FBI Active Shooter Study: Pre-Attack Observable Behaviors

In the wake of the high volume of active shooters in 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report on identifying pre-attack observable behaviors of potential shooters. The report, titled “A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000 and 2013,” discusses the continuation of the FBI’s 2013 report on active shooters, with a focus on identifying patterns of behavior exhibited by shooters in the events leading up to the attack. The FBI’s goal for the study and report was “to examine specific behaviors that may precede an attack and which might be useful in identifying, assessing, and managing those who may be on a pathway to deadly violence.”

The report identifies ten key findings of the study. Critical points include statistics that reveal that each active shooter displayed four to five concerning behaviors over time, mostly related to mental health and personal relationships, as well as that active shooters typically were experiencing multiple stressors at the time of the shooting.

The study’s methodology includes accounting for the variables of demographics, planning and preparation, acquisition of firearms, stressors, grievance formation, concerning pre-attack behaviors and communications, targeting decisions, and mental health. Shooter demographics include age, gender, race, level of education, employment status, military experience, relationship status, criminal convictions, and anti-social behavior. The report did not identify any uniformity among shooters based on demographics that could have allowed identification prior to the attack.

The HSDL offers many similar resources on related topics. Visit the Featured Topics for more on Active Shooters, Domestic (U.S.) Terrorism, and School Violence. The HSDL’s Timeline also includes facts and links to resources regarding active shooter events in the U.S. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources