Santa Fe and Domestic Violence Shooters

As I sat down to write this week’s blog, I reflected on the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas last week. I am asking all of my readers to remember to pray for everyone involved in that incident. From the students and teachers that were attacked, the family members of those attacked, the police, firefighters, and EMS personnel, and yes, the shooter too. We also need to pray that potential future events might stopped before they occur so that there is not another senseless loss of life. Details are still coming in, and the underlying factors to this horrible event are still emerging. No matter what the underlying factors are, I believe that we all can agree that this was a horrible and irrational shooting incident.

Part of preventing an incident is knowing the signs before an incident occurs. By knowing the underlying motivations and the warning signs, we are better prepared to stop it before it occurs. My research has identified five different types of mass shooters. They are:

  • Terrorist shooter
  • PTSD Shooter
  • Domestic spillover shooter
  • Mental health shooter
  • Fame and recognition shooter

While I could go in the order they are posted, I feel it would be better to start with the most prevalent. That means I will start with the Domestic Spillover Shooter. Anyone that has ever had their heart broken by a domestic partner will know that domestic issues can be devastating. Relationship problems can cause grief, anger, disappointment, shock, denial, fear, and many other feelings. To list all of the feelings that an individual could go through would be nearly impossible, but these emotions are real to the person who is suffering from a break-up. Sometimes these emotions overcome individuals to the point that they do irrational things. Whether a lapse in judgement, an uncontrolled temper, or a mental health issue, the actions that some take are frightening, and can even deadly. Watching and knowing key signs may assist the church in pre-identifying those that may act out.

It is important to note that according to statistics by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (n.d.), 24% of women and 14% of men (over the age 18) in the United States will suffer severe physical violence in their lifetime. Domestic violence affects over 12 million people per year. More frightening is that 48% of all women and men have suffered psychological abuse from their domestic partner. Additionally, 16% of women and 5% of men will be the victim of stalking in their lifetime (National Domestic Violence Hotline, n.d.).

One method of identifying whether past or current domestic abuse occurred, is to look for specific warning signs in the person who you suspect is being abused. Those signs can include physical signs of injury (such as bruising and welts), low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. You may also notice that they tend to stay isolated from family, friends, and their church family. If their abuser is present, they will tend to stay close by, so not to anger them. They may not take pride in themselves or their children, including their (or their children) physical appearance being unkempt. You may even suspect drug or alcohol abuse.

If you are looking for signs in the potential abuser, those signs can be controlling or unpredictable behavior, extreme jealousy, unrealistic expectations, or they may be verbally abusive to the victim or their children. This abuser will usually isolate their victims from others and/or make sure they are present any time the victims is near someone else. They may suffer sudden mood swings, and they may be cruel to children and/or animals. Many times, they will threaten violence to solve any problems they have, or they may blame others for their problems. In some instances, you may feel that they are a ticking time bomb, ready to go off.

When there is a break-up, or sometimes even a proposed break-up, the domestic aggressor may act out. Their targets might be those they believe led to the break-up, the victim, or the victims’ children, family, and/or friends may be their target. They may act out of anger, impulse, revenge, or from a mental breakdown. Sometimes, these individuals have the mentality “If I can’t have them, then nobody will have them”. Other times, they blame others for splitting the couple up or their domestic problems. If they mentally work themselves up, they might act out and become a mass shooter.

The common weapons used by these individuals are guns and knives. In most instances, they want to see the damage being done. This is why they will usually inflict the damage themselves. While the aggressor can be male or female, men are typically the perpetrator of mass shootings, while women typically harm or kill the individual they have an issue with. This is not to say that a woman could not, or would not, perpetrate a mass shooting, but statistically speaking they are less likely than men to commit a mass shooting.

If you see the signs of domestic abuse, or you have been told by an individual that they are being abused, you should immediately involve law enforcement. A mass shooting could occur even if they are not splitting up! The aggressor may be upset because the abused person is attending church, or even talking to someone about the couple’s problems. If you are aware of or suspect abuse and there is a split-up, then the church should be hypervigilant in watching for the abuser. It does not even matter if the abused is in hiding, the abuser may associate, even if untrue, that the church or someone in the church is responsible for the break-up.

Next week, I will discuss the Mental Health Shooter, and things to watch for with them. Until next week, be vigilant and maintain a strong situational awareness, … Mark

 

References

National Domestic Violence Hotline (n.d.). Get the facts & figures. Retrieved on May 23, 2018 from: http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/

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

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

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

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.

————————————————————–
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
——————————————————————