Connor Betts is shown with his sister Megan,
Connor Betts is shown with his sister Megan, whom he also killed in the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting. Police said Betts killed Megan and eight others Sunday. Image Credit: Social media

DAYTON, Ohio: As a high school student, Dayton mass shooter Connor Betts, had a "hit list" of classmates he wanted to "kill" or "rape," said former students who said they were told by school officials they were on the list.

The police on Monday were still trying to determine what motivated a gunman in Dayton to kill his own sister, Megan, and eight others, but people who grew up with him were conducting a different kind of investigation, looking back for any signs that might have foreshadowed his explosion of violence.

For more than a few, and for women in particular, these signs were not hard to find.

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"I don't want to say I saw it coming," said Mika Carpenter, 24, who met the gunman, Connor Betts, 24, at a summer camp when they were both 13. "But if it was going to be anybody it was going to be him."

Like others who knew Betts as a teenager, Carpenter recalled his dark and often violent jokes, including riffs about "bodily harm" that led many to keep their distance.

"He was kind of hateful to women because they didn't want to date him," she said. Still, she became friends with him because, she said, she saw that he had a good side.

Betts often expressed concerns to her about having dark thoughts, she said.

Dayton shooting
File: At least nine people were killed and at least 27 others were wounded in the Dayton, Ohio shooting, according to authorities. It was the second deadly American mass shooting in less than 24 hours, and the third in a week. First responders are recognized at a vigil in Dayton, Ohio, where a mass shooting took place early Sunday morning, August 4, 2019. Image Credit: AJ Mast/The New York Times

"I remember specifically him talking about being scared of the thoughts that he had, being scared that he had violent thoughts," said Carpenter, who cut off contact with him in 2013 after he lashed out at her during an online chat. "He knew it wasn't normal."

Police in Dayton were quick to caution on Monday that much about the shooting early Sunday was still unknown. There was still no clear motive, nor an understanding of how three people - Betts, his sister and a mutual friend - all went out together and one ended up shooting the other two. The friend, who has not been named by the police, was shot in his lower torso but survived; the sister, Megan Betts, 22, was killed.

"It seems to just defy believability that he would shoot his own sister," Dayton's police chief, Richard Biehl, said at a news briefing Monday morning. "But it's also hard to believe he didn't recognize that was his sister, so we just don't know."

On Saturday night, the three drove together to the Oregon District, a stretch of bars and clubs that is usually crowded on weekends. They separated at one point but remained in touch, the chief said. Police have no indication that the sister or mutual friend knew about the weapons Betts would later use in the shooting.

Betts fatally shot one person in an alleyway before turning his fire on his sister and their friend, police have said. Nine people were killed and at least 27 others were wounded, including 14 who were shot. Others had cuts and injuries from the stampede of fleeing people.

Police said Monday that Betts had purchased an AR-style pistol online from Texas but had modified the gun with a pistol brace to improve stability. He also had a drum magazine that could hold 100 rounds, the police said.

Inaction on gun control

Betts had up to 250 rounds of ammunition and fired at least 41 shots, Biehl said.

Six officers fired a total of 65 rounds at the gunman, killing him as he tried to enter a bar, where many people had taken refuge when the shooting began.

"I ran, I got trampled, I lost my shoes," said Jessica Westover, 23, who was among the hundreds of people who gathered Sunday night at a crowded vigil in the Oregon District. They mourned the dead and cheered the actions of emergency medical workers, but some also expressed anger over inaction on gun control.

When Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, stepped to the microphone to say a few words, some shouted "Do something!" and drowned out his remarks.

A chant soon broke out: "What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!"

DeWine planned to hold a news conference Tuesday morning to announce proposals to address gun violence and mental illness.

For many who grew up alongside Betts in the quiet Dayton suburbs, the shooting had summoned uneasy memories.

'Gunman wanted to scare people, he really enjoyed it'

"He wanted to scare people, he really enjoyed it," said Hannah Shows, who became friends with Betts when they were in the seventh grade. She recalled his talk of guns and gore, but chalked it up at the time to his being a 13-year-old boy.

But in ninth grade, Shows discovered she was named on a list Betts had made of people in the school. The list threatened violence or sexual violence toward those who were on it, most of them girls, said Ben Seitz, 25, whose girlfriend at the time was also included.

Shows said she was never told the details about the threats, but the principal had asked her, "Is there any reason he would want to hurt you?"

Shows said she had assumed she was on the list because Betts had expressed interest in her and she turned him down. "After that, it turned into cold hatred the way he stared at me," she said.

"People knew he was this way," she said. "A lot of people could have helped, but no one did anything about it."

Asked about the list from high school, Biehl said that, even if the reports were true, he would be wary about making any connections.

"I'm a little bit reluctant, even if there's such evidence, to interpret it 10 years later as somehow this is indicative of what happened yesterday," he said.

At a brief talk with reporters later Monday, the chief said he expected the investigation to be lengthy. Detectives were continuing to look at phones, computers and videos to understand what happened and why, though he added that there was no evidence that the shooting was a hate crime.

"I think there will be some familiar themes that will emerge from this investigation, so it will not be a surprise in some regard," Biehl said. "I think there are some unique aspects of it that we perhaps have not seen in other shootings."

He declined to say what those unique aspects might be.