Lo was born in Tainan City, Taiwan, to Chia Wei Lo, a fighter pilot, and Lin Lin Lu, a violin teacher, both Mainland Chinese immigrants to Taiwan. The Lo family moved to the United States in spring 1981, living in a suburban neighborhood in Rockville, Maryland while Chia Wei Lo was assigned to a diplomatic post in Washington, D.C. While living in Maryland, the 7-year-old Lo became a violinist with the Montgomery County Youth Orchestra.
His family returned to Taiwan in 1983, after Chia-Wei relinquished his position that year. The family later settled in northwest Billings, Montana, in summer 1987. His parents later managed the Great Wall Chinese restaurant at Grand Avenue in Billings. He attended Lewis & Clark Junior High School in Billings for seventh to eighth grade, before attending Billings Central Catholic High School for his freshman and sophomore year. Lo was a violinist in the Billings Symphony Orchestra beginning at age fourteen. He attended the Aspen Music Festival in 1990 and studied under the prominent violin teacher Dorothy DeLay. Lo had a GPA of 3.56 GPA in his sophomore year.
In April 1991, Lo was accepted by Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and given the W.E.B. DuBois minority scholarship, beginning fall classes that September. He had wanted to attend a boarding school to estrange himself from his father. Lo tried to create an image as a hardened racist while attending Simon's Rock. Fellow students spoke of him having been outspoken and maintaining fascist beliefs. He also wrote an essay stating that the way to decrease AIDS was to segregate homosexuals in the United States. Lo quickly became an outcast in school.
On the morning of December 14, 1992, Simon's Rock receptionist Teresa Beavers searched a package addressed to Lo from the North Carolina company Classic Arms, and found 7.62 caliber ammunition inside the package. She notified college residence directors, and called for an investigation of Lo's dormitory. Residence director Katherine Robinson went to Lo's dormitory and asked Lo if she could see the contents of the package. Lo refused and Robinson informed the associate dean of students. Robinson returned to Lo's dormitory with her husband and searched his room, but found no weapons or ammunition. Lo told them the ammunition was a Christmas gift for his father; Lo was sent to the dean's office, and later the dean dismissed him, suspecting he was not possessing any weapons on the school campus. Reports were inconsistent, as other students had made complaints about Lo stockpiling ammunition in his dormitory. Chris Lucht, associate dean, had allegedly refused to investigate.
That night, an anonymous person phoned school officials, claiming that Lo was armed with weapons and was going to kill members of the Robinson family. The caller identified himself as another student with whom Lo had had dinner with that night. The Robinsons contacted the college provost, Ba Win, and went with their children to stay at Win's home in Lee, Massachusetts. There they called the dean to locate Lo; no precaution was taken, however, and the police were never notified.
Lo was hiding the ammunition which he had ordered two days earlier. On December 14, at around 10:00 a.m. Lo travelled by taxi to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and purchased a SKS semi-automatic rifle at Dave's Sporting Goods store. The shooting began at approximately 10:20 p.m. in the school security area. He shot Teresa Beavers twice in the abdomen, and later fatally shot a Spanish language teacher while he was driving his Ford Festiva. Lo then left the security area and entered the library. Inside he killed a poetry major and wounded another student. He left the library and was walking towards an adjacent dormitory where he wounded two freshmen students. Lo's rifle jammed and he dropped his weapon before walking to the student union building and phoned police to tell them of his actions. Lo surrendered to police without further incident.
Those killed in the shooting were student Galen Gibson, 18, and teacher Ñacuñán Sáez, 37. Gibson was a poetry major from Gloucester, Massachusetts, while Sáez was an Argentine-born Spanish professor. Those wounded were the receptionist Teresa Beavers, 40, and students Thomas McElderry, 19, Joshua A. Faber, 17, and Matthew Lee David, 18.
In the February 22, 2013, PBS Need to Know show titled "After Newtown" (see Newtown Mass Murder) the journalist Maria Hinojosa reported, "In fact, in an interview with Newsweek in 2007 after 32 people were killed in the Virginia Tech shootings ... Wayne Lo said: 'The fact that I was able to buy a rifle in 15 minutes, that's absurd. I was 18. I couldn't have rented a car to drive home from school, yet I could purchase a rifle. Obviously a waiting period would be great. Personally, I only had five days left of school before winter break ... If I had a two-week waiting period for the gun, I wouldn't have done it.'"
Lo's month-long trial took place at the Berkshire County House of Corrections in Pittsfield. Although claims were made by the media prior to the trial regarding Lo's supposed racist beliefs, he was never charged with a hate crime, and the racism accusations were never substantiated. Instead, the focus turned to his mental state at the time of the shooting as Lo made an insanity plea. His psychiatrists testified that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, while a court-appointed psychiatrist attributed Lo's actions merely to narcissistic personality disorder.
The jury agreed with the prosecution, and Lo was found guilty on all 17 charges against him, and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole. Lo spent nine months at a maximum security facility at Walpole, Massachusetts, from February to November 1994. He was later transferred to MCI-Norfolk, a medium security prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts.
In 1999, Gregory Gibson, the father of victim Galen Gibson, wrote Gone Boy: A Walkabout, a detailed book recounting the shooting. The book spurred correspondence between Gibson and Lo, which was detailed in a New York Times article on April 12, 2000, as well as a German TV documentary film, Running Amok, by George Stefan Troller.
Lo wore a T-shirt with the name of the New York City hardcore punk band Sick of It All during the shooting. This spurred the band to issue press releases denouncing Lo's crimes. The journalist Chuck Klosterman wrote a passage in his book, Killing Yourself to Live, (pages 133–134) in which Wayne Lo writes Klosterman a letter from prison contemplating what questions might have been raised if Lo were arrested wearing a T-shirt with the bands Poison or Warrant instead of Sick of It All.
The Simon's Rock College of Bard shooting is detailed in chapter two of the book Ceremonial Violence: A Psychological Explanation of School Shootings by Jonathan Fast. The controversy surrounding Lo's chapter and the book arose after Gibson published an article regarding allegations of plagiarized passages taken directly from Gone Boy: A Walkabout.
Lo has his own website, SkidLo.net. The website is co-owned by Lo and his friend Zachary Godwin. It was established to help the victims of Lo's rampage. On the site, those interested may purchase drawings, paintings, and embroidered art made by Lo. All the proceeds are donated to The Galen Gibson Fund. Currently, Skid Lo is the largest contributor to the fund.
SkidLo.net received much public attention after the Virginia Tech massacre. Subsequently, the Berkshire County District Attorney, David F. Capeless, tried to pass legislation banning such items from being sold by inmates after he became aware of the website's existence. Others fought for the site's right to exist by citing the First Amendment right of free speech. Another controversy was raised when there were accusations that the money was not being donated to the scholarship fund. Several newspapers and television stations later confirmed that Gibson was in fact receiving money from SkidLo.net.
Today the website is trying to establish itself in the world of art, rather than as a "murderabilia" business. Lo's artwork is now well known and is being displayed in gallery shows. Currently, his art is on display at the Hyaena Gallery in California.
Lo is the creator of "Flushy the Toilet Monster" – a cartoon character which has appeared in Mosquito and Spider, a comic strip by the artist Nicolas Caesar.
Lo's photo-embroidery piece "Embroidered Son of Man" is being exhibited at the Museum of Bad Art in Somerville, Massachusetts.