Florida yoga studio shooter posted racist, misogynistic videos

Updated November 3, 2018 - 6:29 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A brooding military veteran and former teacher who railed at women and blacks in a series of poorly lit videos shot two women to death and wounded five other people at a Florida yoga studio before killing himself.

The Friday evening shooting at a busy upscale shopping plaza jolted the state capital and police said they were still searching for a motive that led to the deaths of a Florida State University student and a well-known local doctor who was a member of the school faculty.

But details about 40-year-old Scott Paul Beierle began to emerge in the hours after, including that he had once been banned from FSU’s campus and had been arrested twice for grabbing women even though the charges were ultimately dropped.

Beierle, who had moved to the central Florida town of Deltona after getting a graduate degree from FSU, also appeared to post a series of videos on YouTube in 2014 where he called women “whores” if they dated black men, said many black women were “disgusting” and described himself as a misogynist. He said promiscuous women deserved to be crucified and he suggested putting up land mines to keep people from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. The existence of the videos was first reported by BuzzFeed.

In one video, he likened his adolescent self to Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old who killed six students and wounded more than a dozen others near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before killing himself in 2014. Rodger was a self-identified “incel,” short for “involuntary celibate.”

Tallahassee police say Beierle shot six people and pistol-whipped another after walking into the yoga studio that sits on the second floor of a shopping center located near the city’s fashionable midtown neighborhoods. Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said some in the studio showed courage by trying to stop him.

Witnesses at the shopping center described how people who had been in the studio ran away, seeking shelter in nearby bars and restaurants as shots rang out.

Police responded within a few minutes, but by then Beirele had fatally shot himself, leaving police to search for a motive and a community to wonder what prompted the violence.

“It’s a place that brings me joy and peace, and I think it’s ruined,” said Katie Bohnett, an instructor at the yoga studio who skipped her normal Friday practice to meet a friend for dinner. “This monster ruined it.”

Police said Beierle acted alone but they were still looking into what prompted the shooting. He was originally from New York, had served in the military and once was a teacher in Maryland. After his military service, he wound up attending FSU.

Kristi Malone, who had a graduate class with Beierle, said in a Facebook message that she did not interact with him outside of the classroom because of “his odd leering, inappropriate comments and general demeanor.”

“I know that myself and several of my female colleagues made a point to never be alone with him even at school because of his odd behavior,” Malone said.

Mike Orgo, who was friends with Beierle on Facebook, said he met him back in 2011 at comedy night open microphone sessions held at a Tallahassee restaurant. He said that he did not know him well but said he “definitely seemed angry and on edge.”

Witnesses told police that Beierle posed as a customer to gain entrance to the studio, then started shooting without warning. Police have not yet said what kind of gun he used. Bohnett said she did not recognize Beierle.

The two slain Friday were a student and faculty member at Florida State University, according to university officials. The department identified them as Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21. Binkley was a student from Atlanta who was due to graduate in May. Police said two other victims were in stable condition, and three had been released from the hospital.

Van Vessem was an internist who also served as chief medical director for Capital Health Plan, the area’s leading health maintenance organization.

Court records show that Beierle was charged by police with battery in 2016 after he slapped and grabbed a woman’s buttocks at an apartment complex pool. Records show that the charges were eventually dismissed after Beierle followed the conditions of a deferred prosecution agreement.

Beierle was also charged with battery in 2012 for grabbing women’s buttocks in a university campus dining hall. A FSU police report shows that Beierle told police he may have accidentally bumped into someone, but denied grabbing anyone.

In 2014, Beierle was charged with trespassing at FSU. He had been seen following an FSU volleyball coach near the campus gym and was told that he was banned from campus. A month later police found him at a campus restaurant.

It was shortly after his trespassing charges that he posted the series of videos. A Tallahassee police spokesman would not confirm or deny the videos were Beierle’s. Biographical details mentioned in the videos, however, match known facts about Beierle, including details about his military service. YouTube took the videos down Saturday.

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