• Nathan Fredrickson

Warning Behaviors of the Active Shooter

Since starting EPI Investigations a little over four years ago, the demand for training businesses and organizations on how to prepare for an Active Shooter continues to steadily increase. Although the chances of becoming the target of an Active Shooter is small, the effort it takes to prepare for this possibility only takes a small amount of planning and preparation...and can potentially save lives in a worst case scenario.


Along with developing a plan for preparing for an Active Shooter scenario, it is important to understand and be aware of the sort of people who are prone to react in this particular violent manner.


According to a 2015 study published in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, there are eight primary warning behaviors to look out for in a potential Active Shooter. Here are some of these signs:


  • Pathway Warning Behavior - The shooter researches, plans and prepares for their attack. This behavior may be difficult to identify before the violent act and is often discovered after the fact when law enforcement investigates the perpetrators' property and discovers written evidence of their plan.

  • Fixation Warning Behavior - The shooter in this case exhibits an increasingly pathological preoccupation with a person or a cause. In April of 2018, a woman was convinced that the video site YouTube had been suppressing traffic to her channel. Her belief that YouTube was hampering her channel's success, caused her to both plan (Pathway) and obsess (Fixation) over this perceived wrong, traveling to YouTube's headquarters, over eight hours from her home, to commit her attack.

  • Identification Warning Behavior - This psychological desire to be a "commando" or have what the authors of the article call a "warrior mentality" lead this person to obsess over and collect military style weaponry or "tactical" accessories and articles of clothing.

  • Leakage Warning Behavior - The person exhibiting this behavior has communicated to a third party their intent to target and inflict violence on others.

  • Last Resort Warning Behavior - The attacker has presented evidence of a timeline or intent to commit an act of violence.

  • Directly Communicated Threat Warning Behavior - When the attacker has conveyed the threat either directly to their intended target, it is vital that such a threat be considered credible and take action by reaching out to law enforcement.

Understanding and identifying these characteristics can allow the target of the Active Shooter to mitigate the possibility of becoming victims.


EPI Investigations provides Active Shooter training to businesses and organizations throughout the Midwest. For more information about our training programs call (605) 759-8778 or email us today.



Citation: Meloy, J. R.; Mohandie, K.; Knoll, J.L.; Hoffmann, J. "The Concept of Identification in Threat Assessment, Behavioral Sciences and the Law," June 2015, Vol. 33, No. 2-3. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2166.

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