Mass shootings focus of Cariens’ book

By Page H. Gifford

David Cariens understands what it is to lose someone in a mass shooting. His latest book, The Murder of Angela Dales, though written 21 years ago,  is a revised and updated version with new information regarding the circumstances that surrounded her death. 

In it, Cariens examines in factual detail the events that led up to the death of the mother of his oldest granddaughter. The book’s revision sheds new light on the aftermath of the shooting and “his quest to find justice.”

This is not Cariens first book. A prolific writer of non-fiction, his favorite writing style, he has spent a lifetime writing for the government. A retired CIA analyst, policy writer, and teacher, non-fiction is comfortable for him. He explained that writing became a large part of what he did in his job after 9/11 during the Bush administration when congress wanted standardization of communications between departments – mainly the FBI and CIA. 

After retiring and moving to Fluvanna, Cariens joined Blue Ridge Writers and other writer’s groups and said he admired those who wrote fiction and poetry but was unable to embrace it himself. He wrote two memoirs which led him to write the true account of Angela Dales’ death.

 On January 16, 2002, his writing took him on a different journey that would lead him to gun control advocacy. After the shooting at the Appalachian Law School in Grundy, Virginia, a small town in southwest Virginia where Dales was killed and later with the mass shooting on April 16, 2007, at  Virginia Tech, Cariens felt compelled to use his voice to make sense of events that could have been prevented.

In the state of Virginia, since 1988, there have been 12 mass shootings, including the shooting on June 14, 2017, of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise and others who were at baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. But the story of Dales and two others who were killed, and two wounded on that day in 2002, never made the list of mass shootings in Virginia.

“A mass shooting includes three or more people,” said Cariens. Some of the early cases didn’t even reach three victims. But this was personal for Cariens. “I had planned to write the great southern novel but I had to expose the lies and deceit,” he said, referring to his extensive research regarding the inconsistencies and loopholes in the law, flawed investigations, and the failures of public safety at the school.

His wife was leery of him writing about the event.

“She objected to me writing this book but after reading it she said, I understand why you did it.” He said the subject is controversial but believes it is more important to bring it to light through the loss of Dales and perhaps find a way to prevent mass shootings. “I learned that women bring everyone together to heal and men want justice,.” he said. 

Yet nowadays, as it was in Uvalde, both sides demand justice. Healing comes in the aftermath.

His research turned up many disturbing aspects of the case, including that shooter Peter Odighuziwa showing early signs of violence, particularly toward women, and also to faculty, staff, and students. He killed the dean, a professor, and Dales and wounded two others.

“He targeted her,” said Cariens. “That day he chatted with and bypassed many male students but went up to her, shot her three times, and only wounded the other two women.” In the book, Odighuziwa stated it was because “she was mean” to him.

He breaks down the elements of the book, from the profile of the shooter, to the investigation, and the trial to build relevance and give meaning to the egregiousness and sadness of these all too common events. He makes sense of what is senseless and takes a realistic look at a broken system in need of attention.

He talked about Dales and her family’s reaction to her death.

“She wanted to become a lawyer so she could help,” he said. 

Anyone interested in speaking with Cariens about his books can meet him on Sept. 16 and 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cuppa Joe’s for a book signing. All proceeds from his books go to charity. For more information, visit

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