The aftermath of Darrin Call's murderous episode in a pharmacy.

"Rampage Killer" is an umbrella term for Spree Killer or Mass Murderer, a person who kills multiple people in a short period of time, with no cooling off period or a very brief one. There are only minor differences between the two terms, as detailed below.


The rampage killer has usually become alienated from society and no longer feels any connection with the rest of humanity. They may feel that the world has come crashing down on them and that the only solution is death. They will feel that their own lives are over, and aim to take as many people with them as they can. Another type of rampage killer (the so-called "classic type") is the "killer-on-the-run" type, someone who commits murders or potentially deadly attacks while evading capture by the law. Examples of this type include Andrew Cunanan, Allan Legere, and Florence Rey.

Once their killing spree is over, subjects of this type most often either commit suicide or force law enforcement to use deadly force against them ("suicide by cop"). They prefer death over the prospect of indefinite incarceration or institutionalization.

The mass murderer, while being nearly identical, differs in the fact that their murders will occur in one place. A spree killer may "visit" multiple locations, sometimes over the course of several days.


Both types may target a certain demographic or even specific targets. These may include fellow students who gave the subject a hard time, a college professor who gave them a bad grade, or a group of bullies.

Mass murderers, specifically, may include car and suicide bombers and other types of bombers and terrorists who commit their murders with a single act.

Alternatively, either type may commit multiple murders for no apparent reason other than the desire to kill.

While rampage killers usually select their victims at random, there are cases where certain aspects of the victims appeal to the perpetrator, such as age, weight, hair color, facial shape occupation, race, etc. It may be a displaced memory or the effect of a traumatic event that mostly happens in childhood. This is how criminologists usually connect different strings of murders together.

Modus Operandi

Unlike serial killers, spree killers most often use firearms or similar weapons. Mass murderers most often use explosives, firearms, or biological/chemical weapons in the case of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo.

Real Life Examples

Spree Killers

Mass Murderers

On Criminal Minds

Rampage killers are investigated several times by the BAU, though not on a basis as frequent as serial killers. However, many of the serial killers they investigate devolve into spree killers. Here are examples of rampage killers:

Rampage Killers

Female Rampage Killers

Female rampage killers are extremely rare. In Public Enemy, however, Morgan incorrectly states that rampage killers, unless they are school shooters, are always middle-aged males. Documented examples include:

  • Sylvia Seegrist: Opened fire at a Springfield, Pennsylvania, shopping mall on October 30, 1985, killing three people and wounding seven others before being disarmed by a shopper John Laufer (who mistakenly assumed Sylvia shooting to be a prank, as it was close to Halloween). The individuals killed included two men, Ernest Trout and Augustus Ferrara, and a two-year-old, Recife Cosmen. She was 25 years old and had been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia ten years earlier.
  • Brenda Spencer: Used a .22 rifle and fired at the staff and students of an elementary school across the street on which she lived, killing two and wounding nine, on January 29, 1979, while she was still 16. She is currently serving time in a San Diego prison and has been denied parole four times. When asked why she did it, she simply said that she doesn't like Mondays and that killing "livens up the day".
  • Amy Bishop: Shot six colleagues, three of whom died, with a 9mm handgun February 13, 2010, shortly after learning that she had been denied tenure. She was arrested and indicted for the shooting and is currently in custody. The authorities also reopened the case of her fatally shooting her brother years earlier, an incident which previously was believed to have been an accident. In June 2010, she was charged with first-degree murder of her brother, nearly 24 years after the shooting occurred. In 1993, Bishop and her husband were also suspects in a case in which a pair of pipe bombs were sent to a Harvard Medical School professor.
  • Jennifer San Marco: Killed a neighbor, then went to a mail processing plant, where she killed an additional six before shooting herself in the head on January 30, 2006. She was apparently motivated by severe paranoia and bigotry (San Marco was a known racist, and with the exception of neighbor Beverly Graham, all her victims were minorities).
  • Laurie Dann: Opened fire in an elementary school on May 20, 1988, after several failed poisoning and arson attempts at numerous locations, killing eight-year-old Nicholas Corwin and injuring five other schoolchildren. Dann then broke into a random home, taking the occupants hostage and seriously wounding one of them. After a standoff with police, she committed suicide by shooting herself in the mouth. It is believed that had her poisoning and arson attempts succeeded, she would have become the most prolific female rampage killer in modern history, and possibly also one of the deadliest rampage killers.
  • Sherie Lash: A former Native American tribal leader in northern California who shot five people during a tribal meeting on February 21, 2014, killing four of them, including the current tribal leader. She then grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed a sixth person who survived. She was subdued and arrested by responding police officers.

See Also


  • The most prolific spree killer in modern history was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian-born Frenchman who deliberately drove a large cargo truck and fired a gun simultaneously into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. 86 people, including several foreigners, were killed and 434 others were injured, 52 critically. The rampage covered a distance of 1.2 miles before ending at a hotel beside the walkway. There, responding police officers cornered Lahouaiej-Bouhlel's truck and opened fire on it, shooting and killing him. Unconfirmed reports claimed that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel shouted "Allahu Akbar!" (a phrase popularly used by Islamic terrorists) during the rampage. Despite being described as not being particularly religious, an eyewitness placed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a newly-hired truck driver and Muslim who had a small criminal record, as a frequent attendant of a mosque in recent months. An investigation of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel's phone records found that he was in contact with known Islamic extremists. On July 21, the French prosecutor confirmed that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel planned the attack for months with nine accomplices, who have all been arrested and charged.
  • The rampage killer criteria described a somewhat uninterrupted rampage and the end of said killing spree through arrest or death, either by police officers or suicide. However, there has been only one exception to this fact: William Unek, an African police constable who murdered a total of 21 people with an ax near Mahagi, Belgian Congo, on New Years Day in 1954. He then avoided capture for three years, eventually hiding in Tanganyika. Unek was then captured after he perpetrated a second deadlier killing rampage in the town of Malampaka after a work dispute, in which he brutally killed 36 additional people by either shooting, stabbing, burning, or strangulation. He was able to avoid capture again for nine days, to then he was tracked down by police and mortally wounded by a fire that engulfed the house he was hiding in. Unek later died of his injuries. With a total of 57 people killed and at least an additional 30 injured, he would be considered the third-deadliest spree killer in modern history, only below Stephen Paddock and Anders Behring Breivik as described above, but as his killings occurred in two separate events that were three years apart, this position is officially held by Woo Bum-kon, a South Korean spree killer who murdered 56 people and injured an additional 35 before committing a suicide bombing.