Florida yoga studio shooter planned attack for months, police say
In the past three months, investigators have conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed journals, records and electronic files of a gunman who killed two and injured four others at a Florida hot yoga studio.
What they found was months of planning and a history of hatred toward women, Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Maura Binkley, 21, and Nancy Van Vessem, 61, were fatally shot when a gunman opened fire on their class at Hot Yoga Tallahassee on November 2. Four others were shot and one pistol-whipped before the gunman fatally shot himself, police said.
DeLeo said there is substantial evidence that the gunman, 40-year-old Scott Beierle, “pre-planned this attack” after demonstrating a “lifetime of misogynistic attitudes.”
The gunman purchased the handgun used in the shooting in July 2018 and the following month called the yoga studio and conducted a search for a map of its building, DeLeo said.
In the weeks leading up to the attack, the Deltona, Florida resident searched for the yoga studio’s class schedule, booked a hotel in Tallahassee and bought hearing protection and a yoga mat at a Walmart store, DeLeo said.
The gunman had nearly 100 rounds of ammunition with him on the day of the shooting, the police chief said.
Hatred toward women
During the investigation, police found a history of hatred toward women stretching from Beierle’s childhood through to the day of the attack, authorities said.
The suspect had a “history of sexual misconduct that started in grade school,” DeLeo said.
The gunman had also faced reports of inappropriate contact with female soldiers during his time in the military, and had twice been fired from substitute teaching jobs in Florida for sexual misconduct, DeLeo said.
In 2018, he was accused of touching a female student at a school where he worked, the police chief said.
Although he didn’t live in Tallahassee, a “lifetime of misogynistic attitudes caused him to attack a familiar community where he’d been arrested several times for his previous violent action towards women,” the chief said.
How the horror unfolded
Police say the gunman left the Tallahassee hotel where he was staying and arrived to the 5:30 p.m. class a half hour early.
He signed up for a class and told the receptionist he would wait outside for it to start, according to police documents. He paced outside the studio, saying very little to anyone.
When the class started, he retrieved the hearing protection and gun.
“Beierle then shot the two victims who did not survive from behind. Neither giving them the opportunity to confront their attacker or flee,” DeLeo said.
As he continued shooting, he was struck with a vacuum cleaner by another victim, DeLeo said.
During the struggle, his weapon malfunctioned, giving several other people time to flee. Once the shooting stopped, one victim heard the gunman make an unintelligible statement; then there was a pause, and the victim heard a single gunshot, according to the police chief.
“The victim then looked up and saw Beierle on top of one of the deceased victims,” DeLeo said.
Gunman ‘harbored a hatred towards women’
Although there is no evidence to show the suspect targeted a specific person at the studio, according to DeLeo, there may have been a connection between the gunman and the location of his murders.
In 2013, the gunman communicated with a woman over Facebook who said she attended yoga classes in Tallahassee. His journal had entries referencing the woman and were “threatening and derogatory in nature,” the police chief said.
DeLeo said the gunman’s writing expresses hatred toward women in general with themes of “rape, torture and murder.”
“Scott Beierle was a disturbed individual who harbored a hatred towards women,” DeLeo said.
“Similar attacks have occurred around the country and it’s incumbent that we come together to identify people who pose a threat and protect those who they would victimize,” DeLeo said.