Frequently when we read stories about lone wolf terrorist attacks, there’s the specter of mental illness. And this week’s story about a man held in a plot to bomb 48 churches in Oklahoma is no exception. Here’s how the Chicago Tribune put it:
By the time Gregory Weiler II was in his late teens, his family said, the Elk Grove Village native was well down a path toward destruction.
Both his mother and father had committed suicide before he was 16, and Weiler had also tried to kill himself in 8th grade. He had been hospitalized for mental illness at least six times. In between, he had become addicted to heroin and alcohol.
When Weiler, 23, left several years ago to join a religious group in Missouri, his family knew they’d eventually hear that “Greg” had again gotten into trouble.
It happened last week, when Weiler was arrested in Miami, Okla. for allegedly gathering materials to make 50 Molotov cocktails, with plans to bomb nearly that many local churches.
I can’t imagine how difficult his life must have been. And it’s pretty obvious that the man struggled with mental illness. It’s also true, of course, that he had fairly elaborate plans to bomb four dozen churches as part of a bizarre self-promotion effort. His family says they have no doubt that he would have followed through on his plans.
The mental illness issue is obvious and profound and the main gist of the interview with his family members. Is it the main point of the story? The bulk is given over to the elaborate plans and capabilities of the man. I don’t really have an answer for all this, I just find it intriguing as more and more mentally ill individuals (or seemingly mentally ill, at the very least) are charged with terrorism. How much emphasis should be placed on mental illness? Particularly when the mental illness doesn’t prevent elaborate plans from being made or executed
But what really intrigued me about the story was the way it treated the “religious group in Missouri” referenced above. We’re told that the family “couldn’t even begin to guess” why he targeted the 48 churches in the rural community of 15,000 people. We’re told about the serious mental illness that plagued each member of his family and then:
About three years ago, Weiler joined a church in Missouri that his family called “a cult.”
Is there some reason that this religious group/cult is a state secret? If the family is pointing to it and knows enough about it to call it a cult, can’t we get some more info?
Anyway, the story ends with a Facebook post from the man:
A Sept. 25 entry — apparently written from his motel room — referred to his childhood and focused on the Catholic Church, whose leaders he claimed are responsible for “hypocrisy, murder and deceit.”
He ends: “I have not opened a bible in a while, and I haven’t stepped foot into a church building in quite some time — and though I may be very lonely right now, I am hoping that someone, and maybe someday in the future, someone will take notice.”
Weiler is charged with threat to use explosives, incendiary device, simulated bomb to damage or injure persons or property, and a violation of the Oklahoma anti-terrorism act. He is being held without bail in Ottawa County Jail.
Perhaps we’ll learn more about this “cult” or more about why Weiler targeted churches in future stories.