Nobody knows what happened within Michael E. Hance’s interior life between 1978—his senior year of high school, when he was chosen Most Courteous because of his “consideration and good manners toward everyone”—and about eleven o’clock on the morning of Sunday, August 7, 2011, when he took deliberate aim with his recently-bought Hi‑Point 45 caliber semiautomatic pistol and shot eleven-year-old Scott Dieter below the terrified boy’s right eye. Scott Dieter was the last of seven people whom Hance, armed with two handguns, calmly hunted down and shot to death in the archetypical white, middle-class suburb of Copley Township, Ohio. An eighth victim, Rebecca Dieter, Hance’s longtime girlfriend and Scott’s aunt, was severely wounded; she was hospitalized but survived. A policeman shot Hance dead moments after he killed young Scott Dieter. The entire episode from first shot to last took less than ten minutes.
“Unclear in all of this is the motive for these killings,” Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh noted in her report clearing the police officer of wrongdoing in shooting Hance. What is not “unclear” is that in spite of Hance’s long-term and increasingly bizarre public behavior, his angry interactions with his neighbors, the judgment of several members of his family that he had severe mental illness, and a 2009 incident report by Akron police that concluded he was a “signal 43,” or, as a police lieutenant later explained, “basically . . . crazy,” Hance was easily and legally able to buy from a pawn shop the two handguns with which he fired more than twenty rounds at his fleeing family and neighbors. In addition to the Hi‑Point pistol, which he bought five days earlier from Sydmor’s Jewelry, a pawn shop in neighboring Barberton, Hance used a .357 Magnum revolver that he bought in 2005 from the same store. He also bought several ammunition “reloaders” that he carried with him.