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a year later After a suicidal 18-year-old opened fire with an AR-15 rifle inside Robb Elementary School, much of the public discussion has focused on how a swarm of law enforcement failed for more than an hour to end the attack. By the time police finally went to the classroom and killed the gunman, 19 children and two teachers had been killed and many others had been wounded and wounded.
This ghastly dereliction of duty calls for investigation and accountability at multiple levels. The agonizingly slow response violated a fundamental principle that was widely adopted after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, which states that police on the scene should move quickly to confront an active shooter – a situation in which every second is lost. The lack of such action in Uvalde is undoubtedly worsened the death toll, Subsequently, Texas law enforcement officials spread misinformation and unheard The media and public about what had happened. Last summer, when the first major state investigation into the tragedy went public, Texas lawmakers tried to bury the discovery that several police officers refused to confront the shooter because they feared the firepower of his AR-15. was – which he had legally purchased immediately upon turning 18, shortly before he committed the assault.
Lessons will continue to be learned from the shameful reaction that day to emerge, However, another important side of the Uvalde tragedy is still very much unclear: there is a clear possibility that an array of warning signs from the perpetrator would have led the authorities to stop the massacre.
As I wrote earlier, the evidence from the publicly known case makes clear that Salvador Ramos, himself once a student at Robb Elementary, needed help before delving deeper into a crisis and planning a mass shooting. was needed. The long path a troubled individual often takes to attack – and the potential opportunities for trained experts to intervene – can be clearly understood through behavioral threat assessment research and case work. In trigger pointsIn my book How to Prevent Mass Shootings, I explore eight broad areas of warning signs that threat assessment teams rely on to evaluate and manage individuals who are experiencing anger, frustration, and are caught in other problems, and whose suicidal intentions can also turn into murder. Process has been used to remarkable effect With creative interventions by teams all over the country, as I chronicle in the book.
People around a potential perpetrator can often spot warning signs, ranging from threatening communication and emulation of past attackers (the so-called “copycat” problem) to personal degradation, triggering events and, finally, systematic preparation for Is. attack. Ramos’ actions and the circumstances checked all of those boxes. His recognizable behaviors included many that are prevalent among mass shooters, including seeking, focusing on, violent misdemeanors. Media attention and notoriety, and a fixation on military-style weapons and tactical gear. (I’ve documented those and other details from his case here.)
A source told me the Uvalde shooter had extensive contact online with at least one person who may have seen or heard hints of his deadly plans.
Various red flags are easy to see before almost every mass shooting like this. Nevertheless, greater public awareness of them could go a long way towards encouraging people to speak up and reach out for help when they feel anxiety or fear about a troubled person who may be dangerous. .
There is other evidence in the Uvalde case that is not currently known to the public. According to a source familiar with the ongoing law enforcement investigation, Ramos had extensive contact online with at least one young man who may have seen or heard hints of his deadly plans. “This person knew him very well,” the source told me.
Whether the person realized the danger or was compelled to sound the alarm is unclear. With school shootings, there is a long history of so-called “bystanders” who, for a variety of reasons, did not seek help from an authority figure. In some cases, entire groups of high school kids had signs of impending school shootings and did not act.
A longstanding question is whether the Uvalde School District had adequate prevention protocols in place, as required by Texas law enacted in 2019. The Texas House of Representatives committee detailed in its July 2022 investigation that the district had adopted a “feasible” policy “to respond to an active shooter emergency.” As I reported earlier:
This included a threat assessment protocol in accordance with the Uvalde policy: “Each campus employs an interdisciplinary team of trained professionals to identify, evaluate, classify, and address threats or potential threats to school security. After an assessment, this team determines the appropriate response and intervention. This includes notification and involvement of parents, a suicide risk assessment, and the development of a written safety plan.”
Ramos had no criminal record and had not been enrolled in Uvalde High School until approximately seven months prior to the attack. It is unclear whether he was previously the subject of a threat assessment investigation, and if so, how his case was handled. A spokesperson I reached out to with the Uvalde School District declined to comment.
A Texas government official with knowledge of the matter later told me that no threat assessment program existed in the school district or in the local community prior to the mass shooting. (The school district did not respond to a follow-up request for comment.)
State-required hazard assessments in school systems a rising But a relatively new and untested policy; In communities like Uvalde and Newport News, Virginia — where a 6-year-old shot his first-grade teacher in January — a lack of resources may be an additional barrier to putting threat assessment programs in place.
How could such a troubled young man amass a highly lethal arsenal so quickly and easily?
The investigation into the law enforcement meltdown in Uvalde continues, including one by the US Department of Justice, Investigators have also looked into certain circumstances and developments with the perpetrator leading up to the massacre, according to a source familiar with the DOJ effort. But that’s not a primary focus, and it remains to be seen whether those elements will be included to any degree in the public report. The source declined to comment on when the investigation might be completed; So far, the DOJ hasn’t specified a date.
The heaviest question still hangs over the tragedy: How could such a troubled youth so quickly and easily amass a highly lethal arsenal?
Republican leaders in Texas and elsewhere have long been hostile to gun-violence prevention policies such as red flag laws and raising the legal age for gun purchasers from 18 to 21. In favor of the gun industry, they disregard broad bipartisan support among the American public. for such measures. As the Texas House Committee’s own report showed, the implications of his position could not be more clear than the Uvalde Massacre. Reportedly, from the day Ramos turned 18, he heavily armed himself for an attack eight days later:
An online retailer shipped 1,740 rounds of 5.56mm 75-grain Boat Tail Hollow Point to his door for a cost of $1,761.50. He ordered a Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 (an AR-15-style rifle) for shipment to a gun store in Uvalde at a cost of $2,054.28. On May 17, 2022, he purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 (also an AR-15-style rifle) at the same store in Uvalde for $1,081.42. He returned the next day for 375 rounds of the M193, a 5.56mm 55-grain round with a full metal jacket, which consists of a soft core surrounded by a harder metal. He returned again to pick up his second rifle upon arrival on May 20, 2022, and after the transfer was complete he set up the holographic sight to the store staff.
As I recently documented, there have been at least eight gun massacres in public places in the US in the past year alone, perpetrated by heavily armed shooters who used AR-15s and tactical gear, Which is a growing trend. The perpetrators were mostly suicidal young adults, including three who were 18. The latest one was on May 15 when he shot three people and wounded six others in Farmington, New Mexico, where he shouted at police to kill him as they took him outside in a gunfight. was his another textbook case Tragically missing or unheard of warning signs.
Still awaiting an reckoning for how law enforcement responded to the school massacre in Uvalde. The same should be true for failure to prevent this from ever happening.