Killing 'Really Addictive:' Veteran's Essay Leads to Ban From Campus


"To some extent, it's fairly boring going to class compared to what he used to do," said David Yusko, clinical director at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine's Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety in Philadelphia.

Shaw said it is possible to become addicted to aggression, but in Whittington's case, that seems unlikely.

"I wouldn't put him in the same category as a serial killer," Shaw said.

Unsure If Whittington Really a Threat

None of these mental health clinicians has treated Whittington, so they said they're not sure if he's really a threat to anyone on campus.

"The guy is in treatment and most likely he's in good hands," Anzia said. She also alluded to the portion of Whittington's essay where he wrote, "I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body, but now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind."

"The main thing is that it really is a cry for help," said Shaw. "He clearly wants and needs a psychiatric consultation."

According to Yusko and Shaw, the college did the right thing by taking precautions.

"It's fairly reasonable. You just can't talk about being addicted to killing on a college campus these days, no matter how artistic that expression might be," said Yusko. "There isn't great psychological surety that someone can give about a person's behavior in this situation."

"I can certainly understand the school's concern, especially because of the number of school homicides that have occurred," said Shaw.

Anzia said that publishing the essay was unfair, because it could stigmatize him. It also helped get him barred from campus.

"If he feels shut out, it could make things worse and make him more angry," she said.

Davis said the college doesn't control what the newspaper publishes since it's a student-run organization, and Whittington said he doesn't regret what he wrote or his decision to publish it.

"I wish he hadn't done it, though," said O'Doherty.

Eager to Move On

Whittington is upset that the school took the action it did, because he's trying to move forward with his life. Whittington was a victim of numerous roadside explosions in Iraq and ultimately lost a finger. He also suffers from nerve damage in his arm, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He received a medical discharge later that year.

Mental health experts say people suffering from PTSD often drink and use illegal drugs to deal with their intense feelings of guilt as well as to dull the feelings of hypervigilance veterans often felt while in combat.

"A couple of months after returning from Iraq, there was an incident and I got angry and drank," Whittington. "I got into a car accident and a few people got hurt."

After serving time in prison for that incident, he returned to his native Baltimore and started taking college classes.

O'Doherty says he poses no threat to anyone and has never threatened anyone on campus.

The college says it's not trying to punish Whittington and is trying to work with him and keep the campus safe at the same time. The college also says it has a number of veterans' support groups on its three campuses, but Whittington doesn't think the college has been supportive of veterans at all. That's why he says that after the semester, he won't be returning to the Community College of Baltimore County.

For now, he has the opportunity to finish his English class online, but will receive incompletes for his other classes because he has not been allowed to attend in person.

"I'm not a threat. I'm just like any other student there trying to get an education and trying to make something out of my life."

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