Missed signs may have caused deaths

For a little over a week now, I have been telling you about signs that should send up red flags. Unfortunately, these signs were missed in the two most recent shootings, and missed horribly. Had something been done, such as a court ordered psych evaluation, there is a good possibility that many people would still be here on earth rather than souls in heaven.

I thought today would be a good day to give you some things to ponder. First, both the Texas shooter and the California shooter should not have been able to purchase firearms. To be honest, they probably would have found another way of causing death and destruction, but still, this needs to be pointed out. The warning signs that were there for these two shooter still should have been HUGE red flags to everyone around them and to law enforcement!

Let’s start with the Texas shooter. According to a story by Meghan Keneally and Luis Martinez of ABC News (2017), the shooter had multiple signs that he was a prime candidate to become an active shooter. The first outward sign happened when he chocked, kicked, and slapped his wife in 2011. Just three days later, he hit his 1-1/2 year old stepson in the head, fracturing his skull. In 2012 he escaped from a mental health facility and was trying to take a bus out of town. The report of his escape said that he was a danger to himself and others. He had already been caught sneaking firearms onto his Air Force Base, and he made death threats to his military chain of command. He was confined for 9-1/2 months of a 12 month sentence, released early for good behavior. In 2013, he was accused of sexual assault. In 2014, he was cited for cruelty to animals for closed fist punching a dog repeatedly.  Just 5 days before his rampage, he and his children attended the fall festival at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. While this last information is not a warning sign, I can’t help but wonder if he was scoping out the church for what he would do five days later.

In the California shooting, similar signs were missed or ignored according to a story by the Associated Press (AP [2017]). He was out on $160,000 bail after an alleged assault, stabbing his neighbor with a knife. He was supposed to surrender all of his firearms in January.  Multiple neighbors complained that he was firing hundreds of rounds of ammunition over the last few weeks. In an interview

that reporter Jim Shultz , a court reporter for Shasta County reveals many signs I have warned about. Neighbors said they could hear the (eventual) shooter come unhinged on a regular basis. According to the AP story, both the mother and the sister of this man said he had “mental issues. The story went on to say that the shooter was marijuana grower, and he had a long-standing dispute with a neighbor he believed was making meth. According to the AP story, just prior to the incident, he called her and told her that the people in the town were trying to execute him (paranoia) . She admitted that she knew he was mentally unstable, and so did his sister.

When we look at these warning signs, we see that both of these shooters portrayed them. Do you have someone in your community portraying these signs? If so, you should not ignore them! I have taken the proactive stance of adding the full list of warning signs at the bottom of this post. Feel free to share them and print them for yourself. Hang them by your desk, or somewhere that will be seen by you on a regular basis. As always, I encourage to be proactive rather than reactive, … Mark

References

Associated Press (November 15, 2017). Warning Signs: California shooter Kevin Neal was out on bail, worried neighbors, fired hundreds of practice rounds. Retrieved from: http://torontosun.com/news/world/warning-signs-california-shooter-kevin-neal-was-out-on-bail-worried-neighbours-fired-hundreds-of-practice-rounds

Connor, T., & Arkin, D. (November 6, 2017). Texas Gunman Devin Kelley escaped from mental health facility in 2012. Retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/texas-church-shooting/texas-gunman-devin-kelley-escaped-mental-health-facility-2012-n818496

Schultz, J. (November 15, 2017). Rancho Tehama man talks about incident

. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/JimSchultz_RS/status/930500370073206784

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FEEL FREE TO PRINT, SHARE, AND/OR POST THIS QUICK GUIDE

Active Shooter Common Characteristics

According to the FBI, active shooters are typically male (94%), with the youngest recorded age being 13 years old and the oldest being 88 years old. The vast majority (87%) are under the age of 40. Common themes of past active shooters include:

  • May lack social skills
  • May have been a victim of teasing/bullying
  • May have conflicts with coworkers
  • May suffer from depression
  • May reveal aggressive or explosive behavior
  • May violate safety guidelines
  • May not accept responsibility
  • May be paranoid
  • May have an interest in guns/weapons
  • May not take criticism well
  • May blame others
  • Might threaten people
  • May suffer emotional outbursts

Signs that Should Indicate an Increased Awareness

Past active shooters had common attributes. For these attributes to be included in this list, it had to be present in at least 25% of the active shooters life history. While these signs may not indicate they will become an active shooter, they should cause individuals that may become victims to have a raised awareness. If two or more are present, you may want to notify the police.

  • Hostility or conflicts at work or home
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Domestic problems
  • Currently using drugs or alcohol
  • Poor ob performance evaluation
  • History of violence against others
  • History of being abused or neglected
  • Disciplinary action or job termination
  • Involuntary job changes–different roles, responsibilities or work groups
  • May exhibit recent signs of mental illness with outbursts

Red Flags that MIGHT Require Intervention

Just prior to active shooting incidents, most perpetrators displayed common signs which may indicate the potential to act on an impulse to become an active shooter. Not everyone that displays one or more of these signs will definitely become and active shooter, but it should be a sign that intervention should at the very least be considered. For items in bold lettering, action should be taken immediately:

  •  Extremely high level of distress
  • Threats of homicide or suicide
  • Fantasies of homicide or suicide
  • Weapons: Use, threat of use, or recent impulse purchase 
  • Obsessiveness
  • Substance/Alcohol abuse
  •  Pet /Animal abuse

Should I call law enforcement or not?

Earlier this week, another gunman shot 10 people in northern California. In listening to an interview of a young man, many of the signs I have been writing about were present in this shooter. The young man interviewed said that the man who shot up this town (including children) often made threats, and he had a fascination with guns. He was firing hundreds of rounds over the last week or so. I am willing to guess that as more information comes out, it will somewhat look like the lists I have been providing you with.

On Wednesday (11/9/2017) and Monday (11/13/2017), I discussed various signs that could indicate that someone may become an active shooter. What I failed to mention, if you see two or more of the signs mentioned, it may be time to call the police and at least report your concerns. Most law enforcement agencies will take this warning, and view the person as someone that they will need to evaluate, or question. If they find cause for concern, like you did, they may ask a judge to put the individual on a psychiatric hold. Under the law, the only way this can be done is under a court order, and only if the judge believes they may be a danger to themselves or others. I will be releasing the list next week in its entirety, so you can print it, and hang it in your office.

While the other signs can be the build-up, the signs I am going to reveal today should be considered serious signs that should warrant contacting law enforcement right away. They inclide;

  • Threats of weapons use
  • Fascination or experimenting with explosives
  • Fascination or experimenting with guns
  • Threats of homicide or suicide
  • Fantasies of homicide or suicide
  • Animal abuse (especially their own pets)

If you, or anyone that knows the person, see’s these signs, law enforcement should immediately be contacted. There is no time to wait, these individuals are ticking time bombs that is ready to explode! If these individuals threaten to use weapons on you or someone else, they may have the inability to completely control their temper, and some day they may act rather than talk.

Looking at explosives, if they are experimenting with explosives, it shows a willingness to not only learn about them, but they also are in the habit of taking risks. I think it goes without saying that if you, or a neighbor of theirs hears regular explosions, it may be time for law enforcement intervention. This holds especially true if these explosions get bigger and bigger.

When we talk about the fascination of guns, we do not mean the gun collector, or the person that wants a certain caliber of gun; we are talking about the person that drools over guns. They may make regular visits to gun stores to sit and drool over them. They may ask to see them, and they may even ask odd questions like “How big of a hole will this gun make?” They may begin dangerous play with loaded guns. They may try twirling a gun like a wild west gunman. They may fire hundreds of rounds in a brief period of time, and they may even try shooting while advancing on a target. This may be the build-up for what they want to do. This is something that local law enforcement should be warned about, so at a minimum they can have this person on their radar.

While I think it goes without saying, if someone says that they are suicidal or homicidal, or if they fantasize or talk about being homicidal or suicidal, you should call the authorities immediately! While I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, we can also pray for them while they are being mentally evaluated. While I am a firm believer in Christian counselling, I do not believe this is the time to take chances. You should never risk the person’s life, or others’ lives; I strongly urge you to call the authorities, and let them handle it through the system. If law enforcement find that the person is unstable, and that they have firearms or explosives, they may be able to stop a mass shooting or bombing.

It should also go without saying, if the person is abusing or torturing animals. Whenever they get to this extreme, it shows that they lack empathy. With a lack of empathy, in most instances, they could torture or kill a human as easily as they do the same to an animal. To be honest, just the thought of torturing or abusing an animal makes me cringe, and it should make you cringe too.

I reiterate my earlier statement, if you see any of these signs, it is not time to think about it; it is time to involve law enforcement. As always, stay safe and keep God’s children safe, … Mark

Behavioral Profiling gives an Advantage

Pretty much anyone that watches television has heard of behavioral profiling. Some call this offender profiling. Behavioral profiling in this context, is the task of observing, interpreting, and anticipating what someone is going to do, based on their behavior. A simple example that describes behavioral profiling, as a child, I knew if I saw my great grandfather sitting in a chair, and he leaned hard to one side, there was a good possibility that he was going to break wind. Albeit this example is a bit crass, it shows that we knew what was coming from his behavior, and we took evasive action (it’s OK to laugh).

By the same token, there are ways to pre-identify potential shooters and bombers. While they are not 100% accurate, they can give us advanced warning for the times that they do hold true. Some examples of behavioral profiling What we don’t see can sometimes have as much as an impact on us as what we do see. We will watch for the actions of the person.

When we understand the behaviors of those that want to do harm, we can intervene. That intervention might be excluding them from the church or church function, and to notify law enforcement.  Actions we can take prior to law enforcement’s arrival may be to lock them out of the church, to isolate them from other congregants, or in extreme cases, have one or more persons keep them busy while awaiting the arrival of law enforcement. It is important to note that we want to be fairly certain that they are a potential perpetrator before taking any action, as this could be detrimental to the mission of spreading the Word of God

Some specific psychological behaviors can also tell us that the individual may have bad intentions. They may have no facial expression, or they don’t smile or laugh when most people would. These are all behaviors that can be linked to a “fear of discovery” by criminals or terrorists. Other signs that a perpetrator cannot control include:

  • Nervousness
  • Unusual sweating
  • Twitching
  • Fidgeting
  • No facial expressions or inconsistent facial expressions

We can sometimes identify the physical behaviors of those carrying a firearm or that might be a suicide bomber. In most instances suicide bombers or those carrying firearms have certain looks and mannerisms. One, or more, people with a keen eye can in many instances spot these individuals in the parking lot or as they enter your church.

Signs that someone may be wearing a suicide vest include someone wearing clothing that is uncommon for the season like a large jacket on a warm day, or they may be wearing a coat, suit jacket or windbreaker that appears to be too large in comparison to their face and legs. This is a behavior that is uncommon.  They may be walking uncharacteristically gentle, or in a robotic manner, or they may be acting nervous. They may have controlled or shallow breathing, and in most instances they will not look anyone in the eye. In most instances they will stare straight ahead, sometimes as if they are looking right through you. In cases of radical terrorists, you may see light skin on their face where they recently shaved a beard, or they may be mumbling prayers  They may keep one or both hand inside their pocket, or in the case of a backpack or bag bomb, they will be especially careful not to bump it, or they may keep a hand on the bag or backpack at all times. There may be wires  that can be seen going from the backpack or back into their clothes. In many instances they will keep their hand in their pocket or the bag, so they can keep their hand on the detonator. While the vast majority of suicide bombers are male, it should be noted that there are female suicide bombers too. Trained church personnel may be able to identify these individuals and isolate them from others. Similarly, someone carrying firearms can also provide hints that they are armed.

Those carrying firearms can hide them in a variety of ways; someone carrying a handgun may carry them in a holster on their belt , on their ankle, or in a shoulder holster. They may carry them in a jacket or pants pocket, in a boot , or they may carry it in the waistband of their pants . If they have a long-gun such as a rifle or shotgun, they may wear long clothing to help conceal it. No matter where they carry it, if you are observant, you can tell that something is not quite right. Those carrying a firearm will regularly touch or adjust their firearm . This includes only pulling up one side of their pants , or putting their hand on the weapon or in their pocket when they stand up or climb stairs. They may look down at the area where the weapon is to make sure it is not seen. If they have the firearm on their leg, many times the seam of their pants will not be centered and they may regularly shake one pant leg or adjust the seam with their hands. They may turn away from people on the side that has the firearm to adjust their clothing. The may walk in a way that is not normal, favoring one side over another and on the side with the firearm, their arm or leg may be stiffer or more mechanical  The may have a bulge in their pocket or they may have pocket sag on one side. Pocket sag is easy to notice as a jacket or pants seem crooked from the weight of the firearm. They may hold one side of their jacket to make sure it doesn’t open or be pulling their clothing down over the area where the firearm is to make sure it is concealed . Whether a long-gun or a handgun, you may see bulges in the clothing and with long-guns, they may wear a long jacket and/or walk hunched over because they are trying to conceal it. Just like the explosive devices, they may also wear larger clothes or coats when it is warm.

We need to remember situational awareness is the key to preventing and surviving evil in our church. By being more aware of their behaviors, we can make a positive step to doing that!

Hiding-Run, Hide, Fight

While some will run from an active shooter that has gotten into the church, others may not be able to get out, and they may need to hide. Hiding sounds like an easy task, but it could prove difficult when gunshots are ringing out around you..

Of course, you can hide behind walls, but there are a few things to remember. First, most walls (unless a masonry wall) do little to stop bullets. Having said this, if you can find something solid to hide behind (e.g. like a metal or wooden desk, under a wood based table), then it will again increase your chances. In most instances, if you are hiding well enough, and you are quiet enough, the attacker will not know you are there. It is safer to hide behind a wall where they may not see you is safer than not hiding at all. The exception is if they are familiar with the church. Someone familiar with the church will probably know all of the potential hiding spots.

If you do hide in a room, you should do your best to secure your immediate area.  This may include locking the door, and if it can be done quietly, move objects in front of the door so that if they attempt to kick it in,  the door with items against it should keep them out. If at all possible, quietly barricade the area using desks, filing cabinets, furniture, etc. After you finish locking or barricading the door, NEVER position yourself directly behind the door, especially if it is a hollow core door.  This is a recipe for death in an active shooter situation. Hollow core doors won’t even stand up to a fist, and a bullet probably would not even slow down after going through most hollow core doors.  If it is a glass door, and the shooter hasn’t noticed it yet. shut the lights off (like it is not occupied), and hide out of site of the glass. DO NOT stack furniture or filing cabinets against a glass door, because this will tell the shooter you are there.

Once the door is locked and/or blocked,  turn off the lights. You want to give the impression to the shooter that nobody is inside the room, so he shouldn’t waste his time trying to get in. If possible (without drawing attention to the huddleshooter), close the shades or curtains, and stay out of the view of those windows. If possible, call 911, but don’t do it if the shooter may hear you talking.

Keep quiet, and keep all of your technology quiet. Shut off or turn cell phones to silent mode. If you have a computer running, hold the start button so it shuts down without making a sound, if you are a volunteer fireman (or someone else carrying a pager), shut it off. Think of anything that might make noise in that area, and shut it off. You do not want to alert the shooter that someone is in that room. If possible, lay on the floor.

It is also important not to huddle in a group, but spread out. Recent research has shown huddling together allows the shooter to do more damage because they shoot into a crowd and injure more people with less effort. When  bunched up, the shooter is at an advantage.

In tomorrow’s blog, I am going to delve into behavioral profiling. Behavioral profiling is easy if you know what you are looking for, and it can give you an exceptional advantage in being identifying an active shooter in church, or in the parking lot before they come in, … Mark

Signs that Should Indicate an Increased Awareness

All to often, we hear about what an active shooter was doing before they committed their crime. Houses of worship often see these signs, but yet they are oblivious to them. It’s time to quit missing these signs, and start paying more attention to what is going on in their lives. Sometimes domestic problems spill over into the sanctuary, and even if the congregation is not shot up, at least one person dies. I remember several over the years about instances where a husband and wife were splitting up, or having marital difficulties, and it turned into a church shooting. In one instances,I can remember the wife went to church, and the husband showed up at church and shot their spouse. In most instances, the shooter commits suicide, but not always. The only reason I am mentioning this is so you have a reminder that it is not always about the entire congregation. Sometimes it is about a domestic issue at home, and it spills over into the church.

As I did on Thursday, I am sharing some more information from handouts that I provide when I teach Surviving and Preventing Active Shooters and Bombers in Houses of Worship. For the safety of yourself and all those in your house of worship, PLEASE think about these signs and think about anyone that might be having these issues.


Signs that should Indicate an Increased Awareness

Past active shooters had common attributes. For these attributes to be included in this list, it had to be present in at least 25% of the active shooters life history. While these signs may not indicate they will become an active shooter, they should cause individuals that may become victims to have a raised awareness.

  • Hostility or conflicts at work or home
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Domestic problems
  • Currently using drugs or alcohol
  • Poor job performance evaluation
  • History of violence against others
  • History of being abused or neglected
  • Disciplinary action or job termination
  • Involuntary job changes – different roles, responsibilities or work groups
  • May exhibit recent signs of mental illness with outbursts

These are similar to the first list that I published, but still a little different. If there are indications on the first list and the second list, then you should have substantial heightened awareness around these individuals.

Later in the week, I will release a blog that will tell you how to identify when the police should be called before the potential active shooter can ever harm someone in your church. Be on the watch for that blog post, … Mark

Active Shooter – What should we do?

I have many church leaders ask “What should I do if an active shooter gets into my church”.  While it is a horrible thing to imagine, there are things you can do to increase your chances of surviving. The first thing that I would like to do is refer you to the Run, Hide, Fight video. This video was created by the City of Houston, and the Department of Homeland Security. It provides some very good basic tips on how to survive an active shooter situation. I strongly urge you to watch this video before you continue reading this blog.

Hopefully, you have now seen the basics of what to do in an active shooter situation, I want you to imagine, or look at, your church and ask yourself a few questions. How can I escape? Where could I run to? Where is the appropriate place to go if you do escape? You should begin considering areas that will physically hide you, and an area that will put a barrier between you and any projectiles coming your way.

While there are many self-proclaimed ballistics experts out there that may say that I am wrong, I am a firm believer that even if it only slows the projectile down, it gives you a better chance of surviving. This will depend on the caliber and ammunition they are using, but if someones shooting at me, I am not going to stand in the open when I could be behind cover.

Having said this, hiding behind objects that offer no stopping or slowing power will not work. Plain sheet-rock walls,  hollow-core doors, paneling walls, and other easily penetrable construction materials will provide little cover. An easy way to guesstimate if an object is potentially sound enough to stop a bullet, is to imagine what a hammer with a full swing would do to that object. If it will smash and go through the object you’re considering, then that is not a good place. If it would cause very little damage, then you probably found the right place!

So back to considering your church: Do you have a dumpster to hide behind? The steel in a dumpster should slow or stop a bullet, depending on the caliber used. What about an brick or block wall? Most bullets will not penetrate brick or block walls! Are there cars in the parking lot to hide behind? Hide behind them.  Do you have large rocks or boulders outside? Hide behind them. A church bus, a church van, even a church garage or shed might work. Sitting at my computer, I cannot tell you where your best places to hide are, so you are going to have to make that decision.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be better to fall to the floor, and then use those solid wooden pews as cover. Anything that puts a substantial barrier between you and the shooter is a “good thing”! If the shooter is moving up the aisle, there is always the option of crawling under the pews and working your way to the back of the church, or towards an exit door. If you do get to the back of the church, or an exit door, you might be able to escape behind the shooter, or hide behind them. I have attached a video to this blog. This is a scene from the instructional video that Saving Lives and Souls is creating and this instructional video should be out in July of 2018. This should give you a better idea about crawling under pews and how to possibly get close to an exit.

It is important to note that you will have to make the decision what to do. In order to make that decision quickly, you have to be in a situational awareness mindset. Know your surroundings, and regularly play scenarios out in your mind. Remember, there is no guarantee what will work as cover after you escape, and what will not.  I am only providing these tips so you might realize that you have more options than when you started thinking about surviving an active shooter.

Once you run from the area, and you are safe, call 911! Even if you saw someone else on their phone, it does not mean they were calling 911. They may have been calling loved ones. Perhaps they called 911, and  the call may not have connected. As someone that served in public safety for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the dispatcher tells us there are multiple calls coming in, it lets first responders know that it isn’t a hoax or prank call. While we may be en route with the first call, multiple calls add even more urgency to the response.

I could go on and on, but then I would not get this information out on schedule. In the near future, I will be sharing more information on how to survive an active shooter. Remember, in this blog, I only can give you options that you may not have thought of. Now it is time for you to do the work and come up with a game plan. Do you think that your favorite sports team goes into a game without planning strategy? Then why would you ignore keeping your church safe from an active shooter? If you work at it now, you may be able to save yours, and many other peoples lives in such a situation. Thanks for reading, … Mark

Situational Awareness

One of the keys to surviving an active shooting is to have situational awareness. Situational awareness is being aware of what is going on around you. We have to keep our eyes wide open and observe what is going on, and we need to follow our gut feelings. If something doesn’t seem right, if someone gives you a creepy feeling, or if someone makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, we should not ignore it! We need to be aware of that person, and depending on the situation, make others aware of this individual while not letting them know that they are being watched.

Even those that are not part of an organized safety and security team in a church should be aware of behaviors that might be concerning. As the Department of Homeland Security says, “If you see something, say something.” That an important factor in preventing church violence.

Shootings happen so quickly! If you do not have situational awareness prior to gunfire, it may be too late already. Many have said one second everything was fine, and the next second they heard gunfire. Try this exercise, snap your fingers and then see how long it takes you to escape the room you are in. Even if you gain two additional seconds through your situational awareness, those two seconds can save yours ,and possibly many other lives.

In my home church, we took it several steps further. We installed security camera’s that can see anyone trying to come in. These cameras also have day and night vision, so the time of day will not matter. The sound engineer monitors the cameras, and where I sit, I can also monitor them from across the room.

Our Pastor wanted the church to feel inviting, and was worried about someone possibly coming late to church, only to find a locked door. For that reason, we installed an electromagnetic door lock on the front door. With a flip of the switch, the doors can be locked before the shooter ever gets to the door. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that they won’t get in, but it sure gives us a fighting chance.

While the cameras and electromagnetic door locks were donated to the church, the total cost was less than $500.00. In my opinion, $500 is a minimal expenditure to prevent an active shooter from having free reign in our sanctuary.  I will post other tips to increase situational awareness  in future blogs, … Mark

 Video cam 3

 

Warning Signs

Have you ever wondered about the the common attributes of an active shooter? Well, I wondered it many times, so I spent two years researching and looking at others research. In 97% of the cases, the people that committed active shooting in the United States had some very common attributes. The list I am providing is just the basics. As time goes on, I will reveal more attributes of how to identify potential active shooters, and when you should be so concerned that you call the police immediately. I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of the lists at once. As you read through these attributes, think of the individuals who fit these attributes, and start thinking about who you may want to watch more closely. The information below is part of a handout that I provide when I do consulting jobs and the Surviving and Preventing Active Shooters and Bombers in Houses of Worship.

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Active Shooter Common Characteristics

According to the FBI, active shooters are typically male (94%), with the youngest recorded age being 13 years old and the oldest being 88 years old. The vast majority (87%) are under the age of 40. Common themes of past active shooters include:

• May lack social skills
• May have been a victim of teasing/bullying
• May have conflicts with co-workers
• May suffer from depression
• May reveal aggressive or explosive behavior
• May violate safety guidelines
• May not accept responsibility
• May be paranoid
• May have an interest in guns/weapons
• May not take criticism well
• May blame others
• Might threaten people
• May suffer emotional outbursts
• May have control and/or domestic violence issues
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