When we examine an incident like a mass shooting, we usually start at the beginning – most often the bad gun – until we reach the end of the story, when the bad gun kills innocent people. So this time, let’s analyze the Parkland, Florida mass shooting in reverse order – from the horrific ending to its genesis – to try to determine what the causes were. Maybe we can see things differently…
Ending: Innocent people died needlessly.
Cause: A bad and/or sick individual shot them.
Why: We don’t really know the shooter’s motive at this time.
How did this happen: A person shot innocent people while walking through the school.
Cause: There was nothing to stop, impede, confront or engage the shooter from roaming through the school and shooting people.
Why: The school had no camera surveillance system monitored in real time to observe the shooter and track his movements in order to more quickly notify the persons in the most immediate danger. The school had no physical barriers which could have been activated to partition the building to limit the areas where the shooter could roam. The school had no competent, properly-trained, armed law enforcement or security personnel present in the building who could have immediately engaged the shooter. The school had an armed law enforcement outside building who, for whatever reason, failed to enter the school to engage the shooter. The school had no other armed non-law enforcement or -security personnel inside the building who could have engaged the shooter more quickly. In summary, the school did not have a comprehensive, adequate response plan for dealing with an active shooter incident.
How did this happen: The shooter was able to gain access to all areas of the school.
Cause: There was nothing to screen persons who had entered the school.
Why: The school had no staffing or physical devices to screen persons who had entered the school. The school had no camera surveillance system monitored in real time to monitor doors to determine who had entered. The school was not physically configured so that persons entering the school were funneled to a staffed area where the persons could be screened. The school was not physically configured and/or secured so that persons who had entered the school were limited to specific areas of the buildings. In summary, the school did not have a comprehensive plan for dealing with persons who had gained entrance inside the buildings.
How did this happen: The shooter walked into the school while armed.
Cause: There was nothing to prevent, delay or deter the shooter from entering the school.
Why: The door(s) to the school was not locked. The school had no camera surveillance system monitored in real time to identify persons attempting to gain entry into the school. The school had no voice communication system/intercom to at least question/screen persons attempting to gain entry into the buildings. The school had no security or other personnel staffing doors to identify, admit, impede or prevent persons seeking to gain entry into the buildings. In summary, the school did not have an adequate access system for controlling persons seeking entry into the buildings.
How did this happen: A person, while armed, walked across school property up to the door of the school.
Cause: There was nothing to prevent, delay or deter the person from being on school property.
Why: The school had no camera surveillance system monitored in real time to identify persons on school property. The school had no security or other personnel patrolling the grounds to identify, screen, impede or prevent unauthorized persons from being on school property. The school grounds had no perimeter fencing or other barriers to restrict, impede or prevent unauthorized persons from being on school property In summary, the school did not have adequate security measures for controlling the presence of unauthorized persons on school property.
How did this happen: This shooter had access to weapons and was not monitored or controlled despite apparently aberrant behaviors.
Cause: Persons with personal knowledge of this shooter , including friends, neighbors and adoptive parents were unsuccessful in getting the help for the person that was needed.
Why: This person led a troubled life for a substantial period of time prior to the date of this incident. But he did not commit acts sufficiently egregious or aberrant to warrant involuntary mental health or criminal justice system intervention. This young man resisted attempts by his school to provide mental health assistance. Despite reports to authorities about this person’s in-person and online behaviors, no formal investigation was conducted of him. Despite formal complaints about this person to law enforcement authorities and personal interactions between him and law enforcement authorities, no formal criminal justice or rehabilitative actions were taken against him. In fact, this person’s adoptive family stated that they were unaware of the kinds of behaviors exhibited by him that were easily uncovered and brought to light within only a few hours of the shooting. In summary, despite observable behaviors that should have resulted in formal, involuntary law enforcement or mental health intervention, this person was able to go about his life in an unimpeded and unrestricted manner, planning and preparing for this incident.
The above analysis of the Parkland, FL mass shooting by a troubled young man demonstrates that no single act or omission is the sole cause of incidents such as these. From the genesis of this troubled young man who slipped through gaping law enforcement and mental health cracks, to the failures of the shooting site to adequately protect itself from incidents such as this – numerous failures on multiple levels were instrumental in allowing such a tragedy to occur.
And it also points out that there is no single solution to prevent such incidents from occurring again.