("An Angel Comforting Jesus Before his Arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane," Carl Heinrich Bloch, c. 1870)
The 18-year-old young man, Salvador Ramos, who entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas and open fired with an AR-15 style rifle killing 19 students and 2 teachers plus wounding many others, was certainly engaged in a most evil act. All such evil ultimately finds its roots in Satan's dark kingdom. But, as I was recently asked, was he possessed by demons?
To date, news accounts have not given any indication of previous symptoms of possession, or even any diagnosable mental illness. His grandfather reported not being aware of any previous serious distress in his grandson, nor did the young man have any reported criminal history.
However, there was a constellation of dynamics in the shooter's life that made him at significant risk for such violent behavior. There is a FBI generated clinical syndrome of a "School Shooter." The Uvalde shooter had many of these:
*Isolation. Ramos was said to have no friends and called a loner. At work, he intentionally kept to himself.
*Distressed family environment. Ramos lived with his grandparents. There were reportedly emotional blowups with him screaming in anger at his mother and the police being called. The father was largely an absent figure in recent years. There was no mention of Salvador Ramos attending church, or any social or religious events.
*Low self-esteem. Ramos suffered from a serious stutter and strong lisp. He was on the verge of not graduating with his class, an additional blow to his self-esteem and a source of conflict with his grandmother whom he shot. His failure to graduate may have been the precipitating event for his violence.
*Feelings of victimization. Some reports said that Ramos was repeatedly bullied by his classmates. Others report that he was the bully. Perhaps it was a bit of both. No doubt he was isolated from other students. This further damaged his self-esteem.
*Inner anger/rage coupled with feelings of powerlessness. Undoubtedly, he had a growing inner anger and rage. He was said to have "anger issues." His likely feelings of powerlessness to deal with this rage thus bottled it up and seethed in his isolation.
*Inner distress expressed via externalized violence. Ramos' only way of dealing with this inner turmoil was with externalized violence. He carried boxing gloves with him and was often involved in fistfights with other students.
*Narcissism, lacking in empathy, and self-focused. His facebook posts reveal a kind of narcissism and self-focus. He boasted of coming violent acts. Previously, he harassed other employees with the query, "Do you know who I am?" His violent rampage at the school would garner him international "recognition," albeit only as an agent of evil.
*Leakage. As part of his narcissism and desire for public notoriety, he posted, "I shot my grandmother" and "I am going to shoot an elementary school." There were previous social media posts by Ramos which in retrospect are alarming previews of his future violence. More than two months prior, on social media, he discussed being a school shooter. This was not an impulsive outburst of violence but a planned event preceded by a purchasing of two semi-automatic weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and an armored vest.
We see common characteristics of school shooters and lone wolf terrorists in Salvador Ramos. This profile is also typical of what we, in our deliverance ministry, call: "demon brain." Demons are similarly angry, violent, rageful, feel victimized, isolated, and are hugely narcissistic, lacking empathy. Ramos is reported to have started wearing all black and using black eyeliner. While we cannot blame every evil act on demons, one senses their footprints in this incident and in the perpetrator.
There are many people in this world who are victimized and do not end up shooting innocent school children. This act was pure evil, as many have characterized it. At the very least, Satan was certainly whispering in the shooter's "ear," tempting him to such an evil act, as he tries to do to some degree in all of us. But in Ramos' case, Satan likely had a stronger foothold, given his underlying dysfunctional "demon brain" dynamics. Ramos was a more vulnerable target for the Evil One's influence.
It is very possible that he was demonically "obsessed" and thus Satan would have a stronger sway over him. Satan then fills the mind with evil thoughts. Finally, as Ramos committed himself to the act of murder, he may even have become possessed. At one point, in the process of killing the children, he is chillingly reported to have said, "It's time to die!"
This moment might remind one of Judas at the Last Supper. "After he took the morsel, Satan entered him." (Jn 13:27). Judas' final commitment to betraying Jesus and acting upon it resulted in Satan "entering" into him.
These reflections remain speculation, based upon media accounts to date, subject to revision. But we should not underestimate the battleground of spiritual warfare upon which we are all engaged. Moreover, we ought not to give fertile ground for the Evil One to gain a foothold. Had Salvador Ramos been identified much earlier as a person of risk and proper therapeutic and spiritual remedies applied, this tragedy might possibly have been averted.
According to FBI statistics, such incidents of violence and terrorism are rising rapidly in our country. Moreover, there are increasing feelings of isolation- especially among the young, a breakdown of the nuclear family, rising teen suicide rates, and a sharp decline in the practice of the Christian faith. As these trends continue, it is likely that such outbreaks and violence will continue on the same rising trajectory.
How might we respond? Implement the many necessary changes in our schools and society suggested by health care and law enforcement experts. Build a psychologically and spiritually healthier family, community, and country. Most importantly: pray - pray - pray. We are fighting for the soul of this nation.
Never underestimate the importance of a simple prayer. It is the Spirit of God who inspires our prayer and it is God himself who will bring it to fruition. And in Him, we might find some consolation in the midst of this horrible tragedy.