Report: Most perpetrators of mass shootings, other attacks made threats before incident

Police officers advise people to take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas. Oct. 1, 2017 | Associated Press file photo by John Locher, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) — A new report issued by the U.S. Secret Service indicates perpetrators of mass shootings and other attacks almost always make threats before carrying out violence.

One-third of the attackers who terrorized schools, houses of worship or businesses nationwide last year had a history of serious domestic violence, two-thirds had mental health issues and nearly all had made threatening or concerning communications that worried others before they struck, according to the report.

The Secret Service studied 27 incidents where a total of 91 people were killed and 107 more injured in public spaces in 2018. Among them: the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were 17 people were killed and 17 others injured, and the fatal attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The report analyzed the timing, weapons, locations and stressors of the attacker, plus events that led up to the incident, in an effort to better understand how such attacks unfold and how to prevent them. Members of the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, which did the study, briefed police, public safety and school officials at a seminar Tuesday.

“We want the community to know prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” said Lina Alathari, the center’s chief. “Not just law enforcement.”

In this Nov. 20, 2018 file photo, a Star of David fashioned from popsicle sticks hangs from bushes outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the scene of a mass shooting. | Associated Press photo by Gene J. Puskar, St. George News

Other incidents examined included a man who drove a truck into a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Jersey, injuring three, and a man who killed two at a law firm, and then one at a psychologist’s office in June. Criteria for the study included an incident where three or more people were injured in a public place.

Most attackers were male, ranging in age from 15 to 64. The domestic violence history often included serious violence. While 67% had mental health issues, only 44% had a diagnosis or known treatment for the issue.

Most of the attacks occurred midweek. Only one was on a Saturday. As for motive, more than half of the attackers had a grievance against a spouse or family member, or a personal or workplace dispute. Also, 22% had no known motive. In nearly half the cases, the attacker apparently selected the target in advance.

Alathari and her colleagues want communities to be aware of concerning behavior and these trends so officials have something to look out for.

In this Feb. 17, 2018, file photo, an early morning fog rises where 17 memorial crosses were placed, for the 17 deceased students and faculty from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. | Associated Press photo by Gerald Herbert, St. George News

The Secret Service center is tasked with researching, training and sharing information on the prevention of targeted violence, using the agency’s knowledge gleaned from years of watching possible targets that may or may not be out to assassinate the president.

Alathari said her team is working on a new report on school shootings and how to prevent them and investigating averted attacks to try to figure out why someone didn’t follow through.

“There is not a single solution,” Alathari said. “The more that we’re out there, training, the more we’re out there with the community … the more we share information … I think it will help really alleviate and hopefully prevent even one incident from happening. One is too many.”

Written by COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!