photopredatorOver the past few years, gun violence has become more than a common theme in this country. While anti-gun activists are busy villifying groups like the NRA and gun nuts are busy trying to convince the world that guns aren’t the problem, people continue dying senseless deaths. For the sake of this post, I won’t bother going into discussions of gun control, constitutional rights to bear arms, and other similar topic areas. Those have been discussed ad nauseum. Instead, I’m turning my attention to one of the faces of said violence and how it came to pass.

We’ve all heard the stories time and time again, each more heinous than the next. But when I heard about the school shooting at the Henry Ford Community College in Michigan a few weeks ago, I was especially numb. In case you haven’t heard about it, 20-year-old student Asia McGowan was shot and killed on campus by Anthony Powell, a 28-year-old who then turned the gun on himself. As it was later discovered Powell got acquainted with McGowan via YouTube, using the site to continuously stalk and harass her. Their interactions (not very pleasant, according to many YouTubers) culminated with Powell finding McGowan on her campus, forcing her into a secluded location, and murdering her with a shotgun. 

The following is a video from young Ms. McGowan where she addresses “haters” on her YouTube page; people (including Powell) who  left nasty and deragatory comments:

Of all the henious killings I’ve read and/or blogged about, this story was notably jarring for me. For one, this took place in Dearborn (a surburb in Detroit) which is no more than 60 miles away from where I live. Add to that the fact that I know a student a HFCC and several people at the neighboring University of Michigan-Dearborn campus. Then, there is the issue of me having early to late teenage relatives who broadcast their lives (sometimes provocatively) all over the Internet. My fear is for them and people like them. The online activities in which they are engaged are often dismissed as innocent and harmless when in reality, those activites serve as   the very fodder used by mentally unstable people to reach out to their unsuspecting victims. It’s a brave new world out there and many our young people are clueless as to what – or who is watching them.

To people who excessively committed themselvs to the online community: exercise caution when you place your life on display for the entire cybernetic world to see. To be sure, harm can be inflicted by people we know and with whom we interact on daily basis just as much as by psychos lingering on the ‘Net. But there is a certain type of danger associated with allowing strangers technological access into our lives. I’ve read several “tweets” on Twitter or Facebook statuses for instance, which could lead me directly to a person if I felt inclined to stalk. Profiles not set on privacy mode or websites with easily attainable information only increase the probability of  discovery by people looking for vulnerable prey. Whatever you do, be careful.

RIP, Asia. If any silver lining can be found from your death, I hope people become more aware of the dangers lurking in each corner of the ‘Net.