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Police look for a motive in Britain’s first mass shooting in a decade

Forensic officers working at site of mass shooting
Forensic officers work at the site of a mass shooting in Plymouth, England, that left six people dead, including the gunman.
(Ben Birchall / Press Assn.)

Police investigating Britain’s first mass shooting in more than a decade — which left six dead, including the gunman — said Friday that the motive was unclear but that there were no immediate signs the crime was an act of terrorism or connected to right-wing groups.

Police identified the shooter as Jake Davison, 22, and said he had a gun license but revealed few other details. Witnesses told police that he used a pump-action shotgun in his rampage Thursday night, but police wouldn’t confirm what type of weapon it was or whether it was the one Davison was licensed to use.

Gun crimes are rare in Britain, where there are strict gun-control rules.

Shaun Sawyer, chief constable for Devon and Cornwall police, told reporters that officers responding to multiple emergency calls at 6:11 p.m. Thursday arrived six minutes later at an address in Plymouth’s Keyham neighborhood, where Davison had shot and killed a woman who lived there. Police are investigating whether Davison and the victim were related, he said.

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Davison then left the house and immediately shot and killed a “very young girl” and her male relative who were outside, then shot and wounded two other people farther along the street. He went to a park where he shot another man, who died at the scene, and then a woman on a nearby street. She died later in the hospital, Sawyer said.

The girl was 3 years old, and the other victims ranged in age from 33 to 66, the police force said later on Twitter.

Latino and Black victims account for nearly all of the surge in homicides in Los Angeles since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Times analysis of LAPD data.

Eyewitnesses reported that Davison shot himself before police arrived.

Davison was licensed to use a gun last year, but Sawyer said police were checking whether he had a license before then.

Sawyer said investigators are not sure what his motive was, but are not considering terrorism or any links to far-right groups, though they’re keeping an open mind.

“Let’s see what’s on his hard drive, let’s see what’s on his computer, let’s see what’s on social media,” Sawyer told reporters.

“We believe we have an incident that is domestically related that has spilled into the street and seen several people of Plymouth lose their lives in an extraordinarily tragic circumstance,” he added.

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Davison appeared to post on YouTube under the name Professor Waffle in an account that has now been taken down, replaced by a notice saying that it violated the website’s community guidelines. In a final 11-minute clip posted before the killings, “Professor Waffle” talks about how he was “beaten down and defeated by ... life.”

He refers to difficulties meeting women, struggling to stay motivated to work out and lose weight, and working as a scaffolder. Davison also briefly refers to “people who are incels” — online shorthand for “involuntarily celibate” — saying that, while he wouldn’t describe himself as one, they are “people similar to me, they’ve had nothing but themselves, and then they’ve socially had it tough.”

Britain’s last mass shooting was in 2010, when a taxi driver killed 12 people in Cumbria in northwest England before taking his own life.


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