Omaha Wonders: Why Did 'Lost Puppy' Kill?

"I've just snapped. I can't take this meaningless existence anymore. I've been a constant disappointment and that trend would have only continued," he wrote. "I know everyone will remember me as some sort of monster, but please understand that I just don't want to be a burden on the ones that I care for my entire life.

"I love you mommy. I love you dad," he wrote.

He left his car to his mom, though he'd had little contact with her over the years. His parents divorced when he was three, and he then lived with his father, Ronald Hawkins, who was in the Air Force.

But what kind of burden did Hawkins believe he was? Was this late adolescent self-pity, or a deeply tortured soul who had been through everything the state's foster care system had to offer, only to lose all hope he could ever succeed? Did he crave fame and recognition, the kind he never thought he could achieve without a spree of violence that would land him in the headlines? His suicide note contains clear signs of his desire for fame, his rage and indifference.

"Just think tho I'm gonna be (expletive) famous." And this: "I just want to take a few peices (sic) of (expletive) with me."

On Thursday evening, as the snow was letting up, I drove to Papillion-La Vista High School, looking for a few answers. Principal Jim Glover said Hawkins entered the school in 10th grade, was a sporadic student with no interest in extra-curricular activities, and did not attend in 11th grade, when foster care moved him to another community. Robbie returned as a senior, but withdrew from school in 2006, and never graduated.

Glover said he seemed deeply pained that one of his former students could have inflicted so much damage, could have been beyond help. Robbie was a troubled kid, he said, but did not seem violent.

"We never saw a side of Robbie that would show great disrespect, that there were any violent tendencies at all," Glover said.

Glover seemed to be among the long line of officials left wondering what happened, how more could have done, yet not wanting to blame anyone, except perhaps the young man with the assault rifle. Few openly questioned the ease with which Hawkins got hold of the weapon, which he used to spray dozens of shots in a matter of minutes at the largest mall in the state, on the western outskirts of Omaha just off I-680.

It was the deadliest attack in this state since Charles Starkweather went on his infamous rampage 50 years ago, killing 10 people, and inspiring the movie "Badlands" and Bruce Springsteen's haunting song, "Nebraska."

"When you look at the people that tried to help Robbie throughout the years," Glover said, "whether it's his parents, whether it's us, or HHS, I think there were a lot of people in Robbie's court, to try to help him do better, and to get him to do better. I think in the end you always look back and think, 'What is it that we could have done to maybe, to make that a better situation for him?' The commitment from Robbie was never there."

Glover spoke to Robbie's father the day after the shooting, partly to figure out what to do with Robbie's two younger half-siblings, who are in the school system.

"It was a tough conversation," he said. "'Dad, I think tried everything he could for Robbie,' and I think he's like us. He feels like, at some point, was there anything else that he could have done that would have made a difference?"

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