Tokki Studio shooting
|Tokki Studio shooting|
Tokki Animation Studio facing southwards in 2015
|Location||Providencia, Gold Coast, K.S.|
November 20, 2017 |
≈ 1:11 p.m. – 1:14 p. m. (PST)
|Target||Television staff of Anubis and Bastet|
|Weapons||M&P15 semi-automatic rifle|
|Deaths||36 (excluding the perpetrator)|
|Injured||38 (by gunfire)|
Retaliation against television show writing|
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in the Gold Coast and the fifth-deadliest mass shooting in Sierra. It drew widespread criticism and attention to Sierra's gun culture, and reignited concerns over existing federal gun law legislation. Although the Gold Coast had one of the most stringent gun control laws in the country, Stoley, a native, was able to legally purchase and obtain his firearms legally without incident from the province. The nature and motive of the gunman's attack also raised concern over addressing mental health issues, with the media dubbing the attacker as the "Mad Shipper". The attack also sparked concern over online internet communities, especially anime and cartoon fandoms. The highly publicized event highlighted the country's growing epidemic of hikikomori (although Stoley was not technically one) and other social outcasts.
Stoley had previously been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, although he was only assessed a year prior to the attack. He reportedly self-diagnosed himself as autistic as well. During his adolescence, he only received psychological counseling and therapy for stress. After graduating from high school, Stoley enrolled at Anthony University in Grands Ballons in 2013 as a computer science major. Since Stoley had no criminal record and no major mental health problems, he was able to purchase firearms in 2016 after completing a 3-month training program and thorough background check evaluation. The shooting prompted new proposals to restrict the sale of semi-automatic weapons, as well as increased funding towards preventing gun violence. Production for the fifth season of Anubis and Bastet was indefinitely suspended, as the show's creator and executive director Adrian Balser, and other producers, were amongst those killed in the attack.
Anubis and Bastet
Anubis and Bastet (Japanese: アヌビスとバステト; Romaji: Anubisu to Basuteto) is a Sierran-Japanese animated television series, which airs on Tokki Network. The show features a cast of anthropomorphic versions of the Ancient Egyptian deities, including the eponymous protagonists, Anubis and Bastet. The series is an anime adaptation of the 2013 manga series of the same name, and first aired on television in 2014. Its fourth season began in June 2017 and concluded on November 16, after twelve 30-minute length episodes. Anubis and Bastet is one of the highest-rated television series on Tokki Network and has a significant fanbase with an overarching online presence.
Like many major fanbases, it featured a large community of "shippers", which the television crew encouraged through fan interactions and the show's writing itself. Especially pertinent to the case was the relationship between the series' main leads, Anubis and Bastet, which are currently depicted in platonic friendship, with subtle indication of some form of romantic chemistry. Supporters for a fully expressive romantic relationship between Anubis and Bastet call the ship "Anustet", which is a portmanteau of "Anubis" and "Bastet".
The shooter, Nelson Stoley, who followed the show since its initial airing, supported a romantic Anustet pairing, and cited it as one of the main reasons he watched the show. He expressed frustration when romance failed to develop between the two by the show's fourth season. This fact was the primary motivation behind his attack.
On November 20, two weeks after the fourth season finale, the series' production crew threw a closed-event celebratory party at the studio set to commemorate the success of the series. Stoley was among the 250 fans who was able to receive their tickets to attend the event. Sales for the tickets ran upwards to $4,000, while Stoley reportedly purchased them for only $2,200, on November 18, when the tickets were initially posted.
Tokki Animation Studios is a multi-story building complex located in Downtown Providencia near other major television studios and headquarters including RBS, EBN, and 16ON in a section known as the "Big Box". The Big Box is a 15-block area featuring television entertainment corporate offices and studios which is encompassed between Floral Street, Frémont Street, Glen Avon Boulevard, and Barcelona Avenue. The studio is the site of the primary animation, writing, audio recording, and development for many of Tokki Network's current and former television series. The city of Providencia itself is located 12 miles due northwest of Downtown Porciúncula and the National Mall. Up until the attack, the studio building was publicly accessible and the company frequently allowed fans to visit the production set to meet with the studio staff and animators.
Local authorities found the shooter's car parked two blocks north of the studios at a public parking garage of the Providencia General Hospital. Footage showed him carrying the duffel bag which held his weapons out of his trunk. His car contained no explosives or any weapons upon further investigation, and was requisitioned by the federal government as evidence.
The mass shooting began at 1:11 p. m. PST, on November 20, 2017. It occurred on the same day the Anubis and Bastet crew was holding a celebration on the conclusion of the show's fourth season in one of the studio's outdoor patios. When the shooting began, the show's creator, Adrian Balser, was offering a toast to his crew members and fans for their love and support.
Security footage showed Stoley breached his way through the light security through the studio foyer. Earlier, he attempted to come in with a duffle bag, which concealed his weapons, and wore a heavy jacket, but was stopped by security, who wanted to check the contents inside the bag. After he refused to surrender his bag, he left and returned moments later with his weapons in full-view and began opening fire, killing six employees and one fan just minutes before the main shootings. He threw smoke bombs and stored two SP 2022 with him on his bulletproof vest. Although internal security was immediately alerted and attempted to place the building on shut down, Stoley rushed through the hallways to the event. Witnesses at the event claimed they were unable to hear any gunfire because they had been cheering at the time of the shooting. By the time security had alerted the event of the armed intruder by PA, Stoley reached the event and opened fire. The first 611 call was made by a fan within 20 seconds of the shooting in the main event room.
Survivors reported that Stoley appeared calm and composed, and stated firmly "this didn't have to happen". During the shooting, his gun was jammed briefly, allowing many to escape without harm. One fan, Aaron Cho, attempted to tackle Stoley, but was subsequently shot dead when Stoley was able to readjust his weapon. He non-discriminately targeted attendees and crew members. After firing his first round, he picked off individuals, including security officers who arrived on the scene. After he confirmed the death of showrunner Adrian Balser, Stoley attempted to flee the scene, still armed. He was killed instantly after receiving a point-blank shot to the head by security guard Liam Coleman. Coleman, who was on break, had been resting in a storage room when he heard gunfire. Licensed to operate a gun with concealed carry and cleared to use it at work, Coleman hid by a hallway pillar, before shooting Stoley from behind at point-blank at Stoley's head.
Nelson Thomas Stoley
Stoley in 2016
April 23, 1995|
November 20, 2017 (aged 22)|
|Cause of death||Gunshot wound|
Alondra High School|
Within hours of the shooting, the Royal Bureau of Investigation was able to identify the perpetrator as 22-year-old Nelson Thomas Stoley (April 23, 1995 – November 20, 2017), a Gold Coast native, from the city of Aviemore. Stoley's parents were blue collar workers who had no college education. Stoley had three siblings: two older brothers and a younger sister. As a teenager, he attended Alondra High School where he maintained a decent academic record and only received minor infractions in his disciplinary record. Close friends claimed Stoley exhibited unusual behavior and speech at times, which Stoley claimed was due to stress from his schoolwork. He received periodic visitations by a family therapist to help cope with his stress, and suffered an anxiety attack in 10th grade. One former high school classmate described Stoley as "weird but friendly", who enjoyed drawing and discussing cartoons and video games with his peers.
Following graduation, he experienced a mild bout of depression, after his application to his dream school, Sierra Polytechnic Pomone, was rejected. He enrolled in Anthony University as a declared computer science major and commuter, though felt unsatisfied with his freshman year there. By Stoley's sophomore year, friends said he had begun to withdraw from social life, and began ditching classes to stay at home. Stoley neglected his studies, and was placed on academic probation during the spring of 2015. He spent a month living at a friend's house after his parents kicked him out.
During his junior year, Stoley's academic standing improved again, although not to the satisfaction of his parents. His father threatened to withhold paying tuition for Stoley unless he found a job and continued to improve his grades. Around this time, Stoley privately consulted a psychologist to assess his mental health. He was formally diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and began seeking medications to ease his anxiety. Although Stoley found work at a local Bixby's store, he continued maintaining a strained relationship with his family. On his personal profiles found on online chatrooms and forums, he described himself as "autistic".
Friends and family members claimed Stoley used various forms of media, especially anime and cartoons, as a form of escapism. He frequented online boards and forums in discussing fan theories, and spent much of his money on merchandise and memorabilia. Stoley was first exposed to Anubis and Bastet, his favorite series, when it began as a manga series back in 2012. He grew attached to the community and had grown "obsessive" with the series' lore and plot. Stoley was especially defensive of "shipping" the series' main characters, Anubis and Bastet, together (known as "Anustet" to fans). Within the series, the two characters are depicted in a platonic friendship with romantic relationships with other characters. Later police investigations revealed Stoley had written a 22-page essay detailing and defending Anustet on an online forum using the handle "delirioushipper09". Law enforcement recovered over 9 gigabytes of images, videos, and text (mostly fan fiction), some pornographic in nature, stored in his computer, dedicated entirely to the ship. Friends stated that he was a furry and cosplayed as either characters on occasion. Photographs were later released by family and friends showing Stoley participating in costume as Anubis and Bastet characters at local anime and comic conventions. His social media pages also indicated a history of him sharing his interests with friends. A close friend described his obsession as "borderline psychotic" and reportedly unfollowed Stoley's feed as he felt "inundated" with content related to the ship.
In the summer of 2016, Stoley developed an interest in firearms, and began target practice with the support of his father, a gun enthusiast himself. This mutual interest helped them bond together, and by November of that year, he was able to obtain several guns from a licensed dealer after undergoing standard background checks and mental health evaluations. His diagnosis of general anxiety disorder did not raise reasonable doubt against his mental state, and was thus cleared to purchase weapons by the National Firearm Sales Database. Stoley and his father stored their firearms in the storage room, and would bring them out to local firing ranges.
As the series progressed with no signs of any romantic development for Anustet, Stoley became agitated and would complain to his friends about it. A friend of his claimed he suffered a mental breakdown after he had spent too much thinking about the ship and the possibility of it never occurring. He would jokingly claim that if the ship would not happen, he would "pay a visit to the creators" to change their minds. He had high prospects in the fourth season, which "teased" the chance of Anustet becoming a canonical relationship. However, by the fourth season's end, both characters remained only friends and did not enter into a romantic relationship as Stoley had hoped. The manner in which the ship was handled in the show greatly angered Stoley. He believed the show's writers specifically wrote the episodes with an "anti-Anustet bias" and only did so to distress shippers such as himself. In the wake of the season finale on November 6, he sent over 30 phone calls to the studio, expressing his disapproval of the episode's outcome.
Within days before the shooting, Stoley had privately confided to online and real friends of his, that he was seriously contemplating an actual retaliation against the show's writers. Although friends believed he was joking, Stoley wrote a polemical post on his personal blog, detailing his desire to make the creators "receive retribution for crimes against the light which is Anustet". To Stoley, "shipping is serious business". When pressed on what form of retribution the creators would receive by followers, Stoley stated, "I will fucking kill them for this".
On the evening before the shooting, Stoley sent a farewell post on his blog and on the forums. In them, he said he was prepared to "meet and embrace the everlasting bond between Anubis and Bastet", and that he would "soon experience what true and pure love really is". He made no mention of the tickets which he purchased to attend the show's celebration event at Tokki Studios, and did not bring up his plans. However, he recorded a video of himself, expressing his true thoughts and motivations that led to his decision. Stoley attributed the ship as his coping mechanism for the "pathetic, uneventful waste of [his] life" and said he had grown so attached to it, that it was a reflection of his deepest desires. He lashed out being unable to find anyone to "truly love" and saw his version of Anustet as the ultimate, ideal form of relationship that he desired. He also admitted to "unironically believing in Egyptian mythology" and believed he would soon be able to meet the actual Anubis and Bastet in the Underworld. Stoley also said his actions were meant to "punish the show's creators for bringing him unnecessary pain and suffering" and to condemn them for denying him "any form of bliss". Two hours before the shooting, he saved the video into a USB drive, and sent it personally to one of his friends, instructing her not to use it until the next day.
Following the attack, after his name and motivations were revealed, he was dubbed by the media as the "Mad Shipper".
Casualties and victims
The attack occurred at the private, closed event in one of Tokki Animation Studio's multi-purpose conference rooms. Select fans and members of the show's production crew were gathered together to commemorate the completion of the series' fourth season and the franchise's commercial success as a whole. Plans were already underway towards a full cinematic release, as well as a fifth season in the works. The event was organized by the crew months before, but was not announced until two days before the actual event. Tickets were limited to 250 guests and were sold at high prices.
The event featured 278 in attendance, including the perpetrator. Thirty-six people were killed while thirty-eight were injured. The dead comprise twenty females and sixteen males, ranging from the age of eleven to fifty-two. Amongst those killed included the show's creator and executive director Adrian Balser, executive producers Cathy Huang and Tony Fulford, creative director Zach Welland, and show composer Brian Moon. The voice actors for Stoley's favorite characters, Anubis (Kyle Campione) and Bastet (Sherry Keiper) were also killed in the attack. Twenty-two of the fatalities were from the Gold Coast, five from Orange, five from the Inland Empire, three from Laguna, one from Kings, one from Clark, and one from Central Valley. An additional 39 received moderate to serious injuries, while 45 received minor injuries. The nearby Providencia General Hospital treated most of the wounded (59 patients), most of whom received treatment within 4 hours of admission. Other victims sought treatment at the US Porciúncula Walter Zhou Medical Center and the San Fernando Valley Community Hospital.
Charitable donations to the families of the victims made in the week following the attacks totaled over $13 million collectively to cover funeral expenses.
Aftermath and reactions
Nemesis Heartwell's official statement on the Tokki Studio shooting
The shooting brought attention to the country's gun control laws and mental health issues. Although the private sale and ownership of automatic firearms have been banned since 1991 under the Tom Gilbert Law, semi-automatic firearms have continued to be allowed with varying degrees of regulation from PSA to PSA. There was renewed interest in outlawing the sale and manufacture of certain types of semi-automatic rifles and magazines that exceeded 10 rounds of ammunition/cartridges. In addition, loopholes and other gaps in existing gun legislation in both the Gold Coast and federal Sierra were also brought into question.
Media reactions to the shooter and his motive ranged from confusion to shock. Political pundit Steven Seinfield called the attack "absolutely bizarre and way out of the left field". RBS contributor Mariam Fayiz described Stoley as a "deeply troubled individual" with a "very warped pysche", and stated his online history and obsession with the show was actually quite common among Sierra's youth and adolescence. Several conservative groups questioned the moral impact Sierran television and media had on youth. The National Family Council released a statement that declared, "We as a nation must recognize that there is a serious epidemic and virus being spread to our children through mass media, and something must be done. Others criticized the claims, including the Sierran Entertainment Federation which stated, "The blame placed on Sierran television is yet another misguided and sensationalist fear-mongering tactics used to censor the free expression of Sierra's artists and the free choice of Sierran consumers. This attack is not proof that television is the problem, but that mental health is. The shooter's unusual motives is the exception, not the rule. Any reasonable person would not have committed this. It is evident that this is a mental health issue, as it is a gun violence issue, contrary to what naysayers may have one believe."
Gun rights organization including the National Rifle Association of Sierra (NRAS) condemned the attack but emphasized the fact that the shooter's rampage was stopped by a "law-abiding, private gun owner", and stated it that losses could have been further minimized if the other security guards were able to carry firearms themselves. NRAS President Hugh LeBlanc called on the Gold Coast to loosen its gun laws, not tighten it, claiming it failed to protect its citizens as it intended, and promoted a "hostile environment to lawful gun owners". The Sierrans for Gun Reform Association (SGRA) responded with a campaign saying, "When is enough enough?", urging gun owners and non-owners alike to support "reasonable and sane policies on gun laws" in order to prevent further tragedies such as the Tokki Studio shooting.
Within minutes of emergency call, officers from the Providencia Police Department were the first to respond and arrive on scene. Agents from the Gold Coast SWAT Team also arrived due to calls of a potential bomb threat and possibility of multiple shooters. The Mayor of Providencia ordered a mandatory lockdown for all businesses and public facilities, and strongly advised citizens to remain indoors which were to be securely locked. Numerous public and private schools within twenty miles of the attack were in session at the time of the shooting, and were subsequently placed on lockdown for more than two hours before it was lifted.
Prime Minister Nemesis Heartwell, who was at the Getty House only 10 minutes away from the shooting, tweeted moments after news broke of the attack, "Just learned about what happened in Providencia. Very shocking and sad. Will be making an official statement soon. Stay safe, everyone." Due to the proximity of the attack to the Getty House, Heartwell was relocated to a secure section of the complex for an hour while authorities made sure there were no other credible threats in the area. Similar measures were taken at the Occidental Palace for members of the Royal Family. Although Parliament was not in session that day, members of Parliament on-site at their offices were also similarly briefed of the event and secured by protective services. The following day, she released a full statement in a press conference meeting at the Getty House. She called the attack a "terrible crime" where the victims were "senselessly murdered in an act many of us are still trying to garner some understanding of." She issued an official state of mourning, which was to last for one week.
Heartwell praised the work and dedication of Tokki Studios, and affirmed that the attack would not stop Sierrans and the studio from continuing to create "the joy and happiness we experience through fiction". She stressed the need to address Sierra's mental health issue and planned to work with her colleagues in Parliament. Heartwell also made it clear that sufferers from mental illness "are not forgotten" but are loved. Following the announcement, flags flying at public buildings across Sierra were ordered to fly at half-mast for one week. Flags flying over private property were strongly encouraged to also observe the half-mast declaration. She later made a passing reference to the event during her official speech at the 2017 CAS Königsberg summit.
Had Stoley escaped, Gold Coast Governor Martin Louis King, Jr. stated he was prepared to issue an official manhunt to track down the shooter. Later that evening, Governor King addressed the media at a candlelight vigil held at the Providencia Seventh-day Adventist Church, urging citizens to "love and care for another" and "stay safe and have resolve to create positive change". King said, "Unspeakable horrors occurred today. No words can express the pain the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and friends of the victims, as well as fans of a much beloved show are feeling right now. We need to make it clear that we are here for them and that our hearts and prayers goes out to them tonight. We are all mourning tonight and we must all come together in overcoming this tragedy."
CEO Kenny Tsao of Tokki Corporation, the parent company of Tokki Animation Studios, released an official statement, "We here at Tokki Corporation are absolutely shocked and outraged at the events which have unfortunately occurred at one of our major studios. I want to give out my deepest sympathies to our employees and fans' families and friends. Our wonderful staff worked hard day and night to produce quality content that brings absolute joy and happiness to millions of Sierrans and people worldwide through animation and storytelling. It is an absolute shame that what was supposed to be a celebration of a great series turned into a day of terror. We are eternally grateful for their dedication and passion, and know that their legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of many, never to be forgotten. Tokki wants to assure everyone that we will continue doing what we do best, and that no one can or will silence us. Let us not let the victims' vision be tarnished, and instead, honor them."
Tokki Animation Studios announced that it would halt production for the fifth season of Anubis and Bastet, out of respect for the show's crew. Meanwhile, Tokki Network began airing back-to-back episodes of the show in a marathon with a ticker encouraging viewers to donate money to support the victims' families for funeral and medical costs. The studio initially stated that the incident would not affect the status of other shows, and that after a brief hiatus, the schedules for all shows, excluding Anubis and Bastet, would resume accordingly. The company mentioned that individual schedules would be discretionally modified if necessary. The following day of the attack, the studio said it was giving a two-week break to all employees and staff to "allow time to reflect and mourn for the loss of our peers and colleagues".
Fans of Anubis and Bastet as well as members of the anime community in general launched online campaigns to support the victims of the attack. Public vigils and moments of silence were observed across Sierra and Anglo-America. All sports events which took place in the following days of the attack observed a minute in silence to remember the lives lost in the shooting. Outside Tokki Animation Studios, its front entrance gate was adorned with over thousands of flowers, religious candles, cards, balloons, artwork, and mementos.
Griefers and trolls on online forums and image board communities produced and circulated numerous hoaxes and fake news stories across the Internet. In addition, some flooded the Tokki Studio official pages, mocking the deaths of the show's staff and fans, and claiming that "more would come". Others attacked fans of the show and the hashtag "#AnustetIsShit" was trending on Twitter for more than 48 hours following the shooting. The inflammatory nature of the trolling received attention from mainstream media, and has been covered extensively in a 2018 documentary, documenting internet culture.
Pope Ignatius, who was in Porciúncula at the time of the attacks on an official state visit, condemned the shootings. He also made statements questioning the shooter's motive, attributing it partially to his "sinful obsession with pornography". He also made controversial statements on modern Sierran anime, claiming that "it is corrupting our children; it turns them away from God". He literally clarified his statements saying, "Cartoons are harmless but times like these show our dire need in God." He also criticized the mass media for further discouraging and demoralizing Sierra's youth.
Fake news websites published misleading stories about the incident hours before the identity of Nelson Stoley was confirmed. Images of Liam Coleman, the security guard who killed Stoley, circulated instead, leading early news organizations including ENC to erroneously use a photograph of Coleman holding a gun as the picture of the attacker. Online board 2tan users claimed Coleman had been involved in other shooting-related incidents, and flooded the boards with "HE CAN'T KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH THIS", a phrase which was picked up by other fake news websites. Confusion ensued on social media sites as conflicting stories and details of the attack continued. After photographs of the actual killer, Nelson Stoley, was released, media outlets redacted previous mentions of Coleman as the shooter. Although other pictures of Coleman later surfaced to honor the security guard for his actions, his gun pose photograph continued to be used by various online sources.
Other websites, including those run by far-right activists, claimed the attacker was an "anti-furry crusader" who wanted to punish people for enjoying anime. One prominent far-right website, The Norse Defender, stated that the attack was an Islamic terrorist attack carried out by an ISIS sympathizer. Some reports falsely claimed Stoley targeted the studios because he was a former writer from the show who was fired due to its political beliefs. On 16ON, Democratic-Republican Member of Parliament Lenny Boore once incorrectly named the shooter as "Sam Hyde", a fictional character whose name is jokingly brought up as the perpetrator of recent shootings online. Boore claimed he received information on the name from "official sources" but failed to name any explicitly when asked. Boore later apologized for misidentifying the shooter.
The Royal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation, with the Gold Coast Provincial Police, Porciúncula Police Department, and St. Anthony County Sheriff's Department offering assistance. Investigators stated the shooting was motivated solely on the perpetrator's feelings towards the contents of Anubis and Bastet. Law enforcement received a search warrant to enter the Stoley Residence to obtain Stoley's computer data, private records, and other information. Stoley's family were fully cooperative with law enforcement authorities during questioning. Authorities believed Stoley acted entirely alone and that there was no indication that he had any accomplices. Early reports nonetheless claimed that there were multiple shooters in the area and even bomb threats.
Police retrieved Stoley's personal car, which was parked two blocks away from the site of the shooting in a public garage. They discovered no weapons or explosives in the vehicle but confiscated for evidence. Stoley did not appear to carry any mobile device with him during his attack. His personal uPhone was left at home and was locked. Federal authorities were unable to unlock the phone as it was encrypted. The government requested backdoor access from Pear to access the device, to which the uPhone's parent company, Newton, refused to provide. On December 1, the Royal Bureau of Investigation announced it was seeking to obtain a subpoena from the judicial system, in order to force Newtown to comply with the request for the investigation. The move was met with significant political controversy surrounding human rights and privacy concerns.
On March 26, 2018, it was discovered that although Nelson Stoley was officially confirmed and declared dead by the Porciúncula Office of the Coroner, he was still registered as a living person on his family's personal records with the National Family Registry. Thus, despite having been dead for more than three months, he was still legally considered alive within the Sierran federal bureaucracy. The National Family Registry apologized for the confusion and failure to act upon the legal technicality, stating the error had "serious implications" and reiterated the records were not updated as the Stoleys had failed to update the records as required by law. Stoley's parents later stated they had refused to update their family record as it brought them "grief and embarrassment". On the following day, Prime Minister Nemesis Heartwell issued an executive order to declare Stoley's official death be updated with the National Family Registry, overriding the customary obligation and responsibility for family members to update it themselves.