Warning signs

As more details emerge from the Florida school shooting, many people feel outraged. Many signs were missed, and many of them were glaring red flags. All that was needed was for someone, anyone, to put two and two together, and then come up with the answer of four. I will not play Monday morning quarterback by second guessing potential failures of any agency, but I will point out missed signs that could have prevented this tragedy.

Whether you believe CNN delivers fake news or not, many will admit that when it comes to mass shootings, their investigative team is top notch. In fact, it makes an individual wonder what others, even law enforcement, can learn from them. I will be posting many links to CNN and their investigative reports in today’s blog, as well as CBS.

As most of you already know, I refuse to give glory to mass shooters, in order to help prevent another mass shooting. For that reason, this shooter will only be referred to as “Florida (FL) Shooter” or “the eventual shooter”.

Troubled childhood

CNN reported that a neighbor saw a troubling signs from the FL shooter, even at a young age. From the age of nine years old, she saw the FL shooter had a dark side. That dark side included killing animals for fun, hitting other children for no reason, and much more. According to friends and neighbors, as the boy grew, so did his dark side.

At a party the neighbor once had, the Florida shooter (still a young boy at the age of 10 or so) spilled a drink on his lap. When the other children teased him by saying it looked like he wet his pants, the boy locked himself in the neighbors bedroom, and destroyed a train set. He was easily provoked into violent behavior, even at that young age.

Also at 10 years old, the eventual shooter threw a rock at the neighbors son, and hit him in the eye, on purpose. She described how the FL shooter had so much rage, that his bedroom walls were filled with holes from his violent outbursts, and this was confirmed by other neighbors as well. As a middle school student, the FL shooter made weapons and killed toads, then pulled them apart or dissected them. He also used his BB gun and other weapons to kill small animals. While this in itself is somewhat normal for young boys, this eventual shooter was took it to the extreme, killing multiple animals in one day and gloating about it.

This same neighbor described how when her dog had a seizure, he stood over the dog that was violently twitching and foaming at the mouth, and watched with excitement. It was obvious that he was enjoying being able to watch this animal suffer, but his demeanor changed when he realized he (himself) was being watched.

As the boy grew older, multiple neighbors recalled seeing the police called, usually for conflicts with his mother.  There were reports of hitting doors with pool equipment, multiple violent outbursts, punching walls, and throwing objects. One neighbor stated she would see the police holding the eventual shooter in the back of a squad car, while they investigated. Both the shooter and his mother would always blame others for the troubles he had. Of course, all of these signs are red flags.

In 2016, the neighbor notified police about the shooters Instagram account. He was posting pictures if an AR-15, stating that he couldn’t wait to be old enough to purchase the weapon. He also posted (around that same time) that he “wanted to shoot up the school”.  He soon began to post and disturbing pictures of himself in tactical gear, holding multiple guns, or even holding menacing knives.

The two years prior to the mass shooting

Multiple warning signs were present in the two years before the mass shooting. CNN reported multiple signs were seen, but not acted on. On February 5th of 2016, the police were told that the eventual shooter planned to commit a school shooting. After an investigation by police, it was determined that the eventual shooter only had knives and BB guns, so he was not recognized as a threat, even though he made specific threats.

Over the period of a year, the FL shooter gathered a collection of firearms. From what information is available, it appears that all seven of the firearms he collected in a year were rifles.

In September of 2017, the eventual shooter would tell a video web-blogger that he was going to be a professional school shooter. The incident was reported, but no action was taken. Also in September,  according to CBS news the Department of Child and Family services visited the shooter and his mother. The mother was suspected of medical neglect, because the FL shooter had depression, ADHD, was a self-cutter, and he reportedly had autism.  They started the investigation because of a report that he was not being taken to a doctor or psychologist for treatment of these ailments. These are more red flags that were missed.

In November of 2017, shortly after his mothers death, a relative reported that the eventual shooter had rifles, and that she felt he was unstable. A friend of the eventual shooter agreed to take the rifles, and to keep them safe for the eventual shooter. Later in November of 2017, someone that the eventual shooter lived with, reported that they had a no gun policy in their house, and they believed that the shooter had hidden a gun (or guns) in their back yard.  No weapons were found by law enforcement. Just four days after the previous incident, police were notified about a fight between the eventual shooter and the son of the people he lived with. In that confrontation, the FL shooter threatened to shoot the son. When they arrived, the mother reported that the FL shooter had bought a gun and “tons of ammo”. She also reported that the FL shooter had put a gun to someones head in the past. These reports, once again, reveals an abnormal fascination with guns.

Just a few days after the last report, still in November of 2017, the FL shooter was forced to move from where he lived, to another house (presumably because the other family worried about their, and their sons, safety). Again, a different person called authorities about the eventual shooter. The caller warned that the FL shooter was collecting guns and knives, and that he had made threats about killing himself, which is a serious warning sign. In that same phone call, the caller also suggested that they felt he could become a “school shooter”. If someone makes these comments about another, it becomes a red flag; especially when they felt he had the ability to become a school shooter.

In January of 2018, another caller talked with authorities. The said that they felt compelled to call because the FL shooter had been portraying erratic behavior, as well as disturbing social media posts, that he had purchased multiple guns, and that he had expressed a credible desire to kill people. Again, these are serious warning signs.

One of the few friends of the eventual shooter stated that FL shooter had a dark humor. While the friend had not seen the shooter in a few months, he stated that regular topics they would talk about included guns, ISIS, shooting up the school, and other similar disturbing discussions. The friend shared nothing with anyone, even though there were warning signs.

Conclusion

These multiple warning signs are just from one incident. Ironically, many of these signs are present in almost every other active/mass shooting incident, long before the shooter acts. As a warning, these signs should always be reported, and if they are not taken seriously, then make more phone calls. Don’t miss the signs, and don’t expect someone else to call!, … Mark

Florida School Shooting

I have refrained from publishing on the Florida school shooting until today. The reason; I didn’t want to be part of the problem by feeding the frenzy. Truth be told, I came close to predicting a mass shooting incident last week in this blog, but ultimately decided not to (after talking to my wife), because we thought it might seem as if I had inside information. Mark my words, another is coming in the next two to three weeks.

To be honest, I don’t know if I have become accustomed to the timeline of when a mass shooting will happen, or if the Holy Spirit prompts me that one will happen, or some combination of both. No matter what the reason, I had a feeling at least 18 hours in advance of the actual incident, and that disturbs me.

When I began listening to the news stories, I become angry: As Ephesians 4 tells us, as a Christian, I can be angry providing I did not sin in the process. I honestly don’t know if I sinned or not, but I pray I didn’t. My anger was directed at the shooter for committing this horrible mass killing, and it was directed at the FBI as well as local law enforcement for missing the glaring signs.

In all, the FBI has missed the signs or failed to act numerous times. We only need to look at the graphic below to see some of the mass killers that they have missed in recent years.

Not only did the FBI miss the warning signs, but so did local law enforcement. Reports from many different media sources state that local law enforcement was called to the shooters home at least 10 times, with some reporting as many as 20 times over the last few years. They had contact, why didn’t they see the warning signs?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to play Monday morning quarterback. What I am most angry about is that information is not shared, profiles of mass shooters are not disseminated, and many (including law enforcement) are not trained in what they should look for. There needs to be a basic awareness of what characteristics need to be identified, and more specifically scrutinized to determine the risk that an individual may pose. At least if they knew what they were looking for, they could request a 72-hour mental health evaluation, and potentially identify the threat they pose before an incident.

In the last few days, I have been swamped with work on mass shooters. One of the projects I have been working on is an online class to help law enforcement see the signs and to intervene before an incident ever happens. While looking for data, research, and videos for my students to watch, I came across a VERY interesting video. It was a TedX video presented by  Bernice Pescosolido in Bloomington Indiana. Please watch this video, it may help you prevent the next mass killer!

As I go back to Ephesians 4, I looked at what I was truly angry about. I was angry because many people knew what the warning signs were, and they either didn’t share them and/or they didn’t share that this shooter had those warning signs. I was angry because we are not educating people on what to look for. When they do know what to look for, and they report it, it can be mishandled by those that are supposed to protect us. There is a total breakdown in the system.

I am doing my part to prevent this from happening in the future, but I also encourage you to do the same. I encourage you to read the blog posted on November 18th. At the end of that blog, I posted a list of warning signs. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, share this information so we can save lives together. If we save these lives now, we may be able to save someones soul later. Until next time, … Mark

Verses that support security at the church

Day by day, we try to live the life that God wants us to live. Unfortunately, many Christians believe that this means we should be pacifists. They believe God will take care of us, which he will, but we must also do our part! We must protect God’s children! I believe it is biblical, and today, I want to help you to lay out a case for protecting your flock in your home church.

Many years ago, I had an older Pastor say to me “You know, Jesus told us if someone smacks you on the cheek, we should turn the other cheek, but he didn’t say what to do if they hit that other cheek.” While this is not may not be a biblical defense on judgement day (for defending yourself), there are versus that lead us to believe that self-defense is acceptable to our Lord.

If we look at Exodus 22:2-3, we see:

(2) If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; (3) but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.”.

So does this mean we can only defend ourselves at night? To the contrary, God wants us to protect ourselves and others all the time. If we look at Romans 13:4 we see:

(4)For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

I don’t want this taken out of context, so I should mention that this was not written about our ability to defend ourselves, but rather the government defending us. Essentially, I see this as to the modern day equivalent of law enforcement. However, this brings to mind the question the authorities that we have appointed in the church. Does God look on our security teams? I think that this is answered in Psalms 82:3-4:

(3) Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (4) Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

We are charged with protecting the fatherless, the weak, and those that are poor. We are to deliver them from the wicked. Wouldn’t this be a church security team in our churches? Similarly, if we look at Proverbs 24:11-12 it says:

(11) Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (12) If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

We are called to step in when others are being led away to death, and from my understanding of these verses, we will be judged for not doing so. I believe this says that security teams are not only acceptable, but required. If evil invades our sanctuary, and our congregants are being slaughtered, aren’t we called to stop them from being killed? If we look at Proverbs 22:3 , it says:

(3)The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Interesting! So God calls us to take refuge from danger. What if we are taking refuge in our houses of worship? I believe Nehemiah 4: 7-8 describes how we (as a church and a religion) should defend ourselves.

(7) But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. (8) They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

They posted guards? Hello! This is a security team! I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you also believe this, ask yourself why God would leave this passage and the entire story in scripture. If we read further into Nehemiah 4, we see how they prepared.

(16) From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah (17) who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, (18) and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

(19)Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. (20) Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

(21) So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. (22) At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” (23) Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Again, God shows that we sometimes have to protect our people, and they didn’t hire someone else to protect them, they protected themselves. While I could provide a substantial amount of information from the Bible that supports protecting our churches, I fear that this blog post would be entirely too long! We could look at Jude 1:23. or even Jeremiah 22:3,  but I will let you see the versus and the context for yourself.

To close out this week’s blog, if we were not supposed to protect the flock, why would have Jesus said in John 15:

(12) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (13) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (14) You are my friends if you do what I command.

Until next week, … Mark