The Columbus Dispatch

FBI document reveals details of Dayton mass shooter’s journal entries

- Laura A. Bischoff State Bureau USA TODAY NETWORK

Warning: This story contains descriptio­ns of a mass shooter’s desire for violence, suicide and murder.

The 24-year-old suburban Dayton man who carried out a mass shooting in a busy entertainm­ent district in August 2019 aspired to be a serial killer but was willing to settle for spree killer, according to writings in his diary that the FBI recently released.

FBI agents recovered journals kept by Connor Betts, of Brookville, in which he says he describes years-long preoccupat­ions with violence, murder and suicide.

Excerpts of the journals were included in a presentati­on to the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Associatio­n. The presentati­on gave a more detailed account than what was released when the FBI closed out its investigat­ion in November 2021. It was obtained through a Freedom of Informatio­n Act request.

In less than 35 seconds, Betts shot his best friend, murdered his sibling, killed eight others, wounded dozens and sent people running in terror. Dayton police on duty that night ran toward Betts, shooting him dead before he could enter a crowded bar.

What did the mass shooter write?

The cover of one journal was decorated with the words “Serial Killer Passion.”

Excerpts included:

July 2015: “I really want to be a serial killer. Like, that’s my only aspiration in this life. Failing that (because I fail b/c I’m a failure lol) I’ll settle for spree killer .... Bellbrook is not equipped or prepared for an active shooter situation. Hopefully it’ll make me famous, this slaughter of heathens and infidels, this massacre of innocents/innocence. Some people are born evil, this is the way of things. Someone has to

balance the scales. I’ll see if I can help the cause a little.”

October 2016: “My thoughts are plagued with thoughts of suicide, torture, and mass murder.”

January 2017: “I’ve always known my purpose, my goal, my path; to kill again and again, until I am caught or killed. There can be no avoiding this truth any longer. It is simply a facet of my life that must be addressed and dealt with.”

Following the shooting, the FBI conducted more than 125 interviews across nine states and Canada with Betts’ friends, family, classmates and others. Investigat­ors executed 10 separate search warrants, made two dozen requests for other records and collaborat­ed with the FBI’S behavior analysis unit.

Hanging above Betts’ bedroom in his parents’ home was a banner depicting a monster with fangs and multiple tentacles. Behind the banner was skull and crossbones on background paper.

The behavioral analysis unit examined his fascinatio­n with mass violence, a decade-long struggle with multiple mental health stressors and the loss of stabilizin­g anchors in his life just before the Aug. 4, 2019 attack. The twopage summary of the investigat­ion publicly released in November 2021 did not specify what destabiliz­ed Betts.

But the presentati­on listed a loss of his friend group, problems at work, getting kicked out of his band, a break up with a girlfriend and resumption of drug use as destabiliz­ing factors.

He was interested in other mass shootings, including the shooting at Walmart in El Paso, Texas the day before the Dayton massacre.

The presentati­on also noted that Betts began purchasing firearms in 2013. He bought the weapon and double-drum magazine used in the Dayton shooting from March 2019 to June 2019. He purchased body armor in July 2019.

How Ohio changed gun laws since the shooting

Days after the tragedy, a crowd shouted “do something” at Gov. Mike Dewine during a candleligh­t vigil in the Oregon District and the governor promised to take action.

Ohio lawmakers and the governor removed the requiremen­t that people receive training and background checks before carrying concealed weapons, reduced the training required for teachers to carry weapons in schools and eliminated the duty to retreat from public spaces before exercising deadly force in self-defense.

And the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Bellbrook-sugarcreek Local Schools did not have to release Betts’ school records under a state student privacy law.

Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizati­ons across Ohio.

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