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Active Shooters
and Workplace Violence


January 5, 2015, starts as a normal day of school for 223 kids at the Camp Hill Middle School in
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. The children have just returned to school after having several days off
to celebrate the holiday season and are busy with their daily routines preparing for first-period
homeroom. As they gather their books and supplies and walk to their assigned classrooms, a sin-
gle police offer directs foot traffic at the main crosswalk adjacent to the school. Camp Hill is a
quiet community that seldom experiences any type of violent crime, and the local police depart-
ment has a visible presence within the community. The students all know each other at school
and often engage in community and church activities together after the school day ends.

Bang! Bang! Two shots ring out. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! A rapid burst of shots is booming
down the downstairs hallway. Outside, the police officer is still directing vehicles and pedes-
trian traffic. He pauses and looks behind at the main school building—he has heard some
sounds but isn’t sure what is causing the commotion. Bang! Bang! Bang! More shots ring out.
Now the officer freezes, still reluctant to leave his post: The sounds are still somewhat foreign
to him, for the building structure and composition is muffling the sounds of gunfire. About ten
seconds have elapsed. Bang! Bang! When approximately thirty screaming kids pour out of the
main school entrance, the officer realizes that something is very, very wrong.

Ten more seconds have elapsed. The scene is complete chaos. The officer calls in the inci-
dent and then forces his way through the chaotic scene. Children are screaming at him that
someone has a gun and is shooting. Several teachers now have exited the building, some with
visible signs of injuries, including signs of shock. They grab at the officer, trying to get assis-
tance. As the officer rips the students’ hands off of his uniform, pushes through the human
blockade and yells for everyone to get back. An announcement can be heard throughout the
school from a very shaky and stressed voice coming across the public address system: “There
is a shooter in the building! This is not a drill! This is not a drill! Follow your protocols and
secure your classrooms!” Bang! Bang! Bang! More shots ring out.

Ten more seconds have expired. The officer now is in the main downstairs hallway, looking
at several bodies lying bloody on the floor. He steps over the wounded and dying souls to pur-
sue the threat. He sees a dark figure disappear in the west stairwell and sprints down the hall in
pursuit. The officer radios back that a suspect has been seen entering the west stairwell and is
believed to be heading to the upstairs classrooms. He then enters the stairwell using cover and
watching his angles of exposure before heading up the stairs. The officer is now on the second

Active Shooter. DOI:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.2015


floor—he peers around the hall door threshold, quickly evaluates the situation, and rapidly
passes through the doorway to minimize his exposure.

Fifteen more seconds have elapsed. A second, then a third patrol car arrives on the scene.
The streets are in pandemonium. Kids are running and wandering through the streets, and
abandoned vehicles are blocking traffic and response vehicles. Bloody and wounded victims
are looking for any help they can find. EMTs and firefighters have set up a safe perimeter and
have started to redirect traffic in the area. They are waiting for the all-clear to enter into the
danger zone and start helping the victims. Additional officers quickly move in through the
main school entrance to assist the first officer; they move up the east stairwell in an attempt to
cut the suspect off. Bang! A lone shot rings out. The first responding officer can be heard yell-
ing, “Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon!” but it is no matter: The lone gunman has commit-
ted suicide. The policeman kicks the shotgun away from the shooter’s hand, rolls over his limp
body, and places the dying suspect in handcuffs. The shooting is now over, but the incident
response is still progressing, and the recovery phase has just begun.

The incident described is not a real event, but it could be. It could be any school, business,
or organization. It could be in a quiet community with low crime rates. It could happen to
you. Most organizations are not prepared for such an event. They have not properly planned
for, nor determined, all the potential aspects that an active shooter incident may cause—and,
frankly, there is no longer any excuse for a lack of planning when it comes to active shoot-
ers. There are many historical incidents and available data to assist organizations in develop-
ing both workplace violence and active shooter programs to mitigate loss, improve response,
reduce effects, and assist in the recovery phase of such tragic events.

The goal of this book is to provide information to the private sector, as well as to public offi-
cials and law enforcement professionals, to help better understand how to prevent, prepare for,
respond to, and recover from such incidents. It is our objective to provide facts and methods to
better deter, mitigate, train for, and reduce the effects of these catastrophic attacks.

Historical Overview
The world is experiencing one of the most intensive periods of active shooter incidents in
history. The latest report issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014 [1] indi-
cates that active shooter incidents in the United States have more than doubled over the past
seven years. During the same period, the amount of casualties from these incidents has more
than quadrupled. With over four times the casualties and twice the number of active shooter
events over a fourteen-year span, it is anticipated that this expansive trend will continue on an
upward spiral in the future.

Events such as the December 13, 2013, shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial,
Colorado, in which a high school student, Karl Pierson, walked into school and shot another
student in the head before committing suicide, are rapidly becoming an all too common
occurrence these days. Similar incidents such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shoot-
ing in Newtown, Connecticut, which occurred on December 14, 2012, and in which a single
gunman, Adam Lanza, forced his way into the school, killing twenty children and six adults,
wounding two others before fatally shooting himself, have put organizations on notice. Such

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 3

tragic events are becoming commonplace in our society and are evolving and reoccurring—
the active shooter threat can no longer be ignored.

Several incidents that have occurred in the United States follow:

l December 13, 2013: Arapahoe High School, Centennial, Colorado: 2 killed
l December 14, 2012: Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut: 27 killed and 2

l July 20, 2012: Cinemark Century Movie Theater, Aurora, Colorado: 12 killed and 58 wounded
l January 8, 2011: Political event outside a grocery store, Tucson, Arizona: 6 killed and 14 wounded
l November 5, 2009: Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center, Fort Hood, Texas: 13 killed and

32 wounded
l April 16, 2007: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia: 32 killed

and 17 wounded
l February, 12, 2007: Trolley Square Mall, Salt Lake City, Utah: 6 killed and 4 wounded
l October 2, 2006: Amish School, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania: 5 killed and 5 wounded

Examples of international incidents involving active shooters:

l October 22, 2014: Michael Joseph Hall (later changed his last name to Zehaf-Bibeau), 32 years old,
in twin attacks, shooting at a Canadian War Memorial then at Parliament. Zehaf-Bibeau was shot
and killed by Kevin Vickers, sergeant-at-arms of Canada’s House of Commons.

l July 22, 2011: Anders Behring Breivik, 35 years old, killed 77 in Oslo, Norway, in a double attack: a
bombing in downtown Oslo and a shooting massacre at the Workers Youth League Camp on the
island of Utoya, outside of Oslo. He was taken into custody on Utoya.

l April 30, 2009: Farda Gadyrov, 29 years old, killed 12 people at the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy in
the capital, Baku, armed with a semi-automatic pistol and clips, then killed himself.

l September 23, 2008: Matti Saari, 22 years old, walked into a vocational college in Kauhajoki,
Finland, and opened fire, killing 10 people and burning their bodies with firebombs before
shooting himself fatally in the head.

l April 26, 2002: Robert Steinhaeuser, 19 years old, who had been expelled from school in Erfurt,
Germany, killed 13 teachers, 2 students, and 1 policeman before committing suicide.

This recent period of concentrated violence has seen more than 486 people killed and 557
people wounded by active shooters. This escalation in the frequency and lethality of such
attacks carried out by active shooters within the United States is a serious cause for concern.

As well as in the United States, there is a rise in the number of such incidents in many other
countries around the world. It is often assumed that active shooters are only a U.S. problem—
that if a country allows firearm ownership, it will experience more shootings. This is not true,
however; nations that restrict gun ownership are often at a huge disadvantage when a shoot-
ing does occur, thanks to the proper preparation and training in that country. Active shooter
incidents are a worldwide problem, and all nations must properly develop programs to pre-
vent and mitigate the risk from such threats. International cases involving active shooters are
equally deadly and often involve similar indicators and motives. Several notable incidents
have occurred internationally that have had similarly tragic results.


Furthermore, in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Kenya,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, shootings and suicide bombings that kill hundreds of
people annually are part of full-fledged terrorist insurgencies. Such terrorist attacks often tar-
get societies that are loosely governed and ill equipped to combat such attacks.

The Nairobi, Kenya, mall shooting that took place on September 21, 2013, at the Westgate
Shopping Mall is a good example of a terrorist incident that has similar characteristics to those
of an active shooter event. In this attack, four gunmen began a mass shooting in which at least
sixty-seven people were killed and 175 wounded [2]. This attack lasted for approximately four
days and is a prime example of how much damage shooters can cause when an organization
has not properly planned or coordinated an effective program to mitigate the risk from such

Active shooter incidents, along with acts of terrorism, demonstrate the various forms of
comparable mass casualty violence that threaten every society and challenge those who are
responsible for the security and public safety of their citizens.

A 2014 FBI report identified 160 active shooter incidents within the United States from 2000
to 2013, but the report also suggests that the actual number of active shooter events may be
much higher owing to limited search criteria, available data, and law enforcement classifica-
tion of past incidents used during the research effort.

According to the FBI study, 486 people were killed during the fourteen-year period studied,
and 557 people wounded (refer to Figure 1–1), by active shooters. Considering the percentage
of dead versus wounded people in an active shooter incident, it becomes evident that such
terrible incidents are particularly deadly. With a victim death rate of almost 50 percent, active
shooters cause an exceptionally high rate of mortality when compared to many other types of
deadly crime. It also should be noted that our ability to provide care for the wounded and pre-
vent someone from dying is much better these days. The tactical emergency medicine and care
has saved more lives nowadays that would have succumbed to such wounds in the past.

The study does differentiate between a mass killing and active shooter incident, and
approximately 40 percent (64 events) of the 160 incidents used in the study could be defined
as a mass killing. A mass killing is defined as “three or more killed” under a new federal statute.



FIGURE 1–1 Number of Killed and Wounded. Source: FBI 2014 [1].

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 5

In all but two cases included in the study, a single shooter was the perpetrator. Sex does
seem to play a big role with the active shooter, as only six of the 160 incidents involved female











9 10














Calendar Year















FIGURE 1–2 Active Shooter Incidents by Year 2000–2013. Source: FBI 2014 [1].

A few other interesting facts were documented in the 2014 FBI report:

l 40% or 64 of the perpetrators committed suicide during or after the shooting.
l 10% or 17 of the perpetrators committed suicide when law enforcement arrived on scene.
l 5% or 9 of the shooters killed family members at home before moving to a populated area.
l 45% or 73 of the shootings occurred in a place related to business and commerce.
l 24% or 39 of shootings occurred at educational institutions.
l Several school shootings involved the highest casualty numbers.
l 60% of the shootings ended before law enforcement arrived on scene.
l Where measurable, most shootings ended within one to five minutes, even with law enforcement

present at the site.

One of the greatest concerns involving active shooters is the trend toward ever-increasing
numbers of incidents. Using the FBI report as a guideline, the trend of shootings has more than
doubled in the past seven years. Another report substantiates the FBI study and documents
the growing problem, based on data collected by Mother Jones and research performed by the
Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University; it documents that mass shoot-
ings have tripled since 2011 [3].

Although the volume of incidents has more than doubled from 2000 to 2013, another sta-
tistic is the most concerning. The amount of casualties over the same period has more than
tripled. Figure 1–2 illustrates the drastic rise in incidents from 2000 to 2013.

From 2000 to 2006, there were 247 casualties involved in active shooter incidents, versus
796 causalities from 2007 to 2013. Not only is the frequency of active shooter incidents grow-
ing, but nowadays such tragic events are becoming more deadly. Figure 1–3 identifies the


casualty type and year along with a rising trend in the number of causalities over the past
seven years.

Historical incident data provides empirical evidence that is difficult to dismiss no matter how
conservative the research gathered and disseminated through various media outlets. Although
this is not a perfect predictor of future violence, all indicators are that the active shooter threat
is growing and will continue to grow. It would be remiss and foolish to ignore such glaring facts
and not make every effort to deter, prevent, respond to, and recover from these violent acts.

Many organizations are searching for proof that their specific type of business is a target for
such violence before they will invest in a proactive strategy. Such organizations are choosing to
be negligent based on their calculated risk that such an act of violence will not happen at their
locations, despite the historical evidence. That being stated, research may suggest that some
organizations are at a higher risk for experiencing an active shooter event. Figure 1–4 below
identifies the location of attacks based on the latest research.

The greatest number of active shooter incidents occurred in businesses, comprising enter-
prises such as offices, retail stores, warehouse facilities, and similar operations existing for
commercial purposes.

Understandably, the business category has the highest number of attacks, which makes
sense from an economic perspective. Economic problems are one of the leading causes of
stress among adults, and experiencing problems in the workplace can lead to deadly conse-
quences. In addition to one’s livelihood, the lack of interpersonal skills and personal problems
in the workplace can be problematic if the early warning signs are not properly diagnosed and
intervention accomplished.

Regrettably, the second most frequent category of attacks occurred in schools from pre-
kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is easy to understand why schools are easy targets for
violent acts involving firearms, but being an easy target does not fully explain the psychol-
ogy behind why schools are being attacked so frequently. Schools tend to offer a target-rich
environment, often very visible to the surrounding communities, and, most important, have
various types of issues that many other type of organizations do not.







2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Wounded 0 31 18 22 6 27 23 57 34 78 49 52 118 42

Killed 7 12 11 29 14 24 23 69 29 65 37 32 90 44








FIGURE 1–3 Active Shooter Casualty Type by Year 2000–2013. Source: FBI 2014 [1].

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 7

For example, a private business may be able to screen out potentially violent persons by
performing pre-employment screening for criminal history and recent drug use. Public school
districts tend to accept all registrations, regardless of their mental or criminal problems, unless
they have been documented by previous school districts and appear to pose an inherent dan-
ger to students or staff.

Bullying is another problem at many schools; the physical and mental abuse of students
and/or staff can lead to severe consequences when left unchecked. Many students feel iso-
lated, forsaken, and mistreated, which is easily compounded by verbal or physical abuse by
their peers [4].

Although the attack location research identifies several types of organizations that may
have a higher probability of occurrence for active shootings, anticipating a shooting is not a
perfect science. It has long been established that any type of business or organization is at
risk for violence. It would be remiss to believe that such incidents cannot occur any time and

Research suggests that emphasis should be placed on prevention, response, and recovery.
Most organizations’ capability to effectively and swiftly respond to an active shooter threat is
marginal at best. To better understand some of the challenges posed, we must define an active

Active Shooter Definition
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with the White House, Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), among many
other federal and state agencies, define an “active shooter” as an individual actively engaged in

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70



Schools PreK-12

Higher Education Institutions


Health Care

Houses of Worship



Open Spaces











FIGURE 1–4 Active Shooter Attack Locations. Source: FBI 2014 [1].


killing or attempting to kill people in a confined space or populated area [5]. A 2014 FBI report
describes an active shooter as a person or group of persons engaged in the killing or attempted
killing of people in a populated area. This report eliminated the word “confined” from the def-
inition, for many such shootings occur in open spaces. Furthermore, this definition suggests
that the act involves the use of firearms rather than other types of weaponry.

Another term commonly used to refer to this type of threat is “rampage shooting.” More
and more professionals are using this term in conjunction with the term “active shooter” to
describe these tragic events. If we consider the “active” part of the definition, it clearly means
that the shooter is still actively engaging targets, on the move locating more victims, or escap-
ing the scene of the crime. After the incident is over, we still refer to the perpetrator as an
“active shooter.”

Gang-related shootings, along with many other types of classified murder, are excluded
from our book and are not considered under the active shooter classification. The motives,
indicators, and preventive measures for gang-related shootings and drug violence are very
different from those associated with an active shooter. Although murder may occur during an
active or rampage shooting, meaning that the shooter has premeditated the killing of specific
individuals, typically the shooter is devoid of any specific pattern or selection of victims. Active
shootings often are initiated by mental instability, hatred, or a significant life event.

An active shooter typically does not intend to take hostages nor negotiate any terms and
often works alone (Figure 1–5). The active shooter wants to decide who lives and dies until
he or she stops killing, lose the capability to kill (such as by running out of ammunition), or
is stopped by force. Often the shooter will take his or her own life when confronted by law
enforcement, though in several documented cases the shooter surrendered before being killed

FIGURE 1–5 Single Gunman. Courtesy of Level 4 Security LLC.

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 9

or committing suicide. In other cases, the shooter simply walked away from the scene after
deciding that he or she was finished or that his or her resources were depleted.

It is extremely difficult to determine the motivation or reason behind many active shooter
incidents, especially when the shooter commits suicide or is killed during the act. Without hav-
ing a proper understanding of the motive behind such violent acts, it becomes very difficult to
deter or prevent them.

The difficulty in defining an “active shooter” using a single definition is that many of these
shooters can also be classified as “terrorists,” their attack being motivated by political or reli-
gious objectives. This blurred definition can cause many professionals in academia and law
enforcement to argue over an accurate classification of each shooter and event. Our goal is not
to argue over the definition, but rather to include those incidents that may fit with or similarly
correspond to the active or rampage shooter classifications.

For purposes of this book, and because of the similarities between rampage shooters and
some acts of terrorism, we will define an active shooter as “an individual or group actively
engaged in killing or the attempted killing of people in an area that is populated or defined by
an activity.” This definition allows the inclusion of a broad range of weapons and covers inci-
dents whose characteristics involve indiscriminate actions even if there is a premeditated
initiating factor. It also provides some inclusion for the cross-classification of some types of ter-
rorist acts, mass murders, and rampage shootings.

Complexity of Violence
Violent incidents are continuing to multiply and increase in frequency, attesting that the

active shooter threat is a difficult risk to predict and prevent. A common misconception is
that active shooter incidents are impulsive acts by irrational people. A closer examination of
many active shooter events suggest that both planning and premeditation evolve over time.
The preparatory phase often includes early warning signs and behaviors, which can be iden-
tified by those individuals nearest the perpetrator. Security personnel can be another line of
defense in the detection and assessment of a potential active shooter threat and can be in a
position to respond to indicators, possibly preventing the act from ever occurring.

Early warning signs associated with active shooter incidents are often ignored or misinterpreted.
Many past events have demonstrated numerous early warning signs associated with the attack that
should have been recognized, with intervention steps taken. It is not enough just to recognize the
early warning signs, for there are many cases of this occurring before a shooting; the assessor must
take steps to intervene and prevent the potential shooter from following through with the plan.

There are several notable examples of missed opportunities for early intervention, such
as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School (Adam Lanza), Cinemark Century Movie
Theater (James Holmes), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Seung-Hui Cho),
an Arizona political event (Jared Loughner), and Fort Hood (Nidal Hassan). In every case,


family, friends, coworkers, and counselors of the perpetrators observed irregular and irrational
behavior before the attacks. These visible indicators were not effectively acted on nor commu-
nicated to the proper authorities for assessment and potential intervention.

In addition to the indicators of potential violence, the complexity of the attacks has also
evolved over time. The shooters are often researching previous active shooter incidents and
modifying their tactics and behaviors accordingly. In essence, they are doing their “home-
work” before attacking. The asymmetrical aspect of an active shooter is extremely difficult to
defend against, and preventive measures such as detection, assessment, response, and law
enforcement tactics are vital parts of the solution.

In part, the press has added to this challenge by the amount of information analyzed and
shared with the public after an attack occurs. The openness of our society nowadays adds an
often overlooked dynamic when developing preventive and recovery measures. The ability
to research past incidents and gain a comprehensive understanding of what works and what
doesn’t work is available with the simple click of a mouse. When it comes to a planned attack,
we are dealing with a thoroughly informed, well-armed adversary who often understands
more about the facility or grounds than the responding law enforcement officers.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to prevent active shooter incidents. In 2012, Blaec
Lammers, age 20, had become so obsessed with the Century Theater shooting in Aurora,
Colorado, that he was planning an attack of his own. His mother, Tricia Lammers, turned her
son over to law enforcement after he purchased two semi-automatic rifles and 400 rounds of
ammunition with the intention of attacking a movie theater and Walmart in Bolivar, Missouri [6].
Why did he choose to take the attack to Walmart after the movie theater? Simply because he
had planned to resupply his ammunition after the theater shooting so he could continue his
killing spree.

Blaec was described by his own mother as being a “loner” and having much difficulty in
making friends at school. His psychological profile is similar to those of many other active
shooters: being quiet and reclusive, perhaps having feelings of being a failure. Of interest is the
report that Lammers had planned to turn himself over to law enforcement officers when they
arrived at the scene. Although this is speculative in nature, it helps to understand Lammers’s
frame of mind during the planning stages of the attack. Often, active shooters plan self-termi-
nation or surrender after they are intercepted by law enforcement.

Active shooter incidents are becoming so frequent that it is imperative for law enforcement
and security professionals to develop a comprehensive and systematic understanding of these
threats and the procedures necessary to prevent, respond, and recover from such tragedies. It
is also equally important for organizations to implement effective strategy and protective mea-
sures at their facilities. This planning begins long before an anticipated attack and requires a
collective effort between security, safety, legal services, and operations within the organiza-
tion. In addition, a joint collaborative approach between the organization and law enforce-
ment officials is required to develop effective strategy to combat this ever-evolving threat.

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 11

Civil litigation against the organization after an attack usually involves claims that the enter-
prise should have taken additional steps to protect those under their care. This duty to protect
employees, vendors, and guests on the property is key. Every aspect of an attack will be scruti-
nized, from the prevention aspects and response time to tactics, and will include any perceived
oversights or failures. Such charges usually arise in our litigious society no matter how reason-
able and effective the protective measures and response strategy for proactive intervention.

Development of an effective active shooter program must involve knowledgeable profes-
sionals who understand the major aspects of the risk, threat, protective measures, communi-
cations, corresponding law enforcement response tactics, and recovery options. This body of
knowledge only rarely can be found in a single consultant or advisor and thus may require a
team of professionals to participate in the development of a comprehensive plan.

Workplace Violence
Workplace violence can be defined as any act or threat, whether implied, verbal, or physical,
intended to intimidate or harm an individual, whether at work or otherwise, that originates in
the workplace [7]. Many employees spend as much time in the workplace as they do in their own
homes—up to 65 percent of their time may be spent in the workplace. This additional time at work
may expose them to acts of violence or threatening behaviors. Factors that can increase risk to the
employee often start with choice of career, position within the firm, and location of the workplace.

Violence in the workplace covers a spectrum of threats or violent acts that may cause dam-
age or injury or obstruct normal work conditions. The range of actions covered under the term
“workplace violence” can be as simple as abusive and threatening behaviors that intimidate or
disrupt business operations or as extreme as physical acts of lethal violence. The active shooter
is obviously at the high end of the violence spectrum and can completely destroy the viability
and future of the organization. Because a large percentage of active shooter events occur in the
workplace, it is vital that every organization properly addresses the potential problem.

Outside facilitators can also influence workplace hostilities. These include financial prob-
lems, disturbed family members, unstable relationships, drug and alcohol use, and even agitated
customers. Most of us, at some point, will experience an act of violence, intimidating behavior, or
verbal aggression during our career. Workplace violence incidents, as an insider threat, have an
important role when it comes to active shooters, for they may be a precursor to such violent attacks.

Most of us do not get a choice of colleagues or business partners during our career.
Additionally, we often are exposed to clients, customers, and business vendors throughout the
business day who can place us in close contact with criminal elements. Although our work-
related associates might expose us to violent people, our personal and family relationships can
be the most challenging to deal with in the workplace.

Workplace violence may be separated into three major categories:

l Personal relationships
l Employer related
l Property- or commercially motivated


Personal Relationships

Personal relationships can often lead to heightened emotions and unusual behaviors. The
workplace is often an extension of our family and can lead to personal relationships, whether
healthy or not, as well as problems later on. Some organizations try to limit the type and depth
of relationships stemming from workplace exposure, but in a free society, this is a difficult, if
not impossible, task. Trouble at home often spills over into the workplace; angry spouses, part-
ners, and immediate family members can all pose a threat to the organization.

Active shooter incidents often involve former lovers and current spouses, as well as a vari-
ety of relational issues that can include crimes of passion, drug and alcohol abuse, and various
forms of mental illness. Perpetrators often are unhappy in their home life but may not discuss it
openly with colleagues or family members—and the internalization of such stressors can help
move them past the brink of simply “having bad thoughts” to taking actual destructive actions.

Almost everyone will experience some type of relationship failure, marital divorce, or long-
term relationship breakup over his or her lifetime. It is easy to understand how such stressful
events can lead to dangerous thoughts and acts of violence, but most people learn to deal with
such emotions, overcome them, and move on with life. Yet not everyone is capable of getting
past such trauma, which then festers and builds up within him or her. Such incidents are very
dangerous to deal with and can lead to serious injury or death.


Employer-related violence has multiple origins but often is related to personality-related
conflicts or other work-related stress. One of the greatest stresses that an employee can face
is the fear of losing his or her job. The modern-day business practice of downsizing staff and
outsourcing labor is often traumatic to the affected staff, especially when little notice of such
changes has been communicated to employees. Other types of employer-related stress may
include reprimands for violations of company rules, poor work performance reviews, or trou-
ble with interpersonal relationships and working with others.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs theory [8] suggesting that if
a person’s basic needs are not being met, the resulting climate can include serious criminal
behaviors. When a person loses, or fears losing, his or her job, he or she will attempt to satisfy
financial needs using any means at his or her disposal. Most people react by searching else-
where for employment or starting their own business, but a few individuals resort to threaten-
ing and criminal behaviors when they feel their job is threatened.

Another reason why employees can be frustrated, angry, or desperate is if they feel that
management is being unfair. Many organizations give management a tremendous amount
of discretion to run departments using an autocratic management style. These departmental
“dictatorships” may be breeding grounds for unfair management practices and abusive man-
agement behaviors. Many acts of workplace violence initiated by staff members or former
employees are directly related to real or perceived injustices and prejudice. When a worker
feels victimized and cannot identify an acceptable recourse through which to resolve the
matter, that inability may lead to a surprisingly hostile reaction. Typically, such an employee

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 13

will try to solicit support from others in the organization and try to undermine management’s

Many organizations are also attempting to accomplish more tasks using fewer employees.
This directly creates additional stress in the work environment. When staff is reduced beyond
operational capability, the resulting increase in hours and work effort can create tremendous
strain on the remaining workforce. The potential for an outbreak of violence in the workplace
or the targeting of management at their residences may increase dramatically.

Employeeonemployee violence is another aspect of employer-related workplace vio-
lence. Differences in age, personality, beliefs, cultures, and perceptions can create problems
in the workplace. Workplace bullying can lead to resentment, anger, and retaliatory behaviors.
However, not every incident will result in physical action, and often these conflicts can be miti-
gated if caught and resolved quickly.

Most, if not all, of us must work with others to accomplish our core missions. This
includes exposure to customers, manufacturers, and suppliers on a regular basis. In addi-
tion, many of our businesses rely on other companies to meet their commitments before
they can satisfy their own clientele. The workplace provides multiple targets and avenues for
staff and exposes them to outsiders who may be intent on harming them. This is especially
true for women in the workplace if many men do not control their feelings or emotions and
make unwanted advances—or worse.

We are often dismayed and shocked at how openly aggressive men can be in the workplace,
whether as customers or otherwise. For example, a female waitress may have to defend against
multiple advances during a single shift by male customers. Although some will suggest that
this is part of employment in the retail environment, it most certainly is not. People skills are
required, but when a simple gesture of appreciation turns into a serious unwanted advance,
protective measures should be in place to prevent the action from becoming an incident. No
one should have to work in fear of inappropriate sexual advances by individuals who do not
control their desires. This is not to say that women themselves never perpetrate personal or
sexual workplace violence; indeed, they can often be more aggressive in fighting over a rela-
tionship while at work.

Another area of workplace violence that is increasing in frequency is that having to do with
employees who provide care services to others. From religious leaders to healthcare workers,
this category of worker has become the focus of many prevention programs. Often in these
cases, many of the crimes go unreported in consideration of the morality and kindness of
many who choose such a profession. Often these workers are targeted because of their gen-
tle and kind spirits and may become repeat victims of violence simply because they do not
report the crimes. This attitude is very similar to spousal abuse cases: The victim wants to for-
give the perpetrator and hope for behavior to change but often refuses to take the necessary
steps to ensure that criminal behavior is corrected. The guiding principle of workers employed
in providing care services is to provide services to or care for individuals without doing harm.
Although some professions expose employees to acts of violence—such as policing—it is never
acceptable to believe that such professionals should accept violence as part of their normal job
requirement, even if the conditions under which they operate are stressful.


There is another side to violence in the workplace among service care providers that is far
more disturbing: the staff member who commits violence against those who placed in his or
her custody or care. Such violent acts can range from verbal abuse to physical abuse. The tar-
gets in these cases are often the most vulnerable in society, from young children to the men-
tally ill and elderly. The media has placed some emphasis on these heinous crimes recently,
but there are still many crimes that never receive attention—and unfortunately some such
cases are covered up by the organization providing such care to prevent lawsuits and protect
the organization’s brand or image. Some industries have issued professional codes of ethics
and conduct in an effort to combat such violence, and many states have enacted laws govern-
ing certain professions.

Property or Commercially Motivated

These violent actions are often directed at the company or organization and their property.
Acts such as sabotage, theft, and vandalism can lead to accidents and injury or death. Some
such acts may occur during union strike negotiations or other related employee bargaining for
rights or income. Although most bargaining negotiations are peaceful and legal, there are sev-
eral examples of such activities becoming violent and deadly.

Robbery and theft can be placed under the employer related violence category, but it also
fits under property-focused violence. During a commission of a crime, such as a robbery, emo-
tions can be stressed and the outcome can lead to a violent encounter. If a criminal is intent on
committing a crime to gain property such as money or goods, he or she may view any guardian
as a threat and react using violence. There have been countless victims of stabbing or shoot-
ings during a robbery just because the employees were working at the time when the crime
was committed.

Moreover, if the act is intended to damage or destroy property or negatively affect com-
merce, the unsuspecting employee can find himself or herself an innocent victim just by being
in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Factors that can produce the triggers to initiate such attacks in the workplace are varied but usually
involve life-altering events such as divorce or the loss of a job and can be as simple as a perceived
wrong when an employee is disciplined. The workplace also exposes many individuals to people or
situations they may not otherwise encounter.

Not every country provides the same level of freedom for all its citizens. However, most,
if not all, countries do protect the rights of their citizens by designing laws to protect them
against criminal acts. Frequently laws are developed to protect the community, culture, and
commercial interests of the nation. The workplace is no exception, and individuals should be
provided protection from acts of violence or aggression.

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 15

Large business is often indistinguishable from its government, and in some cases they are
one entity, often referred to as a quasi-government agency. This exacerbates the challenge of
detecting a potential active shooter just due to the sheer numbers of potential threats. When
one considerers the numerous potential adversaries that a government must account for, it is a
daunting task just to detect impending danger among the staff, contractors and guests, not too
mention all of the outside groups and enemies intent on causing them harm.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and
the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey [9], government
employees represented about one of every five victims of workplace violence homicides, and
the rate of assaults against government employees is as high as three times higher than that of
private sector employees. However, serious violent crime is approximately 10 percent greater
in the private sector than in the government. These reports also highlighted that shootings
were the cause of death in 78 percent of workplace homicides. A few other findings of interest
were reported as well:

l Shootings were the most frequent manner of death in both homicides (80 percent) and
suicides (47 percent).

l Workplace violence is the primary cause of fatalities in the workplace for females. Female
employees are most likely to be attacked in the workplace by someone with whom they
have a work relationship. Of the 302 fatal work injuries involving female workers, 22 percent
involved homicides, compared to 8 percent for men.

l Male employees are most likely to encounter an incident of violence with a stranger in the
workplace. Men represented approximately 85 percent of deaths in the workplace.

l The highest number of fatalities in the workplace is experienced in sales, retail work, law
enforcement and corrections, management, and security.

When it comes to workplace violence, an active shooting is one incident that no one wants
to experience, but it is prudent for every employee to consider such acts of violence and pre-
pare for them should they ever become a reality.

Four Levels of Violence in the Workplace
Violence in the workplace can be characterized into four levels:

Level 1 involves the types of behaviors or incidents that often don’t require disciplinary
actions by the organization but that may require documentation, awareness training, and ver-
bal reprimands. Included in this type of violence are actions that in involve low-level use of
profanity, difficult behaviors that are not violent in nature, rumormongering, and uncoopera-
tive attitudes toward colleagues and management.

Level 2 may involve actions and behaviors that involve obstinate or perverse comments,
inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, and outbursts of anger, shouting, and low-level
verbal threats. This level involves documentation of the incident and may require disciplinary
actions that range from additional awareness training to a written warning.


Level 3 offenses are the type of events that warrant intervention and disciplinary actions.
In some cases, professional help may need to be solicited to assist with the problem. This level
includes actions such as inappropriate touching, verbal and physical threats, and minor vio-
lence, such as fights, punching walls or tables, and throwing objects.

Level 4 is the level of violence and involves the most inappropriate and dangerous behav-
iors and actions. This level includes robbery, severe beating, active shooting, violent attack,
crime, murder and manslaughter, sexual assault (including rape), and nonviolent incidents
such as of arson and sabotage.

The level of violence perpetrated should determine the response and corrective disci-
plinary action. A Level 1 response may be a simple verbal reminder that the workplace is
a professional environment and an instruction to stop the behavior or be disciplined. Level
2 and 3 behaviors should be well documented and should result in some type of corrective
discipline. These incidents should be corrected quickly and disciplinary actions enacted
before the events escalate into dangerous situations. The final level, Level 4, is the most seri-
ous level and should involve a team approach to address. Along with the human resources
department and the management supervisor, the organization should involve legal and
security personnel in the incident. If the act is a crime or is illegal, then the law enforcement
agency having jurisdiction should be contacted immediately, and the organization should
fully support the investigation.

The cost of doing nothing and ignoring the problem can be very costly to an organization,
as these types of problems seldom go away on their own. Intervention, training, and disciplin-
ary action is often required, but the cost of doing nothing and letting the atmosphere of vio-
lence fester and grow is often more expensive in the end.

Costs to the Organization
It is always difficult to determine the overall costs of workplace violence to an organization. It is
even more complicated to calculate the losses of a single active shooter incident when it occurs
at the location of business. Direct loss to the organization may involve any of the following:

l Lost productivity. In some cases of workplace violence, the entire staff resigned after the
incident. The location can be closed or relocated, and such changes costs time and money.
Employees who return after an incident often are not the same, and productivity can be
greatly altered. In addition, the entire site may remain a crime scene for days or weeks, with
staff unable to return to work until the on-site investigation is complete.

l Property damage. Although property damages may be minimal at times for some types
of incidents, when it comes to active shooters, this may not be the case. From driving
vehicles through entrances and breaking in doors to bullet damage and blood left by those
who were wounded or killed, damage to both personal and organizational assets can be
extremely expensive to repair and replace after an incident.

l Lost sales. Although difficult to ascertain, lost sales is another aspect of direct loss to the
organization. Not every company offers direct sales of products, but this category also

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 17

includes any loss of service that the department or company produces. No matter the
organization, if the mission is affected in a negative manner that can be measured, it
equates to the loss of sales.

l Medical costs. Active shooter events often involve numerous killed and wounded. When
dealing with multiple injuries and fatalities, the ambulance and hospital fees alone will
be immense. In addition, the long-term medical rehabilitation and therapy can also be a
tremendous cost to the organization even with insurance coverage.

l Legal fees. Any serious workplace violence event will involve litigation by the injured parties.
Such cases may range from easy out-of-court settlements to multi-million-dollar decisions.
The attorney fees alone can bankrupt organizations; such lawsuits can take years to reach
a settlement or decision, and all the while, attorney fees continue to grow. Furthermore,
disregard for preventive and preparatory measures can also lead to gross negligence claims
and increase the legal payouts to the injured by millions of dollars. Unfortunately, if you
do not invest in a proper workplace violence/active shooter program along with a proper
security plan and emergency action plan, you may expose the company to addition litigation.

l Physical security measures. Many organizations choose to wait until after a serious incident
to improve their security posture. Although this is a foolish status quo to maintain, it is
common in the real world. The additional costs to develop proper action plans and security
programs, along with physical security countermeasures such as barriers, access controls,
video surveillance, and intrusion alarm systems, may all be part of the costly investment
required after an incident.

l Counseling. The costs of providing counseling to all affected employees and guests can be a
tremendous expense, especially considering all the other costs involved in recovery from an
active shooter event. Counseling may continue for weeks, if not months, after an incident
and is tied closely with the loss of productivity by the affected staff members.

Indirect costs to the organization may include the following:

l Reputation. It is hard to measure the effect an active shooter may have on a company’s
reputation. However, it is easy to recognize that it certainly will psychologically affect employees,
clients, neighbors, and partners. Reputation is often a closely guarded attribute for successful
organizations—many will sacrifice profit to maintain their standing in the eyes of their investors
and the public. A single incident could shake the foundations of trust in an organization,
especially if the response and recovery phases are not well planned and executed.

l Business relationships. It is easily inferred that many companies choose business partners
based on their trustworthiness, deliverables, and financial sustainability. Typically it is a
two-way street for both partners. An active shooter incident may affect the relationship for
several reasons. First, such threats could be a risk for businesses doing business with the
affected company, especially when one’s operation could endanger the other’s by exposing
it to such threats. Second, if the affected business cannot deliver on its commitments,
the business may be quickly moved to a competitor. Another aspect involves the risk of
reputation loss by doing business with a company that is being portrayed in a negative light
by the press.


l People/experience. As already mentioned, a company should expect that some of its best
and brightest employees might not return to work after a serious incident. This can cause
the organization to lose a tremendous amount of experience in a very short time. Most
professionals take years to master their trade, and such losses can be traumatic to the
company. The loss of senior people may also negatively affect the organization’s stock
value, causing serious shareholder and investor losses at a time when the company can
least afford it.

l Business location. In the event of a deadly attack in the workplace, the company may choose
to find another location to do business. As the old saying has it, location is everything in
business—meaning that a large part of the value of a company may be based on its physical
geographic location. The cost of a move can cost business, diminish productivity, and lose
sales opportunities. If a business closes its doors because of an active shooter incident, the
costs to relocate and establish the business can be another excessive expense to incur at a
time when such changes and expenses can be extremely detrimental to the company.

The organization has a duty of care to protect its guests and employees while they are on
the premises—and even off the premises at times. The ability of the organization to protect
all employees and guests from acts of violence is challenging even for the most secure opera-
tions. Depending on your organizational mission, it can be quite simple to secure the site from
outside interference, but for those working in the medical field or at educational and religious
institutions, it can be quite a challenge to protect everyone from such a wide range of threats. It
is harder still to protect against those who are trusted colleagues.

The insider threat is a very difficult problem for many organizations to address, for often
such personnel are provided open access to the site and can document security procedures
and countermeasures. Such information provides valuable data during the planning stage of
an attack by an insider. Often, these employees do not have previous criminal records and may
be “good” employees for many years before deciding to commit an act of violence. Not sur-
prisingly, the insider threat may be the most difficult threat to identify and mitigate prior to an
active shooter event.

On October 14, 2014, Abdulaziz Fahad Abdulaziz Alrashid, an American–Saudi national
working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, shot and killed a former coworker at an off-site gas station [10].
Allegedly, Abdulaziz shot his former colleague because he believed that he had turned him
in to his bosses for using drugs, causing his termination by his employer. Although many
of the details in this case have not been released to the public, if the reported facts are true,
this example illustrates the level of violence that many people face daily in the workplace.
Furthermore, perceived wrongs in the workplace—or, in this case, reporting illegal activity to
superiors—can lead to ferocious retaliation by colleagues who are not mentally stable.

[1] Blair JP, Schweit KW. A Study of Active Shooter Incidents, 2000–2013. Washington D.C.: Texas State

University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice; 2014.

[2] <–201492171737803205.

Chapter 1 l Active Shooters and Workplace Violence 19

[3] <>.
[4] <>.
[5] U.S. Department of Homeland Security Active Shooter: How To Respond. Washington DC: U.S.

Department of Homeland Security; 2010.

[6] <

[7] <>.
[8] Doss KT. Physical Security Professional (PSP) Study Guide, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: ASIS International

Press; 2011.

[9] <>.
[10] <>.

  • 1 Active Shooters and Workplace Violence
    • Introduction
    • Historical Overview
    • Active Shooter Definition
    • Complexity of Violence
    • Prevention
    • Workplace Violence
      • Personal Relationships
      • Employer-Related
      • Property or Commercially Motivated
    • Four Levels of Violence in the Workplace
    • Costs to the Organization
    • References
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