Next came the string of all-too familiar questions that we now ask and answer by rote: Where had his life begun to go astray? What twisted motivation inspired such a twisted action? Where did he acquire the weapons? Search his computer; interview his family, review his records, get the answers. But those answers aren't the real answers, because those also aren't the real questions.
In the case of Abdulazeez, a malformed religious fanaticism appears to have played the role that white supremacy played in Roof's case, that mental illness played for Holmes. Authorities are investigating whether he was a lone wolf acting out of sympathy for radical Islamic terrorists overseas, or whether the connection was direct and operational.
A direct connection would in many ways be less chilling, suggesting at least the hope and opportunity that potential killers in the future can be identified and tracked. The more likely answer is that no such direct connection exists, that Abdulazeez, like Roof, had been a silent consumer of extremist ideology until he chose for reasons of his own to act. A life looking for a cause, even if evil, to justify itself.
That kind of mass killer is almost impossible to predict, to stop, because the things that we would need to know occur in a place that we cannot penetrate. "The mind of man is capable of anything,” as Joseph Conrad wrote, and we live in an era in which violence once conceived is distressingly easy to turn into reality. The distance between thought and deed has been obliterated, and anger is in the air.