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Dayton, Ohio, shooter kept a "hit list" and "rape list," classmates claim

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Dayton, Ohio — High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, claim he was suspended for compiling a "hit list" of those he wanted to kill and a "rape list" of girls he wanted to sexually assault. The accounts by two former classmates emerged after police said there was nothing in the background of 24-year-old Connor Betts that would have prevented him from purchasing the .223-caliber rifle with extended ammunition magazines that he used to open fire outside a crowded bar.

Police on patrol in the entertainment district fatally shot him less than a minute later. Speaking Monday, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Betts modified the weapon and could have been carrying as many as 250 rounds of ammunition. Biehl said police haven't determined a motive and it wasn't clear whether Betts was targeting anyone, including his 22-year-old sister Megan Betts, the youngest victim killed.

Both former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to the two classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.

"There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list," said the female classmate.

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A former cheerleader, the woman said she didn't really know Betts and was surprised when a police officer called her cellphone during her freshman year to tell her that her name was included on a list of potential targets.

"The officer said he wouldn't be at school for a while," she said. "But after some time passed he was back, walking the halls. They didn't give us any warning that he was returning to school."

Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools officials declined to comment on those accounts, only confirming that Betts attended schools in the district.

The discovery of the hit list early in 2012 sparked a police investigation, and roughly one-third of Bellbrook students skipped school out of fear, according to an article in the Dayton Daily News.

It's not clear what became of that investigation. Chief Michael Brown in Sugarcreek Township, which has jurisdiction over the Bellbrook school, said a search of their records turned up only a December 2015 traffic crash report recounting how Betts ran the Toyota Camry he was driving off the road. Betts gave a handwritten statement to police at a hospital that read, "Hit some wet leaves, lost control, slid into the ditch." The police report said Betts was driving 60 mph in a 45 mph zone and listed the offense as "operation without reasonable control."

"A thorough check of our reporting system revealed no other reports related to Betts," Brown wrote in an e-mail to CBS News.

Though Betts, who was 17 at the time, was not named publicly by authorities at the time as the author of the list, the former classmates said it was common knowledge within the school he was the one suspended over the incident.

Drew Gainey was among those who went on social media Sunday to say red flags were raised about Betts' behavior years ago.

"There was an incident in high school with this shooter that should have prevented him from ever getting his hands on a weapon. This was a tragedy that was 100% avoidable," he wrote on in a Twitter post on Sunday.

Gainey did not respond to messages from AP seeking further comment, but the name on his account matches that of a former Bellbrook student who was on the track team with Betts.

Former Bellbrook Principal Chris Baker said he "would not dispute that information" when the Daily News asked him Sunday about the hit list suspension. He declined to comment further to the newspaper and the AP was unable to reach him.

Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult, though if he had been charged as a juvenile that would typically be sealed under state law. 

"There's nothing in this individual's record that would have precluded him from getting these weapons," Biehl said.

Bellbrook Police Chief Doug Doherty said Monday his department, which has jurisdiction over the town where the suspect lived with his family, had no record of contact with Betts other than traffic violations. Police records from the department indicate Betts was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in May 2016. However, a former middle school classmate who asked to remain anonymous told the Dayton Daily News that she went to Bellbrook police about a decade ago with concerns about a disturbing conversation she had with Betts. The woman said the shooter told her he fantasized about tying her up and slitting her throat.

"He knew it wasn't normal," the woman told the paper. "He and I talked at length about him getting help." 

Another former classmate, Demoy Howell, told the paper that he and Betts participated in Bellbrook's Junior ROTC military program. Howell said he remembers friends telling him that Betts made them feel threatened or uncomfortable.

"He was always a bit of an oddball," said Howell. "He had a dark sense of humor — jokes about people dying. He would wear all black. I remember sensing a dark energy around him."  

Not everyone who went to school with Betts had bad things to say. Brad Howard told reporters in Bellbrook on Sunday that he was friends with Betts from preschool through their high school graduation. Betts enrolled at Sinclair Community College in 2017 and studied psychology, but he wasn't taking classes this summer, school officials told the Dayton Daily News.  

"Connor Betts that I knew was a nice kid. The Connor Betts that I talked to, I always got along with well," Howard said.

Mike Kern, a customer at the gas station where Betts used to work in Bellbrook, said he hasn't seen Betts in about a year.

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"He was the nicest kid you could imagine," always friendly, Kern said. "I never heard him talk about violence, say a racist word, or anything like that."

He said they sometimes played trivia at a bar near the gas station, and Betts often knew the answers on questions about current events and pop culture.

"He was real smart," Kern said. "He knew all the answers."

Doherty, the Bellbrook police chief, spoke outside the home of the shooter's family Monday and said he was trying to facilitate the release of a statement through a family spokesman. He said a search warrant had been issued there Sunday but said it the home was not a crime scene.

Doherty said he believes Megan and Connor Betts were the family's only two children. He said the Betts family are also victims.

"It's very emotional for them," Doherty said. "It's very tough."

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