News and Events

All Threats Are Not The Same

George L. Vergolias
April 24, 2018

All threats of violence are not the same. Two threats can both be very serious in severity, yet have very different dynamics related to motives, pre-attack warning signs, planning, execution, and lethality.

 

Within the past three days North America experienced a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, and a vehicular mass attack in Toronto, Canada. Details of both attacks continue to be clarified, but we know from preliminary reports some stark differences.

 

The Nashville shooter, Travis Reinking had:

  • repeated involvement with legal authorities and mental health providers;
  • guns confiscated by court order and placed with his father;
  • multiple prior incidents with law enforcement, including the FBI and Secret Service;
  • prior involvement with the mental health system for severe mental illness, including past episodes of suicidal ideation and delusional psychosis;
  • no immediate suicidal ideation at the time of attack, as he attempted to flee the scene after killing four victims and was apprehended more than 24 hours later.

 

The Toronto attacker, Alek Minassian had:

  • no prior involvement with legal authorities;
  • no prior history of weapons charges or transgressions;
  • no criminal history;
  • no history of severe mental illness such as psychosis or delusions, yet he was identified as having some emotional and behavioral problems in his youth and was described as socially awkward and aloof by peers;
  • clear immediate suicidal ideation at the time of attack, as he did not attempt to flee the scene and asked the responding officer to shoot him.

 

The clearest commonality is both engaged in a predatory attack, with pre-planning involved and intention to harm and/or kill multiple victims unknown to the attacker.

 

Over the coming days and weeks other details will surface, perhaps highlighting more differences and more similarities. Yet, the risk factors identified above are the likely risk factors that would have surfaced in the days, weeks, and months prior to the attack – in Reinking’s case, they did surface. Yet, at face value Reinking looked far more dangerous, and yet Minassian inflicted far more damage.

 

All threats are not the same, and all threats are not what they initially appear to be. There are a host of biases and missteps one can fall into in making quick assumptions that someone poses a severe threat or no threat at all. Don’t make those mistakes. R3 Continuum has extensive experience in screening, assessing, mitigating, and redirecting those on a trajectory of predatory violence. We can help you navigate these delicate situations when they arise, or when your company needs training on workplace violence, threat mitigation, and hostility management. We’re here to assist in keeping you and those you are charged to protect safe.

George Vergolias

VP, Medical Director

About the Author: George Vergolias, PsyD, LP is a forensic psychologist and threat management expert serving as Vice President and Medical Director for the R3 Continuum. As part of his role of Vice President and Medical Director of R3 Continuum, he leads their Threat of violence and workplace violence programs. Dr. Vergolias is also the founder and President of TelePsych Supports, a tele-mental health company providing involuntary commitment and crisis risk evaluations for hospitals and emergency departments. He has over 20 years of forensic experience with expertise in the following areas: violence risk and threat management, psychological dynamics of stalking, sexual offending, emotional trauma, civil and involuntary commitment, suicide and self-harm, occupational disability, law enforcement consultation, expert witness testimony, and tele-mental health. Dr. Vergolias has directly assessed or managed over one thousand cases related to elevated risk for violence or self-harm, sexual assault, stalking, and communicated threats. He has consulted with regional, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service, and Bureau of Prisons. He has worked for and consulted with Fortune 500 companies, major insurance carriers, government agencies, and large healthcare systems on issues related to work absence management, workplace violence, medical necessity reviews, and expert witness consultation.