A new report has revealed that all 28 of the mass public attackers in the US last year were men who had experienced a significant ‘life stressor’ in the past five years.
In a study released on Thursday, the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center analyzed every 2017 attack in a public space in which three or more people were significantly harmed. Drug and gang violence, as well as mob violence, were excluded.
The study found that every attacker had experienced a significant stressor within five years, including relationship or professional setbacks, financial difficulty, contact with law enforcement, and health or housing struggles.
About half of the attacks appeared to be motivated by grievances, including workplace, domestic and personal disputes.
A fifth were motivated by strong racial or religious ideologies. Of the ideologues, equal numbers were white supremacists, black nationalists, and ISIS supporters, with two attackers falling into each category.
Mass killers (left to right): Stephen Paddock, Devin Patrick Kelly, and allegedly Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov were responsible for the three deadliest mass attacks in 2017
This map shows the 28 attacks in a public space in which three or more people were significantly harmed. Drug and gang violence, as well as mob violence, are excluded
School attacks, though recently much in the public focus, accounted for only 14 per cent of mass attacks, with four incidents. Attacks were much more likely to occur at businesses, which accounted for 46 per cent of incidents, or public open spaces, at 32 per cent.
Locations of the attacks by category. Some attacks spanned multiple locations
Though guns were used in eight out of ten of the mass attacks, knives and cars were also used. The year’s third-deadliest attack occurred when an ISIS supporter allegedly rammed a truck into pedestrians on a New York City bike path.
Of those attackers who used firearms, nearly half possessed those guns illegally.
Mental illness was a common thread, the study found, with two-thirds of attackers experiencing symptoms prior to the incidents – the most common being hallucinations, delusions, or suicidal thoughts.
The year’s deadliest mass attack was in Las Vegas, where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock killed 58 before committing suicide in the Mandalay Bay
This table shows the number (n) of attackers in each motive category and percent of the total
The ages of the attackers ranged from 15 to 66, with fairly even distribution among different age groups.
The age distribution of the attackers is seen
The year’s deadliest mass attack was in Las Vegas, where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock killed 58 before committing suicide.
His motive remains unclear, but like all the other attackers, he had recently experienced life stressors, including losing significant amounts of money and suffering bouts of depression.
The second most deadly attack occurred at a church in Southerland Springs, Texas, where a man in a domestic dispute with his mother-in-law barged into her church and fatally shot 26.
The attacker, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, was gunned down by two armed citizens as he attempted to escape.
Devin Patrick Kelley fatally shot 26 in this church in Sutherland Springs, Texas
A memorial is seen where a truck attack killed eight people on New York’s West Side Highway
In 2012, Kelly divorced his first wife and was court-martialed by the Air Force for assaulting her and their child. He also escaped from a mental health facility the same year.
Half of the attacks lasted less than 5 minutes
Both incidents should have barred Kelly from purchasing a firearm, but reporting failures resulted in him clearing a gun purchase background check.
On October 31, a truck attack in Manhattan killed eight. The suspect is Uzbekistan native Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov, 29, who entered the US through the ‘diversity lottery’ and professed allegiance to ISIS after the attack.
Saipov had been interviewed by federal agents in 2015 over his contacts with suspected terrorists, and acquaintances said his temper had repeatedly gotten him fired from driving jobs in recent years.
The new study found that the vast majority of the attackers – 79 per cent – showed warning signs that concerned others, including disturbing communications or behavior.
The attackers who concerned others before the attacks had higher average casualties than those who showed no warning signs, the study found.