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Bob Parker

Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.

Jose Medina

Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.

Profiling an Active Shooter

Look for these six traits when investigating an active-shooter case.

August 17, 2012  |  by Ronnie Garrett

Photo: Mark W. Clark
Photo: Mark W. Clark

Former Massachusetts State Police officer Todd McGhee says most active shooters have a thing or two in common. Among their similarities:

  • A lone wolf personality. They are socially isolated, generally having few if any friends.
  • Situational events in their lives have led them to become despondent and often depressed.
  • They have feelings of alienation, bullying, and persecution, and tend to blame others for their problems. "There are individuals who are angry enough to kill their family members or coworkers or classmates but there are also a few people among us who blame everybody, all of humanity, for their problems and want to get even with people in general," explains Jack Levin, author of "Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder."
  • They've had very little interaction with police or mental health providers. "They are nontraditional criminals," states McGhee. "They fear detection unless there is a suicide component to their plan."
  • As their world starts to unravel, they formulate a plan to target their persecutors. "There is generally a loss that precipitated the attack and they have no place to turn for help when they get into trouble," McGhee says.
  • They pick high volume places to carry out their plan. "They identify a place that has a high volume of people with little police presence," McGhee says.


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Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Robert Mueck @ 8/27/2012 6:45 PM

Good article, but be careful not to use it as a guide. If human behavior were predictable, we'd have no crime. The human animal is very complicated and some people do not fit neatly into these cookie-cutter descriptors. For instance, the Columbine shooters were outgoing and well-liked in general. I don't think they'd fit neatly into this, though they certainly picked a high occupancy facility (HOF) for thier action. On the other side of the coin, I've investigated plenty of people that seemed to fit into this but have not become violent. In the end, it's a very difficult subject with no easy solutions.

LeadFarmer @ 8/27/2012 8:05 PM

I would add to the last point that they pick places that would give them the least resistance in carrying out their plan unless the place has some significance to them or the precipitating problem.

Rick @ 8/28/2012 10:34 AM

Of course they pick a place with little police presence; they usually pick a location that doesn't have armed citizens either. That's the reason that National Reciprocity of Concealed Carry Permits should have been passed long ago by Congress; CCW permits in one state should be legal in every other state like driver's licenses.

Dave @ 10/23/2012 5:55 AM

I agree with Rick. I too strongly affirm that CCW should have been nationally recognized years ago. There's a whole other level of safety and respect that comes when knowing responsible citizens are armed.

Patricia @ 8/11/2013 11:42 AM

Be cautious about confusing "no close friends / loner" with someone who is surrounded by extended out of necessity. A Borderline/Narcissist/Sadistic/Oppositional Disordered personality may well be surrounded with grown children and their families for economic reasons and thus be missed because they appear to run in a flock. Sometimes these relationships are enmeshed, there is no downtime to recharge, work is filled with even more enmeshed relationships and when both go bad, especially when alcohol/drugs are involved, things can get crazy. Don't rule out females. Don't rule out use of vehicles as weapons.

Bob Watson @ 10/8/2014 6:46 AM

Do they feel a sense of guilt ?
If so, how do they resolve their guilt or justify their actions?

Julie @ 11/28/2014 7:44 AM

I was looking for more demographics. It seems (and I could be wrong ... that's why I'm looking for material) that active shooters are usually Caucasian males. Do they usually come from a certain economic group? Are they usually of a certain intelligence level? Education level? Do they identify with a certain group of people (for example, military or democrats [I'm just using these groups as examples]). Also, I am sure that there are many people who are "loners" who have no violence tendencies, let alone random mass murder. Thank you!

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