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Chardon and Columbine

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Chardon High School has at least a couple key things in common with Columbine that might help explain Monday's shooting.

Three students from Chardon, in northeastern Ohio, are dead and two are injured, according to news reports. The suspected shooter has been identified as TJ Lane. According to the New York Times, "On Monday night, the family of the suspect, T. J. Lane, 17, of Chardon Township, made his identity public when their lawyer read a statement on WKYC-TV, a local television station, extending condolences to the victims and their families. Mr. Lane was not a student at Chardon High but he did know some of his victims, witnesses said."

Police meantime are not naming the suspect, the Times reported, because he is a juvenile.

The first similarity that came to mind is that Columbine and Chardon may both be classified as suburbs and small towns, where many school shootings have occurred.

According to the U.S. Census, Chardon's 2010 population was only 5,148, and overwhelmingly white -- 96.9 percent. As I point out in my book, Columbine: A True Crime Story, Columbine does not even exist. It is not an official city, but a "Census designated place" with a population of about 24,000 that is 95% white.

While shootings have traditionally occurred in suburbs and small towns, they are seen as everyday Americana -- a point the Chardon schools superintendent drove home: "We're not just any old place, Chardon," he said, according to the Times. "This is every place. As you've seen in the past, this can happen anywhere."

A key point that remains is how well Lane knew the victims; it is unclear the victims were specifically targeted. It is random shootings such as Columbine we have come to fear the most.