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Former girlfriend of Dayton shooter saw warning signs, struggles with mental illness

The former girlfriend of Connor Betts, who killed 9 people in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, says the two bonded over their shared struggles with mental illness.
/ Source: TODAY

A former girlfriend of the gunman who killed nine people and wounded more than 30 others outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, says she saw warning signs that included him showing her video of a mass shooting on their first date.

In an NBC News exclusive, Adelia Johnson told Gabe Gutierrez on TODAY that she dated Connor Betts, 24, for a few months and bonded with him over their shared struggles with mental illness.

"People go every day being perfectly fine with having a mental illness, me included, and he just got the short end of the stick,'' she said. "No support system."

Betts was killed by police after killing nine people in 30 seconds early Sunday morning, six of whom were African-American. Police say they have not found a racial motivation for the shooting.

"This isn't about race, this isn't about religion, it's none of those things,'' Johnson said. "This is a man who was in pain and didn't get the help that he needed."

Johnson, who broke up with Betts in May, said she immediately saw disturbing signs. On their first date, he showed her a video of a mass shooting, she said, and he also took her to a gun range. He also performed with an extreme heavy metal band known for sexually violent lyrics.

A former high school classmate said Betts got into trouble at school for making threats.

"Kind of a loner, bit of an outcast,'' Theo Gainey told Gutierrez. "Lot of people saw kind of a dark side in him."

The youngest of the shooting victims was Betts' own sister, Megan Betts, 22, but police say it's not clear if she was the main target.

She accompanied Betts and another male companion to the downtown area, but then separated from him, police said. The friend was also shot but survived and is cooperating with investigators, police said.

Police are searching his home in the Dayton suburb where Betts and his sister attended high school. An emotional vigil was held for her on Monday night.

"It seems to just defy believability he would shoot his own sister, but it's hard to believe that he didn't recognize that was his sister,'' Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said at a news conference.