illness, tend to define spree killers, experts say, but those same traits also stand out among many more people who never commit a violent act.
“If you predict every isolated, troubled young man is going to perpetrate a mass shooting, you would be wrong thousands of times,” said Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University’s School of Medicine who studies the nexus between violence and mental illness.
This examination is based in part on 600 pages of police reports, along with 33 compact discs of witness statements, crime scene photographs, and data from Kramer’s phone: text messages, his Internet browsing history, and his electronic journal, sarcastically titled “The Thoughts of a Nobody.”
Kramer’s writings, though often juvenile and profane, betray no delusional thinking or paranoid fixations. Rather, they reflect the banality of adolescence, returning again and again to Kramer’s indignity over how others viewed him — as such a loser that he appeared exactly once as a senior in his high school yearbook — versus his exalted self-image. Certainly, Kramer had problems. But the fact that he responded to them with extreme measures may be all that distinguishes him from any other disaffected 19-year-old.
Kramer left behind two mysteries, equally unsolvable and unnerving: why he harbored such rage, and how he concealed it with such ease before he erupted in violence.
‘OUTCAST OF THE WORLD’
By the second month of his senior year at North Cobb High School in Acworth, Geddy Kramer so neatly fit the profile of a schoolhouse shooter as to be a cliché. He was obsessed with Columbine. Fascinated by guns. Emotionally isolated from friends and family. He even dressed all in black.
Such a characterization comes easily with hindsight. At the time, Kramer outwardly displayed few, if any, signs of violent tendencies. Even his interest in Columbine could have been interpreted as merely academic.
“Every time someone brings up my future, I smile a little bit and just think of how much fun 41913 is going to be. … I’m going to go out guns blazing.”
GEDDY KRAMER, referring to his original plan to attack his school on the anniversary of Columbine
Early in the fall semester of 2012, his forensic science teacher assigned a research project on a notorious crime — “of course,” Kramer wrote in his journal, “Columbine.”
Kramer was 4 years old when Klebold and Harris killed 12 other students and a teacher before committing suicide together in their Colorado high school. Yet he seems to have identified closely with the killers. In his journal, he described them as heroes.
“Crime, huh,” he wrote about Columbine on Sept. 21, 2012. “The only crime was that the death toll wasn’t higher.”
To teachers and other students, the only problem apparent in Kramer’s life at the time involved turmoil in his family.
The week before school started, Kramer’s mother, Tracy, pleaded guilty to a drunken-driving charge. She had been arrested after crashing into a stop sign and registering a blood-alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit. Then, about a week into the school year, Kramer’s parents signed papers initiating their divorce. Kramer and his brother would live with their father, Scott, in the family home in Acworth.
Neither of Kramer’s parents would comment for this article.
Kramer’s friends later said he was devastated by the divorce, although he rarely spoke about it directly. He saw a therapist and was on an antidepressant for a while. Regardless, he barely addressed the family drama in his journal.
He focused instead on the coming spring — on Friday, April 19, 2013, the day before the 14th anniversary of Columbine.
“This is hilarious,” Kramer wrote on Sept. 26, 2012. “Every time someone brings up my future, I smile a little bit and just think of how much fun 41913 is going to be. … I’m going to go out guns blazing.”
Two days later, he outlined how he hoped to kill as many classmates as possible.
He would launch the assault in the building that houses North Cobb’s math department. “Few entrances, no poorly placed flanks, plenty of rooms and nowhere to run!!!!”
He would chain the outside doors shut to prevent escapes. He would plant dummy bombs to distract any on-campus police officer who responded to the gunfire. He considered leaving notes that said, “Too late.”
“I’ll show up around 11:45 after transit to 3rd period,” Kramer wrote. “Set up and make sure lunch doesn’t pop up before the fun begins.”
“I’m so excited. It’ll be one hell of a day.”
His anger only intensified as the school year progressed.
In his journal, he fantasized about sexually mutilating certain girls with a rusty straight razor. He wrote graphically about wanting to maim a particular student and turn him into “an ugly freak.” An Oct. 24 entry referred to a list of classmates he wanted to kill. They apparently were among those he perceived as taunting him for being a virgin, a subject so sensitive that he considered not waiting until the Columbine anniversary to carry out his assault.
“I am the f—ing outcast of the world,” Kramer wrote on Oct. 26. “I’m sick of it. I’m sick of being the weird one. I’m sick of being the one everyone looks at and laughs. I hate this place. I hate this world.”
Kramer took care to keep his plot secret. He had stopped using a paper journal — which contained “plans, drawings, angry rants,” he wrote — because a family member might have discovered it in his bedroom. Once he referred to an earlier electronic journal that he erased following “a close call.”
He wrote very little in the journal between late fall and early spring. During that time, a critical detail consumed him: how to get a gun.
He grew up in a home with no firearms, and he didn’t have the money to buy one. He hoped to get enough cash in graduation gifts. Or maybe his grandparents would help, he wrote.
As April 19 approached, he still didn’t have a gun but was proceeding with final preparations. He put together a document that he headed “Final Requests,” which served as a combined suicide note, manifesto, and last will and testament. In it, he ranted about preserving the separation of church and state and called for public executions of religious extremists.
“At my funeral,” he wrote, “keep the f—ing religious people away.”
And: “Nobody blame this on music, media, friends, et cetera.”
And, finally, he didn’t want his father’s girlfriend at his funeral. “Only my real mom.”
He finished that document on Wednesday, April 17, two days out. He seemed ready to kill, and ready to die.
Then — nothing.
“I know I was supposed to do it by now,” Kramer wrote on April 24, “but some things came up.”
‘YOU’RE WASTING AWAY’
A few weeks after he graduated in May 2013, Kramer typed up ideas for several video games. One, “Chastity,” was set in an apocalyptic universe called Bioshock. The hero — named Kramer — arrives on an artificial island “made for those who have lost interest in their living conditions,” he wrote. Because of a drug called Lotus, “everyone is insane and violent.” The game required Kramer, the character, to fight his way to the island’s northern tip. “Easy,” Kramer, the creator, wrote, “if he didn’t live at the southern tip.”
Reality soon set in. With no plans to attend college, Kramer needed a job. A former classmate who already worked at FedEx offered to help Kramer. He started work there in August.
The warehouse stretches more than a quarter-mile along Airport Road in Kennesaw, across from Cobb County Airport-McCollum Field, 25 miles from downtown Atlanta. It was no more than a 15-minute drive from Kramer’s home.
The job was mind-numbing. Kramer worked overnight, stacking boxes into delivery trucks. When one truck was full, he moved on to the next. Truck after truck, night after night.
Kramer slept in the daytime and had little to do with most of his friends from high school — except, apparently, to pester them about drugs. By early this year, they had tired of his continual requests.
“You used to be cool and funny, but now nobody wants to have anything to do with you,” one friend texted Kramer on Jan. 20, after he asked her to help him buy hallucinogenic mushrooms. “You’re wasting away. … You shut everyone out after graduation and now all you want from us is drugs. We all wanted what was best for you.”
Kramer deflected her scolding: “lololololololol. … Eye-opening and hilarious.”
At home, Kramer hung a black comforter over his bedroom window and duct-taped the edges to the wall to seal out sunlight. He communicated with his father via texts, in curt responses to mundane messages.