On December 14, 1992, Wayne Lo killed one student and a professor at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Massachusetts. Lo wounded four others before surrendering to police. He is now serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Wayne Lo was an A student and gifted violinist. He was known as being obedient and helpful, working at his family’s restaurant and studying late into the night. Educators said he genuinely seemed to like school. Friends and acquaintances commented on his excellent manners and his respect for others. His father, C. W, and his mother, Lin-Lin, emigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1986.
Life was far from perfect, however. Brian Skinner, an assistant manager at the family’s restaurant, said Wayne would often comment about how harsh his father was and how much he hated him. C. W. was a strict disciplinarian who would beat Wayne and his brothers for any indiscretion. During the second semester of Lo’s freshman year at Billings Central Catholic High School in Billings, Montana, his teachers noticed he seemed especially stressed. He was the only student of Asian origin in the school, which likely added to the stress he felt. Lo’s parents, like many Asians and Asian Americans, had tremendously high expectations for their son and placed a lot of pressure on him to achieve. Lo’s English teacher noticed his grades had slipped and that instead of the pride he formerly took in his work, Lo seemed to be proud of his sloppiness and mistakes. She and another teacher, Gary Gaudreau, discussed their concerns with the school counselor, but little was done.
During the Easter break, Lo stole his mother’s car and went to Oregon to visit a girl there–behavior very out of character for him. He kept dropping hints that his parents should transfer him to a boarding school. Some experts have speculated Lo desired this arrangement so he could escape from the pressure at home. His parents gave in and sent him to Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts, a highly acclaimed, rigorous school.
Wayne Lo started at Simon’s Rock in September 1991. He was 17 years old, and had also just earned his U.S. citizenship. He seemed to thrive at Simon’s Rock, exploring a variety of courses and joining the basketball team. Lo claimed, however, that he still felt like an outcast. He had a group of friends, all of whom also seemed to cling to outcast status and who were described as perpetually angry. He did, however, develop an interest in guns and weapons, When he returned home on a break, Lo showed his best friend his new brass knuckles and told another friend he needed a pistol for protection, In his second year at Simon’s Rock, Lo repeatedly asked others about obtaining weapons. A few days before the shooting, he used his mother’s credit card to order several 30 bullet clips, a folding plastic stock, and 200 pounds of copper-jacketed, steel-core bullets; he had the package delivered to him at the school. On December 13, Lo told a student he was planning to bring a gun to campus to shoot people. Later that evening, the same friend called Lo, who said he was busy copying the Book of Revelations into his notebook so everyone would think he was crazy. His friend assumed he was joking.
A receptionist received Lo’s gun-related package and alerted various campus authorities. They were hesitant to invade Lo’s privacy or commit mail fraud by opening the package, however. They agreed to watch Lo while he opened the package, but somewhere there was a miscommunication and Lo opened everything except the ammunition in his room before officials got there. In the end, despite this strange behavior, Lo was allowed to keep his weapons and ammunition because he said it was a Christmas gift from his father. Lo did meet with the dean, but it was generally to discuss his transfer to college. The dean concluded that Lo was not a threat and did not have any weapons. That same night, an anonymous caller phoned several school officials, saying Lo had weapons and planned to target his residence director’s family. The college provost alerted the family, who went to stay elsewhere, but no other action was taken.
The next morning, Lo traveled by taxi to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he purchased a semi-automatic weapon at Steve’s Sporting Goods Store. He began shooting on campus that evening, first wounding receptionist Teresa Beavers, then killing Spanish teacher Nacunan Saez. He proceeded to the library, where he killed student Galen Gibson and wounded another student. Lo then headed to a dormitory, where he shot and wounded two other students. His rifle had jammed and he dropped the weapon and entered the student union, where he called the police. He surrendered to them when they arrived at the scene.
Throughout his trial, Lo was portrayed as a quiet and unassuming student, but also as a racist who was obsessed with violent music. Lo continues to say these allegations are not true, and that the racism allegation stems solely from a paper he wrote for class calling for the exile of people with AIDS. He claims that the paper was written because he was simply trying to earn a good grade. At the time of the shooting, Lo was wearing a shirt featuring the name of a hard-core band called “Sick of It All,” although he claims he loved all kinds of music. The band spoke out after the attack, denouncing Lo’s crime.
Lo’s assault rocked the small, prestigious college and the Asian American community. Attention on the latter was renewed after Seung Hui Cho’s massacre at Virginia Tech. Prior to the attacks by Lo and Cho, University of Iowa exchange student Gang Lu had opened fire during a physics department meeting, killing five and leaving another person paralyzed before shooting himself in the head. Asian Americans denounced these shootings, asserting that theirs is not a violent culture. Many did, however, discuss the high pressure placed on Asian children and lack of forgiveness in the culture. Additionally, commentators noted that Asian cultures often dismiss mental illness and reject treatment for it. There was also concern about possible retaliatory attacks on Asian immigrants.
In 1999, Greg Gibson, father of Galen Gibson, one of Lo’s victims, wrote Gone Boy: A Walkabout, his account of the shooting and its impact. This was the start of regular correspondence between Gibson and Lo.
- Gibson, G. (1999). Gone boy: A walkabout. New York: Anchor.
- Glaberson, W. (2000, April 12). Man and his son’s slayer unite to ask why. New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010, from http://partners.nytimes.com/library/national/041200rampage-killers.html
- Yang, J. (2007, April 19). Killer reflection. Salon. Retrieved May 2, 2010, from http://www.salon.com/2007/04/19/cho_shooting/