What Law Enforcement Agencies & Justice Professionals Need to Know about the “Lone Wolf”

What Law Enforcement Agencies & Justice Professionals Need to Know about the “Lone Wolf”
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2018-05-31
Unit 1Recording: Lone Wolf
Unit 2Webinar Notes: Lone Wolf

The media have identified some suspects related to violent events as lone wolves, but what exactly does it mean? What differentiates lone wolves from those who commit similar acts of violence under the umbrella of an organized terrorist or hate group? What is the motivation that brings people to commit such acts?

Laurie Wood is the Director for Investigations for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), serves as an instructor for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), and is a faculty instructor for the US-DOJ’s National Hate Crime Curricula. Laura is the speaker for this webinar and it’s her prolific career dealing with radical, anti-government, racist groups and offenders that equipped her with the knowledge to provide insights about lone wolves.

She joins this webinar session to discuss the most pertinent points law enforcement must know about lone wolves. This includes identifiers, characteristics, case studies, research statistics, and a behavioral study related to them.


Specifics that Laurie unpacked in this course include:

  • Lone wolves defined as a type of domestic terrorist enacting a leaderless resistance.
  • Organized extremist/hate groups which operate logistically as an opposite to lone wolves and the expanse of their influence throughout the US.
  • The trend and dynamics between the occurrence of hate groups incidents and lone wolf cases.
  • Various case studies of lone wolves in the last decade in the US including case facts, pre-attack details, and possible motivations.
  • The Age of the Wolf study that provided insights on leaderless resistance terrorism covering 63 incidents in 6 years which looked at:
    • The primary motivation for lone wolves’ attacks as part anti-government sentiments, and part hate/racism
    • The incident types being three-quarters lone wolf cases, and the remaining quarter – group cases
    • The incident dynamic where less than a quarter is unplanned and the rest planned
    • The demographics of the assailants, where it is found to be mostly male in their 20s who are likely to be lone wolves
    • The preferred weapons as firearms followed by explosives
  • The concept of leaderless resistance, a.k.a. Phantom Cells, that was first attributed in a 1962 essay by an anti-communist US intelligence officer Col. Ulius Amoss and echoed in a 1983 essay by white supremacist Louis Beam.
  • Who Louis Beam is and the content of his 1983 essay which the radical right lone wolves embraced as a guiding doctrine.
  • The AtomWaffen Division as a Neo-Nazi organization which espouses a lone wolf, leaderless resistance operations and the cases that made them the most terroristic hate group in the US.
  • The behavioral concept of wound collecting which explains how lone wolves came to be.
    • The three-step evolution of a lone wolf’s escalation towards violence
    • The best way to deal with potential wound collectors by tracking their actions, monitoring their evolution, communicating with them, and informing authorities about the concerned individual
  • Stormfront, the website that serves as the platform where people who support hate and racism convene to influence and reinforce each other’s ideologies.
  • The ten characteristics associated with a lone wolf type race killer.
  • Poll questions asked the webinar audience about their perceptions of lone wolves, their motivations, and their age.
  • Participants asked Laurie about their concerns related to:
    • Presence of lone wolves in the radical left and right ideologies
    • Differences between international and domestic lone wolves
    • Why lone wolves prefer to operate by themselves, or at most in groups of six, as opposed to a larger and organized group
    • The psychological triggers and motivations of lone wolves
    • How lone wolves acquire their weapons


Resources Mentioned During the Webinar:

Additional Resources
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What Law Enforcement Agencies & Justice Professionals Need to Know about the “Lone Wolf”: An Interview with SPLC’s Laurie Wood
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