On Tuesday, T.J. Lane, 18, was sentenced to three life sentences for shooting three students to death in an Ohio high school cafeteria after pleading guilty for the February 2012 shootings at Chardon High School.
Instead of showing any remorse–either real or a fake attempt for the chance of a lesser sentence–Lang wore a t-shirt with the word “killer” scrawled across the chest. As he he was sentenced, he cursed and gestured obscenely at the families of the victims.
Despite evidence Lane suffers from hallucinations, psychosis, and fantasies, a juvenile court judge ruled him competent to stand trial.
According to The Huffington Post, Lane was “defiant during the sentencing, smiling and smirking throughout, including while four relatives of victims spoke.
At one point, he swiveled around in his chair toward the gallery where his own family members and those of the slain teenagers were sitting and spoke suddenly, surprising even his lawyer.
“The hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory,” he said, then cursed at and raised his middle finger toward the victims’ relatives.”
In all the true crime I’ve studied, all the firsthand accounts of killer’s confessions I’ve read, this trumps them all. The coldblooded killer with dead eyes and a cocky attitude is so common in thriller novels that it’s nearly cliché, but Lang seems to have brought the stereotype to life.
My question is, why? Why is this young man so cruel?
According to records, Lang’s father was violent. Between ’95 and ’97, his parents were both charged with domestic violence against the other. Later, his father was charged with assaulting a police officer. He also served time in prison for trying to suffocate another woman he married some time after the birth of his son.
Clearly, Lang witnessed and suffered horrible abuse at an age when our personalities are defined. His lashing out is something that is seen time and time again with people who come from twisted backgrounds. Incomprehensible as the murders are, a psychologist could likely make sense of Lang with serious study.
But what of the final bout of pure cruelty and disrespect? His attitude reflects a disturbing trend in today’s youth. Lang is an extreme case of the self entitled, hateful attitude seen in more and more often in his generation. Why? Is it because we as a country are soft? Because our kids aren’t disciplined the way we were? Because their lives are so comparatively easy to what we experienced growing up?
Or is Lang’s show of utter disrespect merely a biproduct of his psychosis, or some sort of self defense mechanism?
What do you think? Is TJ Lane just another victim of abuse, or is he a reflection of a darker, more dangerous generation?
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