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Oakland shooter’s connections to religious university under scrutiny

A gunman opened fire Monday at a Christian university in California, killing at least seven people and wounding three more.

A gunman opened fire Monday at a Christian university in California, killing at least seven people, wounding three more and setting off an intense, chaotic manhunt that ended hours later with his capture at a shopping center, authorities said.

The gunfire erupted around midmorning at Oikos University. Heavily armed officers swarmed the school building in a large industrial park near the Oakland airport. For at least an hour after the shooting began, they believed the shooter could still be at the school.

Pastor Jong Kim, who founded the school about 10 years ago, told the Oakland Tribune that the shooter was a nursing student who was no longer enrolled. He didn’t know if the shooter was expelled or dropped out. Mr. Kim said he heard about 30 rapid-fire gunshots in the building.

Police believe the shooter acted alone, though they have not discussed a possible motive. 

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Experts caution against trying to connect too many dots in the early hours after such events, but they suggest that certain patterns in mass killings are worth noting. 

Several such shootings in the past have involved shooters from the fields of medicine, law, nursing, or graduate studies — meaning that the shooter was not a young student, but rather someone with more at stake in his or her own development, says James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston. 

“They tend to be a bit older and in a professional field where success or failure means everything to their identity,” says Professor Fox. 

Jerry Sung, the university’s accountant, said Oikos offers courses in both Korean and English to less than 100 students. He said the campus consisted of one building. Mr. Sung said many of its students went on to work in nursing and ministry.

Officer Johnna Watson said the suspect is an Asian male in his 40s and was taken into custody at a shopping center in the neighboring city of Alameda. She would not confirm if he was a student.

Most of the wounded or dead were shot inside the building, Officer Watson said. 

Such shootings are extremely rare, says Fox. In an average year, about 10 to 20 college students are murdered out of 20 million.

“A far larger problem on campus is binge drinking and suicide, much more than homicide,” says Fox. But the nature of a mass killing makes it more shocking, he adds. “The randomness of this kind of event makes people feel more out of control than other tragedies.”