Middleton Attack Part of Secret Service Study on Mass Shootings

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Michelle Phillips
Paradigm in Middleton was the scene of a workplace shooting last September, and the incident was included in a study by the Secret Service concerning mass shootings.

WASHINGTON DC–The Middleton workplace shooting that took place at Paradigm (then known as WTS Paradigm) on Sept. 19, 2018, was used as part of a study by the US Secret Service regarding mass shootings in the United States. 

The survey, “Mass Attacks in Public Spaces–2018,” produced by the agency’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) examined 27 shootings from Jan.-Dec. 2018. This is only the second year the assessment has been done, with the inaugural study in 2017, which examined 28 shootings. The study required that three or more people had been injured in an incident to be considered a mass shooting–there is no standard definition of “mass shooting” in the US. The study considers public spaces to be anywhere people gather in public, places of worship, shopping malls, schools and the workplace.

“The National Threat Assessment Center has unique and unparalleled experience in identifying threats to safety and preventing tragedies,” US Secret Service Director James Murray said. “This report provides our communities with information and best practices to recognize and prevent future violence.”

Findings in the study conclude that although there are similarities regardless of location of the events or when inspired by ideology, there was no single, clear-cut motive or cause in the incidents. In addition it found that there were typically early warning signs that could help prevent these shootings, and that targeted violence can be prevented if measures are in place to “identify concerning behaviors, gather information to assess the risk of violence, and utilize community resources to mitigate risk.”

Some of the findings of the report include: 

• Ninety-one people were killed and another 107 injured in the 2018 attacks examined in the study.

• The number of mass shootings by the above definition were nearly identical in number between 2018 (27) and 2017 (28).

• In 2018 about half of public shootings involved workplace grievances, personal issues or domestic situations. In 2017 the majority of incidents were motivated by the same factors.

• About three-quarters of the individuals had made threats to others before the incident.

• Almost all had a major stressor, one of the most prominent stressors for the perpetrators was financial instability.

• A place of business was the most likely site for a public shooting, and 70 percent (20) of the shootings were carried out there. This is an increase from 2017, which saw 13 shootings at businesses.

• Most had a history of criminal charges, mental health concerns or illicit substance use/abuse.

• Roughly 50 percent of the shooters either leave the scene of the crime or commit suicide.

• The most common days of the week for a shooting are Wednesday and Thursday.

• The majority of incidents lasted less than five minutes.

• All but one of the attackers were male. All of the shooters were men in the 2017 study.

• The average age of a shooter is 37.

The report also finds that guns were the preferred weapon, and were used in 24 of the attacks, three used cars. Of the 24 that used guns, 10 possessed the weapons illegally, including Anthony Tong, the Paradigm shooter. Four people were injured in the Paradigm shooting. 

Tong had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was barred from owning firearms in South Dakota in 2004 after a strange encounter with police in which he had removed the fixtures from his apartment and refused to let them in to a bedroom. After appearing in court for the incident, a judge banned Tong from owning guns. 

Though the majority of shooters make threats to others, Tong did not threaten coworkers ahead of time. He had also not been reprimanded for his work performance when the shooting took place. The motive in this case remained unclear, and the reason for those he targeted unknown.

“A major component of the Secret Service’s mission has long been the identification of potential threat actors and the assessment and mitigation of the threat before an act of violence is carried out against persons whom we protect,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Diiorio of the U.S. Secret Service’s Chicago Field Office. “The National Threat Assessment Center has tailored this threat assessment methodology to the prevention of targeted violence in the communities in which we serve and live. The methodology shared in the report can be employed by both public and private sector organizations, including where people gather to work, learn, or pray, to ensure that they can do so safely.”

The report was released on July 9 and is available to the public. To access the document visit: secretservice.gov/data/press/reports/USSS_FY2019_MAPS.pdf.

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