For Release: Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Washington, DC–The murder of five family members and subsequent suicide by a Riverside County, California, investigator for the District Attorney’s office fits the tragic pattern of most of the estimated 1,000 to 1,500 deaths that result each year from murder-suicide, according to the Violence Policy Center (VPC). In 2002, the VPC published the largest study of murder-suicides ever conducted, American Roulette: The Untold Story of Murder-Suicide in the United States. The study was based on data collected in the first six months of 2001 and found that California was second only to Florida in the number of murder-suicides, with 29 murder-suicides in the first half of 2001.
The Riverside shooting is entirely consistent with the patterns identified in the VPC study:
- The Riverside incident was committed with a handgun. The VPC study found that 94.5 percent of murder-suicide incidents studied involved a firearm, most often a handgun.
- Men were the murderers in 90.4 percent of incidents in the VPC study.
- Like 73.7 percent of the murder-suicide incidents evaluated for the VPC study, the Riverside case involved the killing of an intimate partner. Children were often also victims.
- As was the case in 76 percent of cases looked at in the VPC study, the Riverside incident occurred in the home.
- The VPC study also notes that law enforcement officials may have high rates of murder-suicide. Studies that compare suicide rates show that law enforcement suicide rates exceed rates for both the general population and age/gender matched groups. The VPC study also identified several incidents where the officer’s service weapon was used, as was the case in the Riverside shooting.
VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “Most people think of suicide as a solitary act. They fail to understand that many people with suicidal thoughts are also intent on taking people–most often family members–with them, and that guns make it far too easy to commit mass murder-suicide. America needs to fully understand the risk of murder-suicide and the pivotal role that firearms play.”