The latest Schmuck of the Week post is trickier than usual. Rather than bestowing this honor on Natalie Carpenter, who's reportedly suffering from mental illness, we direct it at what she represents: the ongoing fascination with the 1999 Columbine High School killers. Subsequent school shootings have been more lethal. Yet the Columbine tragedy almost fifteen years ago remains fixed in the popular imagination, as indicated by Carpenter's alleged admiration of the shooters and the threats against two Connecticut high schools she's accused of making.
As noted by the Hartford Courant, Carpenter was arrested on March 4. However, the arrest warrant was just released this week.
According to the document, Carpenter, eighteen, was staying at Hope House, a home for people suffering from mental illness; her mom told police she'd been diagnosed as suicidal and depressed, with evidence of a personality disorder and previous incidents during which she cut herself.
At Hope House, residents told staffers Carpenter had been talking about attacking schools, after which police were alerted. They subsequently learned Carpenter had gone gun shopping in the previous couple of days, although the only weapon she was able to purchase was a knife. Moreover, they discovered journals that are said to have included references to Danbury and Bunnell high schools, plus what were practically mash notes to the Columbine gunmen.
At one point, she's quoted as asking, "I mean like their [sic] my heroes but how were they able to get the guns at such a young age?" She also talked about how the experience of being bullied allowed her to better understand how the Columbine pair "ended up this way" and led an assault on their school that left a dozen people dead and many more injured.
When quizzed by police, Carpenter said she'd written the Columbine material when she was drunk, and she would never have actually hurt anyone. This assertion is echoed in the warrant by her boyfriend, who confirmed that he and Carpenter had gabbed about committing a Columbine-like crime but insisted they couldn't have gone through with it. "This is all a big joke," he said.
Not for people in Connecticut, home of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, and not for those effected by what happened at Columbine a decade and a half ago, either.
Carpenter remains in custody on suspicion of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and attempted first-degree assault.
Here's a larger look at Carpenter's booking photo, followed by a report from shortly after her arrest as broadcast by Connecticut's WFSB-TV.
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More from our News archive circa December 2012: "Columbine to Newtown: A tragic list of school shootings since 1999."