Webinar presenter Mark Warren answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Psychology of an Active Shooter. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Is it accurate that the Sandy Hook shooter left few clues as to his motivation?
Mark Warren: Lydia, I would say, yes, that’s correct. There’s always a lot of speculation, he didn’t really go into why he was going to do it or anything else. We do know he did suffer from some mental issues and autism spectrum stuff but the reality is, just because he suffered from that, did not make him do what he did. In fact, I argue that he knew full well, that what he was doing was wrong. I back that up because one of the last things he did after he killed his mother while she slept in bed was he destroyed his computer hard drive. People that have no sense of right or wrong don’t care what you find out after the fact. So, while we don’t truly understand what his motivations were or anything else, I do believe he understood the difference between right and wrong. Great question. Like everyone else, I’m baffled on why he did what he did.
Audience Question: The Las Vegas shooter was very much an outlier but what have we learned from that particular incident?
Mark Warren: Man, that’s a great question. Kevin, honestly, I’m very much like you. I study so many of these things that, essentially, as soon as that happens, I start getting a feeling of how it was tied to the location or possible motivation. If it is workplace violence, if it was either somebody about to get fired or if it was some type of domestic issue that comes back into the workplace and spills over. School shooters are kind of the same thing. There’s a feeling that I get on kind of, I hate to say this, this one seems kind of the trend. It follows those trend lines. The Las Vegas (shooter), like you said, was a complete outlier. I’m really bothered by that one because really there was no – from what I’ve seen, read the reports, everything else gives us no indication of what was going on in this man’s life to make him carry out the act that he did. I have not seen anything else published. It’s just like it’s died away, there are no other discussions about it. I’m not seeing anything. I’ll be honest, it bothers me. I just don’t have a good feeling about that particular one. I’m not one that’s big into conspiracy theories. I tell people all the time. I look, study as much as I can. I look for facts. I read things. I just follow the information away and sooner or later, those little puzzle pieces will start coming together. You can start building a chain of events or whatever. In this one, I have not seen that and it bothers me. I believe he was an “Ideological Attacker.” That’s all I can tell you, Kevin, is that one definitely bothers me.
Audience Question: I do know that we have a number of social services folks, victim advocates, therapists on the line who all work with victims and the general public. What is your advice to those individuals who are working with victims such as a divorcing spouse, who is afraid that their spouse could track them down at the office? Or as in the case of Sandy Hook, an estranged relative who tracks you down at a public location. What are those traits that these professionals should be looking for in that offender’s behavior that might indicate, yeah, this is a heightened risk situation and we really do need to take it seriously?
Mark Warren: One of the things, Chris, I could do, I believe you can speak to this as well, and one of the previous webinars that we did with Justice Clearinghouse was on behavioral indicators. In that one, we really did kind of break those things down. If you may be able to point them in a follow-up to that particular one, they may be able to go back and revisit it. But when you look at the behavioral indicators and our assessment process, most places you either look at a 5- or 7-pronged Behavioral Assessment process, and what that simply means is you don’t just look at the person, the individual. You have to look at: What is the family status? What is the culture, whether it’s workplace or school? What’s the culture of the school? In other words, is there a significant amount of bullying going on? Is there, you know, a good structure or a bad? What was their financial situation? Because in many of these instances, within the last 5 or 6 months, they’ve been under some type of severe financial strain. We start looking at what are the friendship statuses. So, you’ve got to look at all these different peer groups and prongs to give you a full complete picture of the people that you may be looking at. Some of the behavioral indicators that we’re really looking for is, you know, most of the time, these people can’t accept any type of failure. They blame other people for their failures. They can’t take constructive criticism. They don’t accept it. It’s always somebody else’s fault or problem. One of the things that I used that really opened my eyes to a lot of this stuff when I started having to deal with it more and more was one of the first books that I really read on that was Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. And I highly recommend it especially for anyone that’s working in the counseling services and the social services where you’re dealing with clients that are victims of abuse or you could be dealing with the abuser. You need to read that book because what he is saying is the gift of fear is truly one of the greatest gifts that we have because the subconscious mind works so strongly. The problem is the conscious brain overrides the subconscious telling us to worry about this individual. We try to explain their actions away. That really is a good starting point because he uses actual cases that he was involved in to show what was known at the time that we should have been picking up on and it goes right through. It has those pre-incident indicators a lot of times that I use and talk about. It goes into great detail. For a good starting point, I encourage anyone to get that book and read it: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Psychology of an Active Shooter.