FBI Study on Active Shooter incidents in the United States

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I) published “Phase II” from their original report titled A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013. Which focused on the circumstances for the active shooting events (e.g., location, duration, and resolution) but did not identify the motive driving the offender or highlight observable pre-attack behaviors demonstrated by the offender.

The focus of Phase II study will be assessing the pre-attach behaviors of the shooters themselves. The goal for the FBI during the phase II study was to examine specific behaviors that may precede an attack and which might use in identifying, assessing, and managing those who may be on a path to commit deadly violence. Below are the key findings of the Phase II Study.

1. The 63 active shooters examined in this study did not appear to be uniform in any way such that they could be readily identified prior to attacking based on demographics alone.

2.Active shooters take time to plan and prepare for the attack, with 77% of the subjects spending a week or longer planning their attack and 46% spending a week or longer actually preparing (procuring the means) for the attack.

3. A majority of active shooters obtained their firearms legally, with only very small percentages obtaining a firearm illegally.

4. The FBI could only verify that 25% of active shooters in the study had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness. Of those diagnosed, only three had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.

5. Active shooters were typically experiencing multiple stressors (an average of 3.6 separate stressors) in the year before they attacked.

6. On average, each active shooter displayed 4 to 5 concerning behaviors over time that were observable to others around the shooter. The most frequently occurring concerning behaviors were related to the active shooter’s mental health, problematic interpersonal interactions, and leakage of violent intent.

7. For active shooters under age 18, school peers and teachers were more likely to observe concerning behaviors than family members. For active shooters 18 years old and over, spouses/domestic partners were the most likely to observe concerning behaviors.

8. When concerning behavior was observed by others, the most common response was to communicate directly to the active shooter (83%) or do nothing (54%). In 41% of the cases concerning behavior was reported to law enforcement. Therefore, just because concerning behavior was recognized does not necessarily mean that it was reported to law enforcement.

 9. In those cases where the active shooter’s primary grievance could be identified, the most common grievances were related to an adverse interpersonal or employment action against the shooter (49%).

 10. In the majority of cases (64%) at least one of the victims was specifically targeted by the active shooter.