The Greenwood Park Mall shooter’s laptop was blown up and he dunked his cell phone in the toilet before the July 17 shooting. Though Jonathan Sapirman did not leave a manifesto or any explicit reasons for the shooting, he did leave an online footprint that shows he had a fascination with mass killings and killers.
“There is no clear motive as to why the shooter committed this crime or why he chose the time and place to do it,” said Greenwood Police Chief Jim Ison in a Wednesday morning press conference.
After months of investigation police have still not been able to put together enough clues to say anything other than he was fascinated by mass shootings and often engaged in online debate about them on Reddit, his social platform of choice.
“The shooter made over 700 comments on subreddits related to mass killers,” said Ison, even causing enough concern for someone to tip the FBI about his level of fascination in 2019. That tip went nowhere because there was no criminal activity planned and the exact user could not be identified through a tracking of IP addresses (he was using public Wifi).
Police searched school records and Child Protective Services reports and other public records to put together a kind of a story of Sapirman’s life, which showed he was at social and financial dead ends.
“CPS reports indicated that the shooter was at times homeless as a child,” said Ison. “There were a total of 12 Child Protective Service reports filed from the time the shooter was 11 years old until he was 18 years old. These reports range from allegations of abuse, neglect, drug use and truancy.”
Born in Ohio, the shooter lived with his mom and brother after his parents split. When he moved to Indianapolis, Sapirman was in the custody of his brother, who rented their apartment in Greenwood. He was 17 at the time. But, his brother moved out. His father cut off financial support and his cell phone. Sapirman quit his job in May and his relationship with his girlfriend had ended the previous year (18 months before the shooting).
Ison said his online activity was marked by his usernames and e-mail addresses, which seemed to show his long-held fascination with Nazi Germany: thedarkwillrise#gmail.com; email@example.com and thegraterGermanReich, which was one of his Reddit user names.
Even with the online activity, one of the few who seemed to have a clue that Sapirman was capable of being a mass shooter was the ex, one of the many people interviewed by police.
“She expressed that it did not surprise her at all that he committed this crime,” said Ison.
She told police about his drug use, fascination with Nazi Germany and firearms, and about abuse.
“She informed investigators that the shooter was abusive toward her on several occasions and even stuck a gun in her mouth during an argument,” said Ison. “She also reported that he once told her, ‘this world is not made for me and I won’t live past 20 years old’. He also told her if he ever killed himself he would take others with him.”
But, the statements remained within the confines of the confidence of their relationship.
When Sapirman left his apartment the final time, he left his computer in his over with a bottle of butane that exploded, burning any right up. Ison said the phone was able to be dried and powered up, but the FBI is running software to unlock the phone, which has a six-digit code with one million possible combinations, and that could take years to unlock.