Gunman in Yoga Studio Killings Raised Red Flags That Were Missed, U.S. Says


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Gunman in Yoga Studio Killings Raised Red Flags That Were Missed, U.S. Says


A yearslong trail of red flags signaling a Florida man’s escalating hatred toward women was missed by the authorities before a 2018 shooting at a Florida yoga studio that left two dead and five injured, the U.S. Secret Service found in a new report.

In a 28-page case study released on Tuesday, the agency said that the Nov. 2, 2018, attack carried out by Scott P. Beierle at Hot Yoga Tallahassee highlighted the specific threat posed by “misogynistic extremism,” which is sometimes referred to as “male supremacy.”

The report was compiled by the National Threat Assessment Center, which is part of the Secret Service and whose role is to analyze threat data and the response of law enforcement.

Investigators say that the red flags multiplied exponentially over the years. They included arrests for battery, repeated allegations of stalking and outward demonstrations of an animus toward women.

Mr. Beierle once wrote a screenplay about an outcast teenage boy who becomes a serial killer, exacting revenge against the girls who had rejected him, investigators found. When the police close in, in a foreshadowing of events, the boy kills himself.

“Communities must remain aware of misogynistic extremism, while pursuing prevention efforts that are designed to identify and intervene with those who pose a risk of violence,” Lina Alathari, chief of the threat assessment center, said in a statement on Tuesday.

In the months before the attack, which ended when Mr. Beierle, 40, took his own life, he had researched a cheerleading camp in Florida, investigators found. The Secret Service said that it had also learned that Mr. Beierle had once visited a sorority house at Florida State University in Tallahassee where the serial killer Ted Bundy had murdered two women and attacked several others.

Credit…Leon County Sheriff’s Office via AP

“The attacker was motivated to carry out violence by his inability to develop or maintain relationships with women, along with his perception of women’s societal power over men,” the report said. “For decades prior, he engaged in numerous instances of inappropriate and criminal behavior directed toward women and girls.”

His views, investigators said, aligned with those of men who identify as involuntary celibates or “incels,” whose lack of successful relationships with women fuel their hostility toward them.

The Secret Service said in the report that those who committed such acts of violence did not fit a common profile.

“What most attackers share, however, are observable concerning behaviors displayed prior to engaging in violence,” the report said. “Although every act of targeted violence may not be prevented, the risk of future tragedies can be reduced if the appropriate systems are in place to identify the warning signs, gather information to assess the risk of violence and apply the appropriate community resources.”

Alex DiBranco, the executive director and a co-founder of the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, said on Tuesday that the report reinforced disturbing details about Mr. Beierle that emerged in the weeks and months after the shooting.

“He’s an example of where there’s a lot of red flags,” Ms. DiBranco said. “It’s kind of shocking that he was able to do these kinds of things going forward.”

The targeting of a yoga studio fit a pattern, she said, adding that it was not surprising that Mr. Beierle had become fixated with cheerleaders and sororities.

“They’re associated in the minds of perpetrators with young, unattainable, attractive women,” Ms. DiBranco said.

According to the Secret Service report, Mr. Beierle was fired from his job at an insurance call center while he was in college because of his harassment of a female co-worker, who declined to press criminal charges. That episode, along with others, inspired him to write a song called “Stalker.”

In 2006, Mr. Beierle was the focus of a police investigation in Maryland, where he had been teaching at the time and was accused of inappropriate conduct by a female high school student, investigators found. No criminal charges were brought against Mr. Beierle, who the authorities said had asked the student if she would ever appear in Playboy magazine and if she would wear low-cut shirts.

While Mr. Beierle was serving in the U.S. Army in Europe beginning around 2008, four female airmen in the U.S. Air Force accused him of inappropriate conduct, the report said. In 2010, he was honorably discharged for “unacceptable conduct.”

In 2012, Mr. Beierle was arrested for groping two women at a dining hall at Florida State University, but those charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

And in 2016, he was charged with battery after slapping and groping a woman by the pool at his apartment complex, a charge that was dropped after Mr. Beierle completed court-mandated counseling sessions for sex addiction.

That same year, Mr. Beierle was fired from his job as a substitute teacher by a public school district in Florida for violating its internet use policy, according to investigators, who said that he had viewed pornography and images of cheerleaders on a school device.

On Nov. 2, 2018, Mr. Beierle used his first and middle names to sign up for a class at Hot Yoga Tallahassee, where he paced around with his newly purchased yoga mat. The class had already started when he put on hearing protection, pulled out a Glock pistol and opened fire.

Ms. DiBranco, whose research specializes in violence toward women, said that it was encouraging to see investigators focus on the missed warning signs of misogynistic extremism.

“We’ve definitely seen progress in the last few years in recognizing male supremacy as an ideology,” she said.


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