Signs exist to identify people who may turn to violence, expert says

Briana Conner Image
Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Signs exists to identify people who may turn to violence, expert says
There's a process that experts say is the best way to help prevent tragedies like Uvalde, but it won't work alone.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been more than 25 years since the U.S. Secret Service developed a process for identifying people who may be planning violence on a mass level. Experts said this assessment is still the best way to prevent tragedies like what we saw in Uvalde, but it won't work alone.

We have these conversations about prevention after every mass shooting. An expert told ABC13 that the people who carry out mass shootings usually aren't sociopaths or psychopaths -- they just need help. And if we pay attention, we can block their path toward violence before their plan to kill plays out.

After visiting the grieving town of Uvalde, President Joe Biden said their pain was palpable and preventable. Behavioral threat assessments have been used for more than two decades to identify people who may be planning mass violence. Too many times, people miss the signs.

"It could be something that's seen in a homework assignment. Something that's seen on social media. Something that is a direct communication where it sounds like someone is expressing an intent to engage in violence," said Dr. Marisa Randazzo, the executive director of Threat Assessment for Ontic.

Randazzo helped the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education tailor this training specifically for schools. Their research shows these indicators can help educators and law enforcement recognize people who need help.

"We hear time and again, 'This process works. It helped us to identify someone who was heading in a bad direction... heading toward violence.' We can figure out why and get them onto a better path," she said.

Randazzo said preventing the next school shooting will also take help from Congress in the form of red flag laws and mandatory threat assessment training.

"School administrators, law enforcement, and mental health professionals can spend time over the summer taking that training and getting a team in place so that they're ready when school begins again," she said.

The Texas School Safety Center provides free training for school personnel, law enforcement and mental health professionals.

For updates on this story, follow Briana Conner on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.