Ore. Gunman Described as Polite, Soft-Spoken

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 13 2012 9:47 AM

"It Seemed Like He Was Doing Well. What Changed in His Head?"

158275873
acob Tyler Roberts poses in this undated photo in an unspecified loaction

Photo by Clackamas Co. Sheriff's Office

The Oregonian and its reporters are continuing to piece together the story of 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts, the masked gunman who opened fire at a Portland-area mall on Tuesday, killing two people and injuring a third before turning the gun on himself:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Roberts shared big plans with friends. He told an ex-girlfriend that he was going to buy the Southeast Portland sandwich shop where he worked. He mentioned to a former roommate that he was moving to Hawaii. And he told others that he had just inherited a lot of money. But days after he was supposed to fly away to his new life, the 22-year-old Portland man instead drove to Clackamas Town Center.
Advertisement

The paper's reporting suggests that no one close to Roberts saw any indication that he was capable of the type of violence that was on display Tuesday. He was said to be soft-spoken, polite, and funny by those who knew him in high school. One former classmate told the paper that "all he cared about was making people laugh" and described him as someone who would go out of his way to help elderly neighbors carrying groceries. Police, too, have yet to find anything in Roberts' past to suggest he was violent or posed a threat. With the exception of two speeding tickets from earlier this year and eviction proceedings from this summer, he left little in the way of a paper trail in the state legal system.

Still, according to those who knew him, Roberts appeared to go through some type of change in recent months. He broke up with his girlfriend over the summer and quit his job at a sandwich shop last month. He had recently suggested he was going to use a large inheritance he had received to take a trip to Hawaii, where he was considering moving for good. That decision seemed "sudden" in the words of one friend but at the same time not completely out of the ordinary for someone his age. "He had nothing to tie him down," said another.

A third friend the paper interviewed said that she had known Roberts since they were middle school classmates and that they had remained close through this past summer, when he moved out of a neighboring apartment and the two lost touch. "It seemed like he was doing well," she said. "What changed in his head?"

You can read the full Oregonian story here. Obviously reporters, police and everyone else are still trying to piece together the larger picture of what prompted Roberts to do what he did. These are just the first several brush strokes in a larger portrait that will likely develop over the weeks and months to come.

Still, the simple fact that the paper was able to find so many people who knew Roberts stands out when compared to the picture of James Holmes that took shape in the immediate aftermath of his mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater this summer. In that case, a team of New York Times reporters pounded the pavement in and around Aurora looking for people to talk about Holmes and all they could find were a dozen or so people with only a passing connection to him.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:26 PM How to Measure the Value of Your Personal Data in Cookies: A Slate Guide
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.