What do active shootings have in common and how do we stop them?

Reporter: Rich Kolko
Published: Updated:
FILE – Collier County fire and EMS members train to respond to active shooter situations. Credit: WINK News.

In January 2019, Zephen Zaver went into a Sebring bank and killed five people. One month later, Larry Ray Bon wounded two people at a VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach. In December, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani killed three people and wounded eight at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.

These were the three active shooter incidents in Florida the FBI studied from 2019.

What do they have in common and how do we stop them?

Last year, the FBI says there were 28 active shooting incidents in the U.S., one more than 2018.

The agency describes an active shooter as one or more individuals trying to kill people, plus law enforcement or people on scene have the ability to affect the outcome by intervening.

This is different than a mass shooting incident. Those often involve gang violence, drug violence or family issues.

If you can stay out of the environment, you can more easily stay out of danger, but being a victim in an active shooting situation is more random.

Retired FBI agent Jim Derrane researched this issue. He says what drives an active shooter is specific.

“There is certainly psychological and sociological factors that influence somebody deciding to be an active shooter,” he said. “Whether it be isolation, depression, some sort of mental illness and, quite frankly, with the rise of technology, one of the biggest factors is notoriety and almost a desire to ‘up the body count.'”

Another difference—active shooters often plan the attack, but not the escape.

“Because the public is more aware and law-enforcement folks are getting there quicker or are people taking more active and proactive steps to stop the shooting,” Derrane said.

More shooters were taken into custody last year: 15 of 28. That means agents can try to learn as much as they can about their motives and potentially develop better ways to identify and stop future active shooters.

They share this information with schools, businesses and governments, and include it in the training.


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