"The offender just snapped" and "There's no way that anyone could have seen this coming" are common reactions that can fuel a collective sense of a "new normal," one punctuated by a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
In the weeks and months before an attack, many active shooters engage in behaviors that may signal impending violence.
In 2014, the FBI published a report titled A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013. One hundred and sixty active shooter incidents in the United States occurring between 2000 and 2013 were included in the sample. ... The 2014 report will be referred to as the "Phase I" study.
The present study ("Phase II") is the natural second phase of that initiative, moving from an examination of the parameters of the shooting events to assessing the pre-attack behaviors of the shooters themselves.
Phase II includes only those cases where the FBI obtained law enforcement investigative files that contained "background" materials (e.g., interviews with family members, acquaintances, neighbors; school or employment records; writings generated by the subject) adequate to answer the protocol questions. ... This resulted in a final sample of 63 active shooting incidents included in the Phase II study.
The FBI examined whether the 63 cases included in Phase II are representative of the entire Phase I sample (N = 160).
As compared to the 97 cases that were only in Phase I, the 63 cases in Phase II had the following characteristics:
- Had a higher number of victims killed on average during each shooting;
- Were more likely to end before law enforcement arrived;
- Were more likely to include offenders who identified with Asian and Caucasian ethnicity, with active shooters identified with African American and Hispanic ethnicity generally underrepresented as compared to Phase I;
- Were more likely to occur in an educational facility or a house of worship; and
- Were more likely to end with the active shooter committing suicide.
The sample comprised individuals who varied widely along a range of demographic factors making it impossible to create a demographic profile of an active shooter.
The demographic factors were age (12 to 88), race, level of education (none to doctorate), military experience, relationship status (single, married, divorced, partnered), and criminal history. Gender was overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) male (59 of 63).
The report examined the following pre-attack characteristics.
- 48 of 63 active shooters spent at least a week planning their activity. 6 of 48 spent up to 2 years.
- 45 of 63 spent more than a day preparing (e.g., acquiring firearms, ammo, armor). 2 of 45 spent up to a year.
- 58 of 63 acquired their firearms legally. 22 of 58 already owned them before any indication of intent to commit the shooting.
- Active shooters typically experienced multiple stressors (an average of 3.6 separate stressors) in the year before they attacked. 1 of 63 appears not to have experienced any stressors. Stressors are physical, psychological, or social forces that place real or perceived demands/pressures on an individual and which may cause psychological and/or physical distress.
- The stressor "mental health" is not synonymous with a diagnosis of mental illness. 16 of 63 had a mental illness diagnosis prior to the incident. Some studies indicate that nearly half of the U.S. population experiences symptoms of mental illness over their lifetime. Formally diagnosed mental illness is not a very specific predictor of violence of any type, let alone targeted violence.
- On average, each active shooter displayed 4 to 5 concerning behaviors over time. Concerning behaviors are behaviors exhibited by the active shooter and observed by others around the shooter. 62 of 63 exhibited concerning behaviors that were noticed at least a month before the incident. 35 of 62 exhibited concerning behaviors that were noticed at least 2 years before the incident.
- 50 of 63 had an identifiable grievance before the incident. Of the remaining 13, it is possible a grievance existed, but it was not identified. 22 of the 50 had a specific triggering event close in time to the shooting. Of course, many people have grievances and never act violently.
- 40 of 63 targeted specific individuals. 17 of 40 shot only the targeted individuals. 22 of 40 threatened their targets prior to the event. 21 of the 22 issued their threats verbally face-to-face. The other 23 of 63 exclusively shot random individuals.
- 30 of 63 engaged in suicidal behaviors prior to the incident. 27 of 30 stopped at ideation. 5 of 63 did not engage in suicidal behaviors. 28 of 63 are unknown.
- Mental health (not the same as a concerning behavior or diagnosis)
- Financial strain
- Job related
- Conflicts with friends/peers
- Marital problems
- Abuse of illicit drugs/alcohol
- Other (e.g. caregiving responsibilities)
- Conflict at school
- Physical injury
- Conflict with parents
- Conflict with other family members
- Sexual stress/frustration
- Criminal problems
- Civil problems
- Death of friend/relative
- Mental health (not the same as a stressor or diagnosis)
- Interpersonal interactions
- Leakage (the communication to a third-party of an intent to harm someone)
- Quality of thinking or communication
- Work performance
- School performance
- Physical aggression
- Firearm behavior
- Violent media usage
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol abuse
- Physical health
- Other (e.g. idolizing criminals)
- Sexual behavior
- Quality of sleep
While many dedicated professionals work to thwart active shootings, the FBI suspects that future active shooters themselves are looking for ways to avoid detection and maximize damage as they plan and prepare for their acts of violence.
Edited by Euler, 12 August 2018 - 12:48 AM.