NEW ORLEANS -- Research shows there is one thing that many mass shooters have in common that may help in the future to stop these kinds of tragedies.
What is common, and happened with the alleged gunman in Florida Wednesday, is they somehow signal or let others know that they are planning something. And in all cases, students and adults need to tell authorities.
Findings from the Safe School Initiative suggest that some future attacks may be preventable. Most incidents of targeted school violence were planned. Attackers' behavior suggested that they were preparing for an attack and peers knew the attack was going to occur. Most attackers were not "invisible," but were a concern to people in their lives.
LSUHSC psychiatrist Dr. Graham Spruiell says telling or posting their intentions is common.
"Part of the purpose of leakage is to see how other people will react," Dr. Spruiell explained, so they can see if they will still be accepted by the people in their lives.
And he says preoccupation or obsession with the threat is a warning sign.
"I think when a threat becomes repetitive, it's much higher risk," he said.
"When people demonstrate in videos weaponry, hatred, hate speech about particular places, individual or events, when they are talking about doing damage and violence to animals, I mean all of those are red flags," said Loyola Professor of Criminology and Justice Dr. Ronal Serpas.
Serpas says two things may hinder law enforcement to follow up on reports of concerning signs: The number of police versus the enormous number of videos and threats on line to see if they are credible, and how policies may tie their hands.
"The world is changing, right? The Supreme Court every year deals with differences in search warrants verses the 1800s. The world is changing. People are putting a lot of information on the internet that they themselves don't realize could be incriminating, and in fact, maybe we should be thinking about the criminal statutes that surround the types of threats and violence and actions that could be discussed on the internet," Serpas said.
The suspect in the Florida case reportedly destroyed property and showed peers the animals he had killed and had been in mental health treatment, but doctors say laws today make it harder to commit someone to treatment.
Dr. Spruiell says look for people who are always blaming others for their circumstances. In that situation there is a revenge motive.