FBI: Over 80 Percent of Active Shooter Incidents Occur at Work

By Roy Maurer Mar 3, 2015
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Of 160 active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013, over 80 percent (132) occurred at work, according to the FBI’s first study of the subject.

The agency defined an active shooter incident as when an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area through the use of firearms.

The study found that 1,043 people were either killed or wounded in all 160 incidents, excluding the shooters. There was an average of 6.4 incidents per year from 2000-06, but the rate increased to 16.4 incidents per year from 2007-13. The incidents occurred in 40 states and in Washington, D.C.

Of the 132 worksite shootings, 73 incidents (45.6 percent) took place at businesses, 39 (24.4 percent) at schools, 16 (10 percent) at government sites, and four at health care facilities (2.5 percent).

The 73 incidents that occurred in business environments resulted in 210 people killed (including 12 company owners, supervisors or managers) and 272 people wounded (including six owners, supervisors or managers). Most of the attacks took place on workdays, particularly Tuesdays and Fridays, with a fairly equal spread among remaining days of the week. Saturdays were the least likely day for such incidents to occur.

The majority of the shooters in business environments were not employed at the shooting location:

  • Thirty-seven shooters were not employees or past employees, though eight had a relationship with at least one current employee.
  • Thirty-four shooters were employed or previously employed by the business, including 22 current employees, seven former employees, four terminated on the day of the shooting and one suspended employee.
  • Two shooters fled the scene and remain at large, so their connection to the incident location is unknown.

The 39 incidents that occurred in schools resulted in 117 fatalities and 120 people wounded. This category included a couple of the higher casualty counts such as the shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., in 2007 (32 killed, 17 wounded) and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 (26 killed, 2 wounded).

The 12 shootings at colleges and universities resulted in 60 fatalities and 60 people wounded. The shooters at colleges and universities included five former students, four current students, two employees and one patient visiting a medical center.

The 27 incidents at K-12 schools resulted in 57 fatalities and 60 people wounded. In addition to the many student victims, the casualties included school employees, with at least 14 killed (six teachers, five principals or assistant principals, and three staff members) and another 16 wounded (nine teachers, five administrators and two staff members).

For the incidents at K-12 schools, the shooter was a student at the school in 12 of 14 high school shootings and five of six middle school shootings. No incidents at elementary schools were caused by the actions of a student.

Other notable findings include:

  • Only six incidents (of the total 160) involved a female shooter.
  • Forty percent of the shooters from all incidents committed suicide at the scene or shortly thereafter.
  • Sixty-nine percent of the incidents ended in five minutes or less, and nearly half ended in two minutes or less. Sixty percent of the incidents ended before police arrived.

“The findings of the FBI study underscore the importance of commercial businesses, schools, colleges and universities to be proactive,” said Paul G. Lannon Jr., a partner in Holland & Knight’s Boston office.

Lannon recommended employers conduct comprehensive safety and security audits, practice active shooter emergency drills, implement workplace violence emergency protocols, and train employees on how to respond to incidents of violence and how to identify risk factors which may lead to violence.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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