Connor Sturgeon was a 25-year-old male working at the Old National Bank. He subsequently carried out a mass shooting in the early hours of April 10th, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky. Sturgeon ended up killing five people that day who, included;
- Joshua Barrick
- Juliana Farmer
- Tommy Elliott
- Deana Eckert
- James Tutt
When these incidents happen, we all want to know why. Gun reform is the obvious problem, and we want to know the shooters’ motives. Allegedly Sturgeon had no prior convictions or run-ins with the police and no issues with his job or anything that would be cause for concern…except multiple head injuries that Connor sustained.
Connor’s father, Todd Sturgeon, has recently told CNN that “Connor is being tested for CTE. Probably will take a while to get results,” The Sturgeon family explained that Connor had sustained three significant concussions throughout his lifetime. Two occurred during eighth-grade football and one in basketball in high school.
There was so much concern about the concussions Connor previously had that when he played basketball; he wore a helmet to protect his head. His family has been speculating that CTE might have played a part into why Connor decided to kill some of his co-workers. Only an autopsy can confirm this diagnosis.
What is CTE
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated head trauma, such as concussions. The condition was first identified in the 1920s in boxers and was originally known as dementia pugilistica. However, it was not until the 2000s that CTE gained widespread attention due to its association with professional football players.
CTE is characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal protein called tau in the brain. Tau protein helps to stabilize the structure of neurons, but in CTE, it becomes misfolded and clumps together in a way that damages the brain’s cells. This damage can lead to various symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, impulsivity, aggression, and suicidal ideation. These symptoms can appear years or even decades after the head trauma occurs.
CTE is typically diagnosed posthumously through an examination of the brain tissue. However, research has shown that it can develop in individuals who have suffered repeated head trauma, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with a concussion or not.
While CTE has received widespread attention due to its association with professional football players, it can also affect individuals in other contact sports, military service, and other high-risk occupations. CTE is a serious and debilitating condition that can profoundly impact an individual’s quality of life, and there is currently no cure or effective treatment for the disease.
Symptoms of CTE
Here is a detailed list of the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE):
- Memory loss
- Impaired judgment
- Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
- Difficulty planning and organizing
- Aggression and irritability
- Depression and anxiety
- Suicidal ideation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Tremors or other movement disorders
- Speech difficulties
- Vision problems
- Difficulty swallowing
Not all individuals with CTE will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of the symptoms can vary widely from person to person. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it’s important to receive a proper diagnosis from a medical professional if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
CTE and Increased Gun Violence
While the symptoms of CTE can vary widely from person to person, research has shown that individuals with a history of traumatic brain injury, including concussions, may be at increased risk for certain behavioral and psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
While there is no clear causal link between CTE and gun violence, some research suggests a potential association between head trauma and violent behavior. For example, a study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation in 2014 found that individuals with a history of traumatic brain injury were significantly more likely to engage in violent behavior than those without a history of head injury. Another study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2018 found that individuals with a history of TBI were at increased risk for committing violent crimes, particularly if they had a history of substance abuse or mental illness.
While some individuals with CTE or a history of head trauma may exhibit behavioral or psychological issues contributing to violent behavior, not all individuals with these conditions will engage in violence. Additionally, many other factors contribute to gun violence, including access to firearms, social and economic factors, and mental health.
CTE Quick Facts
- CTE can only be diagnosed through an autopsy of the brain tissue, so the true incidence of the disease is not known.
- However, studies of brain tissue from individuals who sustained repeated head trauma, particularly in contact sports such as football and hockey, have shown a high prevalence of CTE. One study of 202 deceased football players found that 177, or 87%, had evidence of CTE.
- CTE is associated with various complications, including memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, impulsivity, aggression, and suicidal ideation. These symptoms can appear years or even decades after the head trauma occurs.
- While CTE has received widespread attention due to its association with professional football players, it can also affect individuals in other contact sports, military service, and other high-risk occupations.
- Researchers are still working to understand the complex relationship between head trauma, CTE, and other neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- There is currently no cure or effective treatment for CTE. Management of the condition typically focuses on symptom relief, including medication and therapy.
- Prevention of CTE requires reducing the risk of head trauma, particularly in contact sports and other high-risk occupations. This may include measures such as improved helmet design, rule changes in sports, and education about the risks of head trauma.
- More research is needed to fully understand head trauma’s long-term implications and develop effective strategies for preventing and treating CTE.
Why Do Mass Shootings Occur
Now we have to understand why these shootings occur so we can learn how to prevent them. Although each case differs, we have good theories and an understanding of the “why” question. To make any change, we must understand why someone would be an active shooter so we know what to do to deter them from happening.
Taking the appropriate action is a conversation that needs to take place and will be further discussed below. Here are some of the most common reasons that researchers believe why mass shootings occur. Whereas there are many, I am focusing on the most pertinent reasons relating to CTE; gun control and mental health.
The main and most important way to stop active shooters is by utilizing gun control and removing accessibility to firearms. This will be America’s number one solution, and more gun control laws must be implemented. It is essential to understand that gun control does not necessarily have to mean that the use and sale of all guns will be illegal. Gun control can mean stricter rules and regulations regarding purchasing a firearm and the types of firearms available to the general population.
When we deep dive into why mass killings occur, none of the theories or research is that much of a surprise. It makes sense that the two most significant issues contributing to mass killings are mental health and gun control. Both of which the United States does not have. Much research points to mental health being a significant culprit to why someone would choose to mass kill. While this makes much sense, mental health issues seem to be pushed away as a cause of the stigma on mental health in the United States. It has been found that there is a connection between mass killings and early childhood trauma that can include:
- Sexual Assault
- Violence in the home
- Mental Abuse
Many mental health disorders and issues stem from childhood trauma or poor experiences. The informative years are called such for a reason; they are critical and will shape how the child views themselves and the world. People who experience mental health issues often do not get the help they need which can lead to bigger issues.
An NPR article explains that 98% of all active shooters are male. It is no secret that almost all active shooters are men. This leads to a complex and often controversial discussion about why men are primarily active shooters.
The research we do have can be a little conflicted and it is a start nonetheless. Some research states that men are more violent by nature than women. Upon first reading this, it can feel like a cop-out, like men are just violent simply because they are born violent. On the contrary, men have more violent tendencies, and it is essential to make this distinction.
Correlation to CTE, Suicidal Ideation, and Gun Violence
Jillian Peterson and James Densley published a book called The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic, where they foundthat the self-hate that a mass shooter might have becomes external. They are looking for some external factor to place fault. Men tend to look for blame externally and do not internalize issues as much as others. Men also tend to be more violent regarding the nature of crimes and weapons used. For example, when it comes to committing suicide, women are less likely to use a gun than men.
So when it comes to being a man diagnosed with CTE, as stated above, some of the symptoms of CTE are; Impulsivity, aggression and irritability, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Going off of the book mentioned above it is plausible that the shooter’s CTE diagnosis could have played a part in his decision to mass-kill. If the shooter was feeling suicidal but turned that anger and pain externally, this could have encouraged him or even made sense to him to take it out on others in a grandiose and tragic type of way.
Other High Profile Cases of CTE and Gun Violence
It’s important to note that no causal link exists between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and gun violence. While CTE has been associated with various behavioral and psychological symptoms, including aggression and impulsivity, not all individuals with CTE will exhibit violent behavior.
Many complex factors contribute to gun violence, including access to firearms, social and economic factors, and mental health. There have been a number of high-profile cases in which individuals with a history of head trauma have exhibited violent behavior.
One such case is former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, who was diagnosed with severe CTE after his death by suicide in 2017. Hernandez was convicted of murder in 2015 and had a history of aggressive behavior and impulse control issues.
Another example is former wrestler Chris Benoit, who murdered his wife and son before taking his own life in 2007. Benoit was found to have severe CTE, likely due to years of head trauma sustained during his wrestling career.
These cases are complex, and there is no single cause of violent behavior. While head trauma and CTE may be factors in some cases, there are many other factors that contribute to violent behavior.
Did Connor Sturgeon Carry Out a Mass Shooting Due to CTE?
This will be a controversial topic, no doubt. With the rise of active shooters, Americans are pleading for gun reform and no one is looking for excuses or justifications. However, an autopsy can reveal if Connor indeed had CTE which could give insight into his motive to mass-kill.
If CTE was a factor in why he chose to kill people, this is a prime example of why we should have gun reform and stricter gun laws. There must be regulations to prevent mentally unstable or unfit people from obtaining a firearm. Therefore preventing such tradies as the Louisville mass shooting. We, along with the rest of America, are interested in discovering the conclusions of Connor’s autopsy and will keep you updated!