FBI Study Identifies Warning Signs Of Future Mass Shooters

A recently released FBI study identified pre-attack behaviors of future mass shooters for earlier intervention.

Washington, DC – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released a study on pre-attack behaviors of active shooters in an attempt to help “make these warning signs more visible and easily identifiable” to those who have contact with potential, future mass killers.

“The FBI’s objective here was to examine specific behaviors that may precede an attack and which might be useful in identifying, assessing, and managing those who may be on a pathway to deadly shooting,” the report read.

The analysis was the second phase of the agency’s original 2014 study, which examined 160 active-shooter incidents that had occurred between 2000 and 2013.

The initial study focused on what occurred during the mass shooting events.

On Wednesday, the FBI released the second phase of the study, which analyzed what occurred prior to 63 of the shooters’ rampages.

The study noted that most of the 63 cases involved a killer of Caucasian or Asian ethnicity, nearly all of whom were male. Most attacked schools or churches, and many situations ended with the shooter’s suicide.

Although the shooters varied in age from 12 to 88, the average was nearly 38 years old.

“What emerges is a complex and troubling picture of individuals who fail to successfully navigate multiple stressors in their lives while concurrently displaying four to five observable, concerning behaviors, engaging in planning and preparation, and frequently communicating threats or leaking indications of an intent to attack,” the study read.

“In the weeks and months before an attack, many active shooters engage in behaviors that may signal impending violence,” the report continued. “While some of these behaviors are intentionally concealed, others are observable and — if recognized and reported — may lead to a disruption prior to an attack.”

According to the findings, most mass shooters – 77 percent – spent at least a week preparing and planning their attacks. Some spent up to two years.

In the instances where the attacks were carried out by juveniles, each one of the shooters were students.

Seventy-six percent of active shooters who were adults had no history of military experience. Just over a third of the adult shooters had prior criminal convictions.

The vast majority obtained their weapons through legal means.

The FBI worked on identifying stressors, including “financial pressures, physical health concerns, interpersonal conflicts with family, friends, and colleagues [work or school], mental health issues, criminal and civil law issues, and substance abuse” that appeared to have a higher-than-average negative impact on the active shooter within the year prior to the mass attack.

They found that the assailants had generally experienced between three and four of the identified stressors in the year before the shooting. Most commonly, one of those stressors was related to mental health.

Only 25 percent of the active shooters in the study had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, but the FBI pointed out that a lack of diagnosis did not mean that the shooter was not struggling with a mental health-related stressor preceding the attack.

“In short, declarations that all active shooters must simply be mentally ill are misleading and unhelpful,” the study read.

Most had specifically targeted at least one of their victims, and over half of those with targets had also previously threatened them - usually in person.

They tended to carry out the attacks in areas they knew well, the study found. If the location was unfamiliar, however, most shooters conducted surveillance of the area prior to the incident.

In cases where others observed the potential shooter displaying concerning behaviors, only 41 percent shared their observations with law enforcement.

Such behaviors included “potential symptoms of a mental health disorder, interpersonal interactions, quality of the shooter’s thinking or communication, recklessness, violent media usage, changes in hygiene or weight, impulsivity, firearm behavior, and physical aggression,” the reported noted.

The shooters tended to display four or five of the concerning behaviors prior to the commission of the attacks.

Contrary to common perception, the active shooters in the FBI study were not cut off from society. All of them either had “significant” interactions with someone either in-person or online, or they lived with at least one other person.

“Just because concerning behavior was recognized does not necessarily mean that it was reported,” the study noted. “In retrospect, certain facts may take on a heightened degree of significance that may not have been clear at the time.”

Over half of the mass shooters made some reference to another person that they intended to harm someone, and many appeared to have a pervasive, distorted belief that they needed to “make right” an instance where they were “wronged or treated unfairly,” the report read.

“The grievance itself may not have been reasonable or even grounded in reality, but it appeared to serve as the rationale for the eventual attack, giving a sense of purpose to the shooter,” according to the study.

A “triggering event” related to the grievance – such as a job loss, romantic rejection, or an adverse legal ruling – often occurred “close in time” to the actual attack, the report read.

The FBI report noted that the study findings were not intended to be a “’checklist’ in determining if a person will become violent or not,” but rather to create “awareness” and opportunities for intervention.

“A shared awareness of the common observable behaviors demonstrated by the active shooters in this study may help to prompt inquiries and focus assessments at every level of contact and every stage of intervention,” the study noted.

"The active-shooter threat is here to stay," FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich told the Associated Press. "I wish it wasn't. I wish it was a passing phase."

"We can't allow ourselves to become numb to it," FBI Intelligence Executive Assistant Joshua Skule added. "We just cannot think that this is an acceptable way to live our lives, and so however this topic stays at the forefront so that folks continue to talk about it ... is critical to mitigating the threat."

Comments (21)
No. 1-21
Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

I know they're still trying to pin down correlation, but i'm gathering that the average mass shooter is a white man who is triggered by job loss, romantic rejection, or an adverse legal ruling.

First off, duh.

Second off, those triggering events are relatively normal stressors in the course of many, many peoples' lives in America. Are they having trouble coping with regular stressors so much that they have to hurt others?

Also, those same stressors happen to impoverished communities regularly, but the violence is booked down to the inner city being filled with "animals."

Looks like if mental illness can be linked to white/asian mass shooters, it should most definitely relate to people who grew up in the inner city who saw their first dead body at the age of 5 and have been surrounded by violence.

HCD_is_my_bitch
HCD_is_my_bitch

Only 25 percent of the active shooters in the study had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, but the FBI pointed out that a lack of diagnosis did not mean that the shooter was not struggling with a mental health-related stressor preceding the attack.

25% is significant. And that's only the ones diagnosed. And don't discount drug usage. Many a successful rich actor has committed suicide, and most of them were using drugs. Either to cope with their issues, or the drugs made their issues worse.

Far more inner city deaths by shootings than mass shootings anyway.

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@HCD_is_my_bitch Many of the people in the inner city suffer from mental illness, troll.

Budman
Budman
(deleted message)

Any law enforcement experience?

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@Budman No, but i can read the report just fine and follow their conclusions. Why do you ask?

Budman
Budman

Just wondering thanks for backing the Blue!!

HCD_is_my_bitch
HCD_is_my_bitch

@Budman You must not know him very well do you... Read my name.

@HCD You're my bitch, now get back in that kitchen and fix me a sammich.

LEO0301
LEO0301

@Budman - he does not back the police...ever. He's a troll who has been commenting on this site for awhile now.

Budman
Budman

@LEO0301 Thanks and I thought he was as troll doesn't understand what we through!!! Probation Officer for 8 1/4 year!!

61mouse
61mouse

DEAR FBI ....Why don't you do a study into your agency to learn what the difference is between a lie and the truth

LaneysSis
LaneysSis

All these "symptoms" especially in school-aged kids, are or should be easily recognizable by the parents. The FBI left out the parents role in these mass shootings by not doing their jobs, allowing access to firearms in the home, following up with teachers , noticing this odd behavior at home, etc. How many of these shootings could have been stopped if parents did their job? I think I would notice if my kids started wearing black overcoats to school, withdrawing from the family, having posters of weapons on their walls...all these signs that were clearly in front of them.

Pilot350
Pilot350

None of the shooters were prior military. Israel makes all their kids serve at least a year in the military. Learning how to deal with stress, rejection and success. I haven't heard of one mass shooting in a school over there?

angeljako
angeljako

It'll be very interseting to see what percentage of the mass shooters are psychopaths, most likely a very high percentage. It's suprising to see it's not on the list. I have studied psychopathy for a long time and have a deep understanding of it. Everybody will benefit a lot if they have a good undertsnding of who psychopaths are, what is the signs and how to deal with them, not just to prevent funture crimes or reveal the criminals, but also one can potentially avoid massive losses in one's personal life if a psychopath is identified and dealth with (not by confrontaion).

First off, there's no cure nor any prevention for psychopathy, call it bad genes or freaks of nature, psychopaths are wired the way they are. Psychopaths don't have normal human range of emotions, they don't feel love, sympathy, remorse or guilt. However they are masters of manipulating the very same emotions in everybody around them. They often pretend to be victims, unloved or uncared for, while in fact they are the victimizers, hateful towards whoever doesn't agree with them, and never cared for anybody but themselves.

Psychopaths have a sexual appetitie and are never satisfied with one partner. They often have a high IQ which they never use in a positive way, instead they are fixated on detroying other's lives in the most manipulative and skillful ways, specially the ones who don't agree with them. They are very sore losers, and will not rest until they seek revenge in one form or another.

It'll not easy for an average person to spot a psychopath, but not so hard for a well trained and well experienced specialist, specially in schools.The benefits of doing so can go well beyond preventing a possible mass shooting, but also all sorts of other crimes. Not all psychopaths commit official crimes, but they are all pests, they'll break up families, relationships, stonewll other people's path to success, get people hooked on cults, made up ideologies and religions as well as alcohol and drugs, and all sorts of things like that. Their satisfaction is not with a peaceful and happy society and/or family living in harmony and moving towards better future, but just the opposite, and above all they want to be in control, either directly or in their manipulative ways, and when they fail in doing so, they'd have no hesitation before or any remorse after killing others.

Old Hawg
Old Hawg

Pilot350 - The Sutherland Springs church shooter was an Air Force veteran. It was their failure to report his military conviction for domestic abuse which allowed him to legally purchase his firearms.

It can be reasonably argued that anyone who would gun down innocent and helpless people that they don't even know demonstrates mental illness. Not the sort of insanity which allows an insanity defense, however, because these people can and do rationally plan these atrocities beforehand. These people aren't insane. What they are is purely evil.

junkmansj
junkmansj

Piolet 350 Israel had I believe two school shootings, which is why most teachers are well armed, and most all have had active military training

junkmansj
junkmansj

I guess the FBI IN FLA HAVE NOT READ THIS REPORT

TXLPC
TXLPC

Sociopaths are often called psychopaths and vice versa but there are differences between a psychopath and a sociopath. Psychopaths, for example, are far more likely to get in trouble with the law while sociopaths are much more likely to blend in with society. And while sociopaths and psychopaths do share some traits, sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder) is generally considered less severe than psychopathy.

WHAT IS A SOCIOPATH?

A sociopath is actually a person with antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the book which contains the diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses) as a cluster B personality disorder (those that are dramatic or emotional).

While sociopathy can only be diagnosed at the age of 18 or above, the following must be present before the age of 15 for the diagnosis:

Repeated violations of the law Pervasive lying and deception Physical aggressiveness Reckless disregard for safety of self or others Consistent irresponsibility in work and family environments Lack of remorse PSYCHOPATH VS. SOCIOPATH

Psychopathy can be thought of as a more severe form of sociopathy with more symptoms. Therefore, all psychopaths are sociopaths but sociopaths are not necessarily psychopaths.

According to the Society for the Study of Psychopathy, psychopath traits include:

Lack of guilt/remorse Lack of empathy Lack of deep emotional attachments Narcissism Superficial charm Dishonesty Manipulativeness Reckless risk-taking Moreover, approximately 93% of psychopaths are in the criminal justice system.

Additional psychopath traits have been identified and more on these can be found in the article, Does a Psychopath Test Exist? Diagnosing the Psychopath.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PSYCHOPATH AND SOCIOPATH

While the traits of each may seem similar, it is thought that sociopaths have a less severe form of lack of empathy and lack of guilt. It is thought that sociopaths may be able to form some deep bonds (such as, possibly, with family) while a psychopath cannot (Can Psychopaths Love, Cry and Experience Joy?). Moreover, while a sociopath would feel no guilt about hurting a stranger, they may feel guilt and remorse over hurting someone with which they share a bond. Additionally, it appears that some of the very antisocial behavior in sociopaths lessens over time while this cannot be said of psychopaths (How To Recognize and Identify Psychopathic Behavior). Psychopaths appear to have no concern whatsoever of the consequences, while a sociopath may learn to avoid consequences over time by reducing antisocial behavior.

Finally, the presentation of one with psychopathy or sociopathy differs. According to Kelly McAleer, Psy.D,

"The psychopath is callous, yet charming. He or she will con and manipulate others with charisma and intimidation and can effectively mimic feelings to present as "normal" to society. The psychopath is organized in their criminal thinking and behavior, and can maintain good emotional and physical control, displaying little to no emotional or autonomic arousal, even under situations that most would find threatening or horrifying. The psychopath is keenly aware that what he or she is doing is wrong, but does not care.

"Conversely, the sociopath is less organized in his or her demeanor; he or she might be nervous, easily agitated, and quick to display anger. A sociopath is more likely to spontaneously act out in inappropriate ways without thinking through the consequences. Compared to the psychopath, the sociopath will not be able to move through society committing callous crimes as easily, as they can form attachments and often have 'normal temperaments.' . . ." Both psychopaths and sociopaths are capable of committing horrific crimes, but a sociopath is less likely to commit them against those with whom there is a bond.

TXLPC
TXLPC

Psychopaths are not diagnosed by the DSM-5. Understanding true mental illness and how to expand services is one way to help these situations. Another is to provide ways for everyone to feel involved or connected. Israel and Sweden have everyone join their military. Colin Powell wanted to get everyone volunteering. These ideas are so everyone can come together and be part of something greater than themselves.

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@Budman you realize this article isn't about what you go through, right? It's a profile of a mass shooter. Add to the conversation or go talk about your feelings elsewhere.

Hi_estComnDenomnn
Hi_estComnDenomnn

Done.