A week after they arrested David Ming Lee for carrying a loaded .40-caliber Glock onto the campus of Folsom Lake College, investigators found writings in his bedroom that a prosecutor said “indicated a plan to assault and kill.”
The writings talked about a “gunshot, screams, cries for help, cussing/loud noise,” the need for an “element of surprise” and “no witnesses.” The killer “must have gloves” and prepare for a “super quick escape in hard to see outfit” – black clothing with a face cover, preferably.
Lee posted pictures of himself on Facebook aiming an assault rifle and pointing a handgun. He titled his self-portraits “Time Bomb” and “Game Over.” In past contacts with police, Lee had described himself as a “really violent, murderous person” who said of the 2007 mass killings on the Virginia Tech campus, “Someone needs to break the record of 33 people.”
On Jan. 31, Lee, 23, pleaded no contest to the possession of a loaded firearm on a college campus and two other gun counts: possession of an assault weapon and altering a DPMS .223 model A-15 semi-automatic rifle to turn it automatic. He is facing nine years in custody at his scheduled sentencing today in Sacramento Superior Court.
If he receives the maximum, Lee would be released no later than March 2017, and that is a frightening thought for Folsom Lake College economics professor Carolyn “Candy” Smith.
She is convinced that on the day of his Oct. 25, 2012, arrest, Lee planned to put in a bid for infamy.
“I absolutely believe David would have killed us that day,” Smith said in an interview Tuesday.
A Los Rios Community College District police officer who arrested Lee testified at Lee’s preliminary hearing that people “rightfully were fearful.” A psychologist who evaluated Lee said “This is a young man who is socially isolated and alienated,” with “personality dynamics that include antisocial, narcissistic and histrionic qualities.” The prosecutors said Lee’s “conduct and the circumstances surrounding this crime are chilling.”
“The red flags raised in this case resemble the red flags which ultimately came to light regarding the perpetrators of prior mass shootings, such as Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine High School and the Denver Movie Theater,” Deputy District Attorney Maria Wilson said in a sentencing memorandum she filed last year. “As hindsight in each of those prior tragedies unfolded, it became apparent there were warning signs all along regarding the shooters. Here, the warning signs are glaring and numerous.”
Interviewed in jail, Lee denied he intended to shoot anyone.
“Hell, no,” he said.
Lee said he had the gun because he planned to go shooting at a range after class. He said the Facebook pictures were “just for fun.” He said the writings were his musings on how to investigate shootings, that he really wanted to be a police officer.
“I never was a threat,” he said. “I’m not a threat. I’m not going to be a threat.”
He pleaded no contest, he said, because “I want to go home.”
Deputy DA Wilson’s sentencing memorandum said Lee talked about breaking the Virginia Tech record four days after the April 16, 2007, massacre, when he was a 15-year-old student at Folsom High School.
“School personnel called the defendant’s mother who stated the defendant sometimes gets angry and threatens to kill himself,” Wilson wrote. Her memorandum said Lee was placed on a 72-hour mental health hold.
He’d been out about a month when Folsom police stopped him in a city park brandishing an airsoft pistol, according to Wilson’s memorandum. A year later, Wilson said, Lee got into an argument with another student at Folsom High and “threatened to bring a gun to school and blow (his) head off.” In 2011, at Folsom Lake College, a teacher made a conduct referral on Lee because of what the prosecutor described as the defendant’s “racist, violent writings.”
On the Tuesday two days before his arrest, students spotted Lee in Smith’s Microeconomics 304 class with a bulge on his right hip. They reported it to campus police. The next Thursday, officials canceled the class and campus police sought to serve Lee with a notice of detention and remove him from the campus. They spotted Lee in the cafeteria, followed him to his car and arrested him at gunpoint, finding the loaded pistol in a holster on his belt.
A search of Lee’s car turned up more ammunition and a high-capacity magazine, the memorandum said. A search of his house found an assault rifle that had been modified to allow the gun to be equipped with two 30-round magazines. The memorandum said that Lee admitted illegally modifying the rifle.
Psychologist Janice Nakagawa examined Lee after his arrest and found that he “evidences marked feelings of inadequacy and deep undercurrents of unexpressed anger, hostility and aggression. ... His fascination with guns (including rifles) is likely a way of making himself feel much more powerful, even omnipotent.”
Nakagawa diagnosed Lee with a “Personality Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified.” Unsupervised, she said he presented “a potential danger to others.” She predicted Lee would view treatment “suspiciously.”
At the same time, Nakagawa wrote that Lee “also is capable of being conventional and rule following” and that he could meet probation conditions. She recommended a suspended sentence.
Lee said he is not mentally unbalanced, is not on medication and that “I’m planning on staying away from firearms, anything that can get me in jail.”
Smith hopes Lee serves time. She said her class is broadcast on a local Comcast channel and she believes Lee planned to shoot during the broadcast.
“If David is set free, in my opinion, no one is safe,” Smith said in a written statement she submitted to the court.
Los Rios police Officer Ben Murphy said the district will plan for Lee’s release.
“But beyond the criminal justice system, mentally disturbed people are going to need a system in place that helps them either recover, or treats them and assesses them, the bottom line being that the community is protected,” Murphy said. “If that means more incarceration down the road, all of that has to be in place, as far as options for the future.”