In response to the acts of targeted violence occurring in this Nation, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) has published two reports on their research in to these incidents; Mass Attacks in Public Spaces 2017 and the same in 2018. The study was conducted for the specific purpose of identifying key information that will enhance efforts to prevent these types of attacks.

The director had this to say in the latter report: “These acts have impacted the safety and security of the places where we work, learn, dine, and conduct our daily activities. Each new tragedy, including the attack on a bank in Sebring, FL; a synagogue in Poway, CA; a university in Charlotte, NC; and the municipal center in Virginia Beach, VA; serves as a reminder that we must continue to research and provide robust training and awareness to help prevent these tragic outcomes.

NTAC’s research and publications directly support our agency’s protective mission, as well as the missions of those responsible for keeping our communities safe. Through this report, NTAC aims to assist law enforcement, schools, public agencies, private organizations, and others in understanding the motives, behavioral indicators, and situational factors of those who carry out mass attacks.”

Regardless of where these events took place, they shared some common themes:

  • Most of the attackers utilized firearms, and half departed the site on their own or committed suicide.

With over half of these attackers committing suicide or leaving on their own, it highlights the importance of a proactive plan in place that includes responding by fighting back when that is the only option left. The longer it goes on, the higher the casualties.

  • Half were motivated by a grievance related to a domestic situation, workplace, or other personal issue.
  • Two-thirds had histories of mental health symptoms, including depressive, suicidal, and psychotic symptoms.
  • Nearly all had at least one significant stressor within the last five years, and over half had indications of financial instability in that timeframe.
  • Nearly all made threatening or concerning communications and more than three-quarters elicited concern from others prior to carrying out their attacks

How long did these events last?

56.5% ended in 5 minutes or less
21.5% ended in 5-14 minutes
22% ended in 15 minutes or greater

In nearly two thirds of the attacks, attackers displayed or experienced mental health symptoms prior to the attack. Most commonly, “symptoms observed were related to psychosis (e.g., paranoia, hallucinations, or delusions) and suicidal thoughts.”

Many more data points were discussed in the reports, including: gender and age, substance abuse, motive, stressors, fixations, and beliefs. The reports are worth reading and sharing with others to help recognize when indicators may stack up prior to an event that provide enough concern to notify authorities.

2017 Report -->

2018 Report -->

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