Warning Signs Are Critical to Violence Prevention

July 31, 2015 Updated: January 1, 2016

On July 23, 2015, a senseless shooting took place at the Grand 16 Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.

A deranged gunman opened fire killing two people and injuring nine others before committing suicide.

Despite decades of mental health warning signs—including a judge’s order sending him to a psychiatric hospital—the killer was able to legally purchase his handgun because he was never involuntarily committed.

Although a judge declared the killer mentally ill a year before the massacre, he was permitted to purchase guns from a federally licensed dealer.

FBI Director’s Transparency

As a response to another tragedy with warning signs, FBI Director James B. Comey met with reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., regarding the June 17, 2015, killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Comey honestly presented a mistake in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and stated the killer “should not have been able to legally buy the gun.”

Workplace Violence: Warning Signs

Aside from incidents from outsiders, the U.S. Department of Labor addresses workplace violence warning signs from frequently encountered situations among co-workers as follows:

  • Concealing or using a weapon;
  • Physical assault upon oneself or another person;
  • Actions which endanger, destroy, or sabotage property;
  • Intimidating or frightening others;
  • Harassing, stalking, or showing undue focus on another person;
  • Physically aggressive acts, such as shaking fists at another person, kicking, pounding on desks, punching a wall, angrily jumping up and down, screaming at others;
  • Verbal abuse including offensive, profane, or vulgar language;
  • Threats (direct or indirect) whether made in person or through letters, phone calls, or electronic mail.

Warning Signs Failure: Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech tragedy provides lessons to be learned for American schools.

On April 16, 2007, a student shot and killed two students on the fourth floor of the West Ambler Johnston residence hall at 7:15 a.m. Although police responded to this incident, the killings were treated as an isolated incident by the college president with no common sense precautions implemented against other shootings that may occur.

It was more than two hours later, at approximately 9:26 a.m., when an email alert was sent to the entire campus without implementing any emergency actions or a lockdown. The email did not emphasize the killings of two students, nor that the shooter was at large.

The Virginia Tech tragedy provides lessons to be learned for American schools.

At 9:45 a.m., there was a 911 call from Norris Hall on the other side of the campus. In this building, the shooter continued his rampage killing 30 more people—25 students and 5 faculty members—and injuring many others.

Approximately a year and a half prior to this rampage, an English professor, Nikki Giovanni, found the violence in the killer’s writings very disturbing. She wrote a letter to English Department chair, Dr. Lucinda Roy, advising her of the problem.

During a nationally televised interview shortly after the tragedy, Roy expressed being so concerned with Cho’s writings, that she had him removed from the class so as to not disturb other students. During one-on-one tutoring sessions, Roy found Cho to be the most emotionally troubled and at-risk personality she had seen in her 22 years of teaching.

Roy had presented her concerns to university officials who did nothing, stating, among other things, that as a matter of free speech, Cho had the right to write whatever he wished and that his writings did not contain enough explicit information to do anything. In the interview Roy states:

“I think that they [concerns] should have been taken more seriously but I’m not someone who would give up easily so I went back repeatedly with my concerns and in the end I felt I was so uncomfortable that I could not leave him in the classroom because some of the other students seemed to be uncomfortable.”

The warning signs of a very dark and troubling persona of the future killer were clearly uncovered by Roy, but her requests for intervention continually fell upon deaf ears.

Also, although a judge declared the killer mentally ill a year before the massacre, he was permitted to purchase guns from a federally licensed dealer since Virginia failed to notify the federal database for gun background checks.

America must open its eyes and recognize warning signs and provide the intervention, training, health care, and security measures necessary to prevent additional tragedies.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.