“Triggers” for an Active Shooting

On February 25th, 2016, Cedric Ford went on a rampage, killing 3 co-workers and injuring 14 others at Excel Industries in Hesston, KS. As it has been well established, shooters like Ford do not simply “snap” but are under a great amount of pressure and stress that can reach a tipping point by a negative action or event.

In the case at Excel Industries, Ford was just delivered a domestic abuse restraining order for the second time and it was about 90 minutes later that the rampage began. The aggravating factor may be the embarrassment of a deputy serving him court papers in front of his co-workers, not just once but twice, or that he evidently did not think he deserved it. After all, he did not show up for the court date after the first summons.

This all has significance regarding threat assessment procedures. It is fairly common for shooters to ruminate or think about their assault for a long time but it is a catalyst, an event or incident, that finally sends them over the edge. In this case, it was being served domestic abuse restraining order papers. In other similar cases, it is some legal or official grievance procedure such as divorce or child custody proceedings, a discrimination lawsuit or losing a workers compensation claim that makes them “lock and load”.

Security and threat assessment professionals must be aware of these potential “triggers” that can lead an individual to finally take the destructive path that they’ve been pondering. There are events and proceedings that security can monitor in the prevention of a rampage shootings. If any negative legal or disciplinary action are identified, security can implement additional security measures such as hiring an off-duty officer on that court date or at least have someone check in on the individual involved. There is no 100% certainty that any action or court decision will initiate a shooting but these events can be anticipated and therefore, management can be better prepared.