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Pre-Attack Behavior of Active Killers

Unfortunately, the frequency of mass murder attacks is on the rise and has been so for several years now. Starting in decades past, as other forms of crime significantly reduced, this particular trend has increased. Such events happen often enough now that we must consider them in our preparedness plan.

While more conversation is had regarding how to stop active shooter and terrorist threats during their rampage, few discuss the consistent pre-attack behavior that such monsters display. Just as understanding threat cues from violent street criminals is important, so is the ability to spot pre-attack behavior from active killers prior to an attack.

In many of the active killer attacks that have transpired both domestically and abroad, the killer, or several killers, simply burst into a crowded area or facility with little warning and begin the attack. However, in many other incidents, the perpetrators spend time in the vicinity, waiting for the right moment to commence their horror or preparing for it. In such cases, these monsters often portray certain characteristic behaviors. No matter how mentally prepared for doing such horrible violence an individual may be, there are usually signs that something is not right. Here is what to look for:

Nervous Behavior and Out-of-Place Sweating

Despite the weeks or months of preparation that typically go into planning such horrific acts, the perpetrators can rarely help themselves in manifesting their anxiety before the action. If the killer is in the vicinity with weaponry concealed on person, or perhaps they intend to retrieve a weapon from somewhere outside and return, they will be acting nervous and suspicious.  

Be suspect of any individual who is profusely sweating when it does not make sense. Is the person wearing athletic clothing and breathing heavily, thus indicating they just finished a run or other exercise? Is it very hot in the environment? Do they look like they are reacting to something they ate or having a diabetic episode? If these things are unlikely, then the sweating may be an indicator of extreme anxiety. Surveillance footage of numerous such attackers shows profuse sweating before the attack.  

If the sweating coincides with odd behavior, you should pay attention. Is the individual looking around in a suspicious way? Are they not participating in the normal baseline of the environment? What is normal in the place? In a mall food court, people eating and conversing is normal. A nervous-acting individual, sweating and looking around while not speaking with anyone is always a red flag.

Heavy Clothing, Backpacks, and Bags

Active killers have, on numerous occasions, carried firearms or explosive devices into the scene of attack concealed in backpacks, bags, or under heavy clothing. Always be cognizant of out-of-place heavy clothing. During warm weather, heavy winter clothing is out of place. Even a light jacket may be out of place, depending on the weather. If such clothing stands out, pay attention, as it may be a means of concealing weaponry. Also, pay attention when an individual looks unusually bulky, as it may be a sign of a hidden plate carrier or explosive hidden under the clothing.

Backpacks and other bags have been used, on a number of occasions, to conceal long guns when entering the area of attack. Our contemporary society is accustomed to people carrying backpacks and sling bags in public places, so in and of itself, this may be quite normal. However, pay attention if the other behaviors previously discussed are being displayed by an individual who is also carrying a bag. Consider, also, that backpacks and sling bags are perfectly ordinary, but carried duffle bags are not very common, so a larger bag should raise concern.  

Readying for the Attack

Again, this is a trend that has appeared during numerous active killer events. Often, the perpetrator will leave public visibility to go somewhere secluded to ready for the attack. As an example, there have been several active killer attacks where the perpetrator entered the vicinity with a pack and then went to the restroom to assemble their long gun in secret. If you see an individual acting nervous, perhaps sweating, carrying a bag, that enters a restroom or other private location, be warned that this is an indication of possible violence. Consider leaving the premises, or, should you choose to intercede, perhaps follow them into the location to interdict before they come out shooting. If you find someone assembling a long gun in a public restroom, it should be clear what is happening.  

Always be cognizant of bags left unattended in public locations. As is often repeated by airport security, report unattended baggage. This tenant of safety goes beyond the airport. The Boston Marathon bombing was an example of this tactic used by some terrorists, where bags are placed in crowded locations that contain explosive devices. If you see an unattended bag, get away from it, get your loved ones away from it, and report it to security.  

This is a sickening and sad security concern that we face in our contemporary world, but it is a reality and a possibility. Know what to look for.  

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