National Security Expert Connects Dots Between Latest FBI Active Shooter Study, School Buses

National security expert Michael Dorn discussed the challenges of school bus security during the STN EXPO Reno on Monday, July 29, 2019. (Photo by Taylor Hannon.)
National security expert Michael Dorn discussed the challenges of school bus security during the STN EXPO Reno on Monday, July 29, 2019. (Photo by Taylor Hannon.)

The FBI designated 27 shootings in 2018 as active shooter incidents, according to its latest report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2018. A leading school security expert said student transporters should take note.

The FBI’s latest report on active shooter cases.
The FBI’s latest report on active shooter cases.

National security expert Michael Dorn is the executive director of Safe Havens International, the world’s largest K12 school safety center. He provided analysis to School Transportation News on Thursday on the importance of the FBI’s Active Shooter study and what lessons it includes for school bus officials nationwide.

“In my opinion, this is their best work in the area yet and is an invaluable resource for preventing these types of attacks,” Dorn said, adding that the attacks can include those that might occur on school buses. Key findings of that June 2018 are at the conclusion of this article.

Dorn, who spoke at the STN EXPO Reno in July, also highly recommended the FBI’s previous study.

“The FBI has conducted some superb research in the area of active-shooter prevention. The FBI research on pre-attack behaviors of active shooters is of special importance, he observed. “In my opinion, it is must-read material for those who are interested in preventing planned attacks on school buses.

“As we have had 11 planned fatal shootings by employees at public and faith-based schools in the U.S. to date, we also advise school officials that unfortunately, school organizations are not immune to the potential for these types of violence. As with manufacturing, corporate, government, hospital, military and higher education organizations, K12 school systems and nonpublic schools must consider this risk.

“Fortunately, the FBI research can help address this risk for students, parents, employees, and others who have a connection to schools or school buses. While we are painfully aware of the tragedies that have taken place in our nation’s schools, most Americans are not aware that many planned attacks on U.S. K12 schools and school buses have been successfully averted through behavioral prevention approaches.

“We caution school transportation personnel to consider other predominant attack methods that have been used to target buses. A careful review of school bus attacks in the U.S. and globally demonstrates that focusing primarily on active shooter events can be a dangerous and ineffective approach. This is another reason that behavioral detection approaches are so important, as they can help detect potentially dangerous individuals regardless of the type of weapon, timing or site of a planned attack.”

Excerpts from the 12-page FBI study that specifically involve schools are included in condensed form, below.

STUDY INTRODUCTION:
Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2018

As with past FBI active shooter-related publications, this report does not encompass all gun-related situations. Rather, it focuses on a specific type of shooting situation. The FBI defines an active shooter as one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.

Implicit in this definition is the shooter’s use of one or more firearms. The active aspect of the definition inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based on their responses to the situation.

This report supplements three previous publications: A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015, and Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017.


Related: A Study of Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000 and 2013


The methodology articulated in the 2000-2013 study was applied to the 2018 incidents to ensure consistency. Excluded from this report are gang- and drug-related shootings and gun-related incidents that appeared not to have put other people in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a bar).

The findings in this report are based on publicly available resources, FBI reporting, and when available, official law enforcement investigative data. Though limited in scope, this report was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to federal, state, tribal, and campus law enforcement as well as other first responders, corporations, educators, and the general public as they seek to neutralize threats posed by active shooters and save lives during such incidents.



 



Locations

  • Five of the 27 incidents occurred in education environments, resulting in 29 killed and 52 wounded.
  • Four incidents occurred in high schools, resulting in 29 (24 students, three teachers and two coaches) killed and 50 (47 students, two teachers and one school resource officer) wounded.
  • Two shooters were current students; two were former students. One student deployed improvised explosive devices and Molotov cocktails [but] they did not detonate or combust.
  • One student shot and wounded a school resource officer as he was about to engage the shooter. One student was wounded during an exchange of gunfire with a school resource officer.
  • Three shooters were apprehended by law enforcement at the scene. One shooter was apprehended by law enforcement approximately 75 minutes after fleeing the scene.
  • One incident occurred in a middle school, resulting in no one killed and two (a student and a teacher) wounded. The shooter, a current student, was restrained by the wounded teacher. The shooter was apprehended by law enforcement at the scene.

The Shooters

  • Twenty-three shooters were male; three shooters were female; the gender of one shooter is unknown; 26 shooters acted alone; one shooter may have acted alone.
  • The shooters ranged in age from 13 years to 64 years.
  • Five shooters were in their teens, seven were in their 20s, seven were in their 30s, three were in their 40s, two were in their 50s and two were in their 60s. The age of one shooter is unknown.
  • Eleven shooters were apprehended by law enforcement, six at the scene, and five at another location.
  • Two of the 11 shooters initially fled the scene after being confronted by citizens, and one was restrained by a citizen.
  • Five shooters died at the scene, four at the hands of law enforcement and one shooter was killed by a citizen who possessed a valid firearms permit.
  • Ten shooters committed suicide: Four at the scene before law enforcement arrived, three at the scene after law enforcement arrived and three at another location.
  • One of the shooters committed suicide after being confronted by citizens.
  • One shooter remained at-large, as of this report.

Citizen Engagement and Casualties

  • In five incidents, citizens confronted the shooter.
  • In three incidents, unarmed citizens confronted the shooter, thereby ending the shooting.
  • In one incident, a citizen wrestled the gun away from the shooter. The shooter fled the scene and was apprehended approximately 34 hours later at another location.
  • In one incident, citizens confronted the shooter (including one who was pistol-whipped by the shooter), allowing others to flee the scene. The shooter committed suicide at the scene before law enforcement arrived.
  • In one incident, a teacher wrestled the shooter to the ground and restrained him until law enforcement arrived and apprehended him.
  • In two incidents, armed citizens possessing valid firearms permits exchanged gunfire with the shooter.
  • In one incident, two citizens retrieved their guns from their respective vehicles, then shot and killed the shooter.
  • In one incident, a citizen armed with a gun confronted the shooter, but no gunfire was exchanged. A second citizen exchanged gunfire with the shooter, but neither was struck. The shooter fled the scene and was apprehended by law enforcement a short time later at another location.

Conclusion

The FBI designated 27 shootings in 2018 as active shooter incidents.

  • Eighty-five people were killed and 128 people were wounded, excluding the shooters.
  • Two law enforcement officers were killed (1 from friendly fire) and six were wounded (one from an injury incidental to the shooting.)
  • Twenty-three incidents were conducted by male shooters; three incidents were conducted by female shooters; one incident was conducted by an unidentified shooter.
  • Twenty-six shooters, possibly 27, acted alone.

The shooters’ ages continued to span the decades. The youngest was 13; the oldest was 64.

  • Nearly 20 percent of the incidents occurred in educational environments (middle and high schools).
  • Three of the shooters were current students at the school and two were former students.
  • One shooter shot and wounded a school resource officer. Another shooter was shot and wounded by a school resource officer.

One shooter—a student—deployed improvised explosive devices and Molotov cocktails, but they did not detonate or combust.

  • Two shooters were armed with smoke grenades.
  • One shooter deployed them; the other shooter did not.

As in past years, citizens were faced with split-second, life-and-death decisions. In 2018, citizens risked their lives to safely and successfully end the shootings in five of the 27 active shooter incidents. They saved many lives.

Given this reality, the FBI said it is vital that citizens be afforded training, so they understand the risks they face and the options they have available when active shooter incidents are unfolding.

Likewise, the FBI concluded that law enforcement must remain vigilant regarding prevention efforts and aggressively train to better respond to—and help communities recover from—active shooter incidents. The FBI added that it remains committed to assisting state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement in its active shooter prevention, response and recovery efforts.

Key Findings of the FBI’s June 2018 Report: A Study of Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000 and 2013

1. The 63 active shooters studied were not uniform in any way—so they could be easily identified before attacking—based on demographics alone.

2. Active shooters take time to plan and prepare for the attack—77 percent spent one week or longer planning their attack, and 46 percent spent a week or longer actually procuring the means for the attack.

3. Most active shooters acquired their firearms legally. Only a very small percent obtained a gun illegally.

4. The FBI could only verify that only 25 percent of these shooters had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness. And of those, only three shooters had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.

5. These 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 four to five concerning behaviors over time that were observable to others surrounding each shooter. The most often occurring concerning-behaviors regarded the shooter’s mental health, problematic interpersonal interactions, and leakage of violent intent.

7. For juvenile shooters (under age 18), nonfamily members picked up on warning signs more often. Thus, school peers and teachers were more likely to observe concerning behaviors than the shooter’s family. For shooters above 18, spouses/domestic partners were the most likely to see concerning behaviors.

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

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

10. In 64 percent of the cases, at least one victim was specifically targeted by the active shooter.