By now everyone in America, Canada and much of the world knows what happened on October 1, 2015 at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Unfortunately we also know the name of the shooter and that becomes part of the problem. Yes, we should learn from these incidents by studying what preceded them and what, if any, possible predictive signs could have been spotted. We should also learn from the tactics used in the incident so that we can prepare first responders for future events. But, do we all really have to know the name of the offender if they were killed in the incident? Might this feed the misguided notions of potential assailants who are troubled and may be seeking equal notoriety? I know the media feels that we need to know, but do we really? Yes, we need to know what happened and what we can learn from it, but knowing ‘who’ is a double-edged sword.
I applaud the responding law enforcement officers in this case because they did not release any names. Authorities did not publicly identify the shooter, but anonymous law enforcement officials told multiple news organizations that he was 26-year-old “unnamed”. “Unnamed” had neighbors who told CBS News that he was a bit of a loner and kept to himself.
As CBS News and the Guardian reported, a blog apparently linked to “unnamed” showed an interest in mass shootings, including the shooting in Virginia this August that left two journalists dead. One blog post stated, “I have noticed that so many people like [the shooter] are alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.” That suggests a desire for fame, which experts feel is quite common among mass shooters.
So why exactly do we need to know their names? Yes, as individuals and organizations, we need to know how to react to these dangerous incidents. Yes, we need to know the value of reporting red flag behavior if observed, or read about. But why offer the enticing notoriety that might provide motivation for future tragedies. In my opinion – we shouldn’t!
For more information on how to react in an actual active shooter event check out AFIMAC’s free online course at http://www.imac-training.com.