"I couldn't believe that the man who said he loved me was the mass shooter." The Dayton shooter's ex-girlfriend has revealed all the red flags she saw during the relationship. But she's also mentioned that he was one of those people that believed people with mental illnesses shouldn't own a gun.
In a heartbreaking testament, writer Adelia Johnson took to blogging platform Medium to write about the Dayton shooter, Connor Betts, whom she met in her Social Psychology class at Sinclair College. This is not an excuse for Connor Betts. This is just the Connor that I knew. Johnson wrote about how she was very open about her mental illnesses and Connor was the same with her, he admitted that he had bipolar disorder and possibly OCD, but that did not scare Johnson. They hit it off soon and started to form a bond. We bonded over depression humor, something that only people who have been in the throes of it really ever understand and find humorous. Joking about personal mental illnesses is one of the biggest coping tools in the mental health toolbelt, she wrote.
This was probably why she understood when he started to confide in her about his dark thoughts. For people with mental illness, it's just a coping mechanism, and she knew that. He trusted me with so much of his darkness that I forgot most of it. This was in January 2019, just eight months ago. By March, Adelia and Connor were dating, but they were in a polyamorous relationship, as Adelia was already engaged, but this was a situation all parties involved were aware of. Their first date was at a bar since Connor didn't drink coffee, she wrote. They had a debate with a Republican. Connor really knew his stuff and he was impressed when I knew mine.
A few drinks later, Connor asked her if she'd seen the video of the Synagogue shooting. He was referring to the October 2018 murder of 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Adelia was someone who refrains from watching such videos, so she hadn't but Connor pulled his phone out to show her the video. Thankfully the bar was too loud for me to hear what was going on. Connor gave me the play-by-play of what was happening. Even then, I did realize that that was a weird thing for a first date, but not too weird given the context of our class. They were in a sociology class together, after all.
A psychology student being fascinated in the horrors of humans is not an abnormal thing. It weirded me out because it was definitely not my focus on psychology, but it wasn’t a weird thing in general. By the end of their date, she was quite drunk, and Connor was way soberer than she was. So, he drove her home, and on their way, she revealed to him that she wanted this to be a date, but she was polyamorous. He smiled and said it was a date. He was a perfect gentleman throughout our relationship. He never pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do. His biggest concern was that I was comfortable.
Though their relationship mostly consisted of going out drinking and talking about their mental illnesses and world tragedies and tv shows, there were a couple of moments that stuck on to Adelia. She wrote that there was a night where she got a call from a very drunk Connor who was slurring. Connor was naturally a mumbler with a low voice, but then to add drunk slurring on top of it definitely made it a struggle to understand him. I did catch bits and pieces among his topic jumping that he wanted to hurt a lot of people. He didn’t have any specific plans. I wrote it off as being a sad, drunk man who was afflicted by unchecked symptoms of mental illness.
Ohio gunman Connor Betts described himself on social media as a pro-Satan “leftist” who hated President Trump and law enforcement and hoped to vote for Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president.https://t.co/KgnDW9aTbk pic.twitter.com/tZWiqTV1if— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) August 5, 2019
Since he did not seem to have any specific plan, she wrote it off as being a sad, drunk man who was afflicted by unchecked symptoms of mental illness because she believed he wouldn't behave like that under normal circumstances. But then, a couple of months later, in May, there was another red flag; a letter. They had plans to go grab lunch and on the way, Connor said he wanted to drop a letter off to one of his friends who had just moved into town.
#LATEST at 11PM: The shooter, 24-year-old Connor Betts, was described as nice and quiet by some neighbors.— Dan Griffin WLWT (@DanGriffinWLWT) August 6, 2019
He worked at a Chipotle, a restaurant spokeswoman confirmed to WLWT on Monday.
But beyond the pleasantries, others said there were red flags. #wlwt @wlwt pic.twitter.com/y1KJuU9YXT
What surprised her was the fact that he did not feel comfortable delivering the letter while there were people around. When she pushed for more information, he revealed that this was her ex-girlfriend's house and he found about this from Facebook. Then I asked to read the letter. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of “Welcome to the neighborhood. You can’t outrun your past. Signed, Your Neighbor.” I asked him about that, about if he knew how messed up that was. He tried to downplay it as a joke. But I knew it wasn’t, so I pushed further. He admitted that sometimes he got uncontrollable urges to do things.
The only other example of those urges that I remember is burning down an abandoned building with his friends. He told me that he always felt terrible afterward. She decided to teach him how to cope with such urges. That's when she realized that she had to break things off with him. Then he asked if I ever thought about killing myself. Now, we had spoken about suicide before. He knew that I had. This felt like he was trying to play mind games with me. In the gentlest way that I could, I told him that I didn’t think he was ready for a relationship in the mental state that he was in. He needed to do more work on himself and find more coping mechanisms so he didn’t become so dependent on other people. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to be his therapist, and that wasn’t my job.
I didn’t have the emotional capacity to be his therapist, and that wasn’t my job. I just wanted to be his girlfriend and it was clear that he was not in a position that that was possible. He texted back a snarky reply to the effect of, “I hope you find peace and never have to stress about anything again.” Honestly, it was a better reply than I had been anticipating. She then decided to let his mother know what had happened because she wanted him to be safe. I didn’t want this breakup to be a catalyst for unsafe behavior. But given that the breakup happened through text, there wasn’t a good gauge for how he was feeling.
Dayton Police: Shooter's sister and her boyfriend, were among the victims he shot and killed this AM.— Courtney Gousman (@cgousman) August 4, 2019
Shooter identified as Connor Betts. He was shot and killed by police at the scene within a minute of him opening fire.
Police not saying if Betts' family is cooperating.
Around two months later, the shooting happened, and the news did not affect Adelia as much. At least, not until the shooter's name was released and someone messaged her, asking if it was the same Connor from their class. Everything just stopped. I went numb. Then I started crying and I still didn’t have any feelings. I grabbed my phone. I needed answers. Google. It couldn’t have been Connor. Connor Betts isn’t a popular name, but it couldn’t have been him. 24-year-old from Bellbrook. It was him. My ex-boyfriend was a mass murderer. My ex-boyfriend was a mass murderer. I still don’t know how to wrap my head around that. That man who was so sweet to me and told me he loved me was a mass murderer. I kissed a mass murderer.
And then I found out about his sister. His sister. He liked his sister. Why would he kill his sister? He didn’t like his parents. But that couldn’t have been the cause. He was drunk at a bar and too impulsive for that to have been the cause. I have no idea what his motivation was. I will never know. But there are a few things that I’m certain that it wasn’t. This wasn’t a hate crime. He fought for equality. This wasn’t a crime of passion. He didn’t get passionate enough. This wasn’t very premeditated. He wasn’t a thorough planner. I also know that his getting shot is exactly what he wanted. He would have been the first one to tell you that he hated himself.
Connor Betts has been identified as the gunman in the shooting at a bar in Dayton, Ohio, that left 9 dead and several wounded, CBS News reports. Betts, 24, of Bellbrook, Ohio, was killed by police less than one minute after the shooting began: https://t.co/mSIxB1NZLE #breaking pic.twitter.com/98xw992wki— Heavy.com (@HeavySan) August 4, 2019
He told me that twice he held a gun in his mouth ready to pull the trigger. He knew that he shouldn’t have been allowed to own a gun, even though he loved guns. He believed as I believe that people with mental illnesses shouldn’t be allowed to own guns because of people like him, people that turn into monsters. You don’t know which people with mental illnesses will be the rare few like him and who will be in the majority of the completely harmless. But putting a gun in their hand could spark thoughts that they would have otherwise never have thought of. It’s not a risk that we should take, no matter how fun shooting one is.
He knew he was the product of a failed system. A system that stigmatized mental health and recovery. A system that makes the mentally ill feel broken and unworthy of help. He didn’t want to seek help because of the stigma, he just wanted to be better and he didn’t know how. To know that her ex-boyfriend was responsible for something as huge as this would have been quite a shock. The victims went out for a good time and everything ended in a nightmare. Their stories were not supposed to end here. May they all find the afterlife they wanted.