CLEVELAND — An Ohio man and self-described “incel” plotted a mass shooting at Ohio State University, specifically targeting women living at sorority houses on campus, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Wednesday.
Tres Genco, 21, of Hillsboro, is charged with attempting to commit a hate crime and unlawful possession of a machine gun. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Columbus. He is due back in court July 23.
An incel, short for an involuntarily celibate person, is a member of an online community of men who harbor anger towards women because they believe women deny them romantic or sexual attention.
The movement in recent years has grown online, radicalizing members of the group, including some who commit violence against women.
Genco began identifying as an incel in January 2019, bought an AR-15 rifle, scouted locations at Ohio State University and wrote two manifestos about wanting to kill women, according to court records.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he went through four months of basic training until the Army discharged him for poor performance and bad conduct, according to court records.
In manifestos recovered by authorities after his May 12, 2020 arrest, he wrote about conducting a mass shooting on OSU’s campus on May 23 of that year, court records say. When asked if authorities notified Ohio State officials of the planned shooting, a university spokesman, Benjamin Johnson, declined to comment and referred questions to federal prosecutors.
In his writings and online postings, Genco referred to women as “foids,” short for femoids, a dehumanizing term incels use to “maintain a delusion of superiority” over women, according to Samantha Kutner, an expert on violent extremism and gender dynamics of radicalization at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism.
“Incels believe men are subjugated by women and engage in over-aggressive performance of masculinity,” Kutner said. “Once you’ve adopted this idea, some self-destruct, and others project their problems onto others and blame them. It’s really a toxic combination of delusions of grandeur and the belief that they are victimized by these women. They believe they have no agency in the process.”
Genco became a prominent poster on online incel forums and, in his postings, invoked the name of Elliott Rodgers, an incel who killed six people and wounded 14 others in a 2014 shooting at a University of California-Santa Barbra sorority.
He wrote that he once shot a group of people with a water gun filled with orange juice, which Rodgers did before the mass shooting.
“Felt like I spiritually connected to the saint on that day,” Genco wrote in an online post, adding: “I suggest it to all incels, extremely empowering action.”
The court records show Genco appeared to be planning a mass shooting for some time.
In January 2019, he bought a bulletproof vest, a hoodie emblazoned with the word “revenge,” a skull mask and a bowie knife. He bought two guns in the next two months — a rifle and a handgun, according to court records.
He wrote his first manifesto in August 2019, titled “A Hideous Symphony, a manifesto written by Tres Genco, the socially exiled Incel.” He wrote about how he planned to get military training to carry out a mass shooting.
“(T)his training will be for the attainment of one reality, the death of what I have been deprived most, but also cherish and fantasize at the opportunity of having but has been neglected of; Women,” he wrote, according to court records. “I will slaughter out of hatred, jealousy and revenge.”
About the same time, he wrote a note that said: “OSU, May 23, 2020 290 Days! M-16 optimal, covert or mil-spec…KC [short for kill count] needs to be huge! 3,000? Aim big then.”
Genco researched gun modifications. He searched online for Ohio State University sorority houses and other topics, including the use of guns and explosives. Later that month, he attended Army basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, until his discharge in December.
After he returned to Ohio, he wrote a second manifesto in January 2020 titled: “isolated.”
“If you’re reading this, I’ve done something horrible. Somehow you’ve come across the writings of the deluded and homicidal, not an easy task, and for that I congratulate you for your curiosity and willingness to delve into such a dark topic,” he wrote, according to court records. He signed the document: “Your hopeful friend and murderer.”
Four days later, he conducted surveillance at Ohio State University and searched online topics including: “planning a shooting crime” and “When does preparing for a crime become and attempt?”
On March 11, 2020, he searched for police scanner codes for Columbus and campus police.
The next day, someone who lived with him called Highland County Sheriff’s deputies and reported that Genco locked himself in a bedroom with a gun and that he threatened the caller. The caller told deputies Genco in recent months had become increasingly “erratic and violent.”
Sheriff’s deputies surrounded the home and coaxed Genco to come outside. They found in his car an AR-15 with a bump stock, an attachment that allows the rifle to fire more rounds faster, and a handgun hidden in the heating vent in his bedroom, court records say. Neither had serial numbers.
The caller said they uncovered Genco’s writings and that they believed he planned on hurting someone. Deputies searched the home and found the manifestos and other handwritten documents, court records say.
Genco eventually pleaded guilty in Highland County Common Pleas Court to a fourth-degree felony charge of making a terroristic threat and was sentenced to 17 months in prison. He is currently in the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, state prison records say.
Kutner said when incels turn to violence, it’s often up to friends or family members to report them to authorities, similar to family members and friends who identified those who to took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.
“Some people have in their extended networks people they don’t know how to address, that are growing increasingly more radical,” Kutner said. “Like the court records in this case say, someone noticed warning signs, and they can intervene faster than the average law enforcement officer. There’s a level of care and accountability that have to be part of this response.”
Law enforcement action, however, should be the last step in the process, Kutner said. Ideally, friends and family members would have access to more resources — including teachers, counselors, psychologists, friends and family — earlier on to stop the extremism from turning into violence.
“You want to create an environment where we’re not just continually responding to threats,” Kutner said. “There are a variety of things that people can do, but it’s hard to do that when you’re in the threat-detection and response mode. It’s very easy for people to get sucked into this worldview that’s toxic and self-destructive and a danger to others if left unchecked.”