A 19-year-old in Arizona has been arrested after allegedly threatening his own murderous spree and citing the Buffalo and Uvalde attacks in his messages while playing the first-person shooter game.
After the tragic attacks in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, a player in Arizona started Obligations on his phone and started typing sinister messages in the in-game chat. “The Buffalo shooting was justified,” she said. wrote May 20
“The shooting in Texas was justified in self-defense,” he wrote a week later, on May 28.
“Ramos Salvador was a good man,” he added June 1, referring to the 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde.
Then the messages intensified: “Tune in June 10 for a Casa Grande school shooting…I am going to kill at least 20,” he wrote.
According to court documents reviewed For ABC15 Arizona, he also threatened to shoot up the neighborhood movie theater, attack a police station, kill his ex-girlfriend, and attack random women and children. Elsewhere, he made racist and misogynistic comments, praising the Buffalo shooter for his mission against black people. He even asked others in Obligations whether he should consider killing his mother, something apparently inspired by previous mass shootings that started with a family member.
All of these messages, spread across two usernames, were discovered earlier this week when the FBI received a tip from an anonymous player who had seen these messages while playing. Obligations. The investigation began on June 1, when the FBI contacted game developer Activision to identify the user and obtain his chat logs. Federal agents then contacted Casa Grande police in Arizona, who put 19-year-old Joshua Adam Bowen under surveillance and arrested him on June 5.
Bowen was taken into custody and is currently being held at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center on $150,000 bond. The Pinal County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing charges of making terroristic threats, according to a statement of the Casa Grande police. Bowen reportedly pleaded not guilty when he was detailed, according to to court documents.
The suspect experience fuses a familiar mix of red flags and violent male tropes that we’ve seen in countless other shootouts. His mother said she was shocked and incredulous that her son would make threats. “He is not a violent person, he is very quiet and calm. He is very sensitive,” she saying ABC15Arizona.
It’s unclear if Bowen also has a history of behavior problems or violent ideas. Court documents state that he has a “developmental disorder”; her mother told local media that her son is autistic. According to Arizona records, Bowen was involved in a violent event in April 2021, and was charged with assault with intent to injure, criminal destruction of property and disorderly conduct. The court finally dismissed the case in June of that year. (Experts point out that while autism it can influence a person to consider violent acts, there is no link to suggest it Causes violence, especially mass violence; studies have shown repeatedly people with autism are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators).
It is also unclear how much physical planning and preparation the suspect had done; Unlike the other shooters, police found no weapons on Bowen, although Casa Grande Police said in a June 6 statement that “detectives were able to identify information that leads them to believe he may have access to firearms.” .
While details will continue to emerge, it’s impossible to ignore the context of why a young man like Bowen would discuss his violent plans so openly, and in a mobile game chat, of all places. This is not the same kind of care taken by the Buffalo shooter, who limited planning for him to a private Discord server and was cautious about being watched or stopped. He’s also not like the Uvalde shooter, who spilled breadcrumbs about his plans but stuck to private channels of communication.
Communicating intent to harm is common before mass killings, approximately half of all mass shooters do it. However, understanding the true purpose of such communication is tricky. A studio 2021 Led by violence and criminal justice experts, it investigated 170 mass shooters since 1966 and found that shooting threats were most commonly associated with prior counseling and suicidal ideation. “In other words, they were a cry for help rather than seeking fame or attention,” the authors wrote in a statement. Los Angeles Times opinion article. “The alarming rise in school shooting threats is an indicator of the current state of young people’s mental health.”
What is obvious is that there is a growing swath of lonely young people who, in the midst of a society reeling under the stress of extreme rhetoric, economic inequality and individual isolation, are looking for a way to make a difference and become something in the culture. What Andrew Smiletherapist and male development expert, said MEL after the Shooting in Dayton, Ohio in 2019, American society has failed to address a crisis of masculinity, including the failure of young men to find a “path to fulfillment” in modern life. “Many of these mass murderers are children who seem to be on the fringes of society, quote unquote,” Smiler said. “But the margins have gotten smaller and smaller.”
It is clear that we will continue to find young men who, regardless of their actual intent and ability, publicly proclaim that they are willing to disrupt everyone’s lives using fatal violence as leverage. Sometimes the team of anonymous tipsters and investigators from the FBI and local police will find and arrest a young person before it’s too late. But other times, surveillance will fail and fall apart, and we still don’t have holistic solutions to address it.