Friday, May 22, 2020

Future American Military Bases Will Be Attacked

The copycat effect is back.

I have engaged in several decades of working in the realm of mental health hospitals, treatment facilities, juvenile corrections, law enforcement consultations, and academia, before and after earning a graduate degree in psychiatric social work at Boston's Simmons College and doctoral work in social anthropology and family violence. I devoted part of my professional and academic research life to the field of suicide prevention, mass violence prevention, and aligned social policy. Related work in this area has included a study of the influence of media on creating unreasonable expectations. My 2004 Simon and Schuster book, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines offered what a Kirkus reviewer described as "persuasive and chilling evidence" that acts of violence promoted by media reports "often inspire imitation."

The Copycat Effect and The Media

It is probably not remarkable to accept the fact that when The Copycat Effect appeared, the media (in the form of reviewers with journals, newspapers, and television), in general, ignored the book. In the United States, only one newspaper, the Boston Globe, had a writer take the time to harshly review my book and dismiss the media's influence on extending the violence rampant in their news stories. The international reaction was pointedly different in Canada, and, for example, in South Korea, some open-mindedness to examine the "copycat effect" occurred. Beyond the borders of the USA, the reality of the copycat effect was viewed, where as in the USA, my thesis was ridiculed.

Nevertheless, I knew from private correspondence, in law enforcement circles and among some in the military, there was an understanding of the lessons to be learned by watching the unfolding of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and related events. Warning signs were clear, if you watched and looked.

Suicide Clusters Based On The Contagion Factor

Since my earlier book, Suicide Clusters (Faber and Faber, 1987) had laid down the foundation of the "copycat effect" via the then widespread clustering of suburban communities' waves of deaths by suicide, the jump in school shootings between 1987 and 2004, gave more evidence of the phenomenon.

After 2004, the skepticism of the existence of the "copycat effect" became less apparent as the growing evidence from broader acts of school shootings and terrorist attacks made the rejection of the  contagion factor not tenable.

The Copycat Effect in the 21st Century

While my book may be forgotten in terms of its academic influence, within popular usage, the term "the copycat effect" could no longer be ignored.

Examples abound of the struggle with the concept and the growing evidence that cannot be overlooked. But the challenge to accept the copycat effect continues up to today. 

The Washington Post published an article, "Yes, mass shootings tend to produce copycats. So do terrorist attacks," December 4, 2015. The piece was by Erica Chenoweth is a Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and a Susan and Kenneth Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The German media publication DW published a selection entitled "Terrorism and the copycat effect," May 9, 2017, by journalist Julia Vergin. Psychology Today published "Terrorists or Copycats? What's The Difference?" by Sue Kolod, Ph.D., May 3, 2018. Kolod's article even links to the 2017 guidelines for journalists to use in reporting on mass shootings (which hark back to those from the 1980s for reporting on suicide clusters and the 1990s for reporting on school shootings).

The questioning of the "copycat effect" is still around. The National Center for Health Research, before COVID-19 drew most of their attention, published late in 2019 or early in 2020, with a 2020 copyright date, "Does Media Coverage Inspire Copy Cat Mass Shootings?" by Alex Pew, Lauren Goldbeck, Caroline Halsted, and Diana Zuckerman, PhD, National Center for Health Research.

As has been indicated, suicide clusters, school shootings, and mass shootings have been joined by various types of terrorist attacks around the world. These include vehicular terror attacks, especially in Europe.

These articles routinely, when looking at the copycat effect in America, reprint the Mother Jones graphic from data analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health.  These charts track mass shootings from 1982 through 2014. The increase in the waves of mass shootings can be clearly shown, with some familiar names are recognized because of the media attention they received.

9/11 Gap In The Copycat Effect

As I discussed in The Copycat Effect (2004), one of the big gaps in the mass shootings takes place after 9/11/2001. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the mainstream media went into a period of blackout and directed attention. Domestic school shootings was no longer at the top of their media's agenda. The news was focused on terrorism, the events of 9/11, and the new wars against terrorism (including the military actions directed at Afghanistan and Iraq).

The first media attention to post-9/11 mass shootings were not in the USA. Again, as I pointed out in The Copycat Effect, after the Twin Towers and same day attacks, it was over a year without any school shootings and workplace shootings being reported. The "return" of mass shootings was signaled first by international news of school shootings.

After 9/11, the gap in school shootings vanished with February and April 2002 school shootings in Munich and Erfurt, Germany. The death toll of 17 in Erfurt was noted widely in the US. Then there was an April 2002 high school shooting in Vlasenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and another high school shooting in January 2003 in Taiuva, Brazil.

It was not until January 2003 at the Burger King in Pomona, California, with 2 dead; a workplace in February 2003 in Huntsville, Alabama, with 4 dead; and a middle school in April 2003, in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, with 2 dead, when mass shootings were in the news again.

The Copycat Effect in the Time of COVID-19

What patterns can we see developing in a similar fashion in May 2020?

Since early in March 2020, the news media ~ whether via television, social media, newspapers, or radio ~ have almost entirely concentrated their stories (or as it is euphemistically called on cable television: "Breaking News") on two major themes: COVID-19 and President Trump.

The tracking of the number of new cases of the novel coronavirus, the number of deaths, the society's reaction, the economic input, and the government's responses (mostly through President Donald J. Trump's "news conferences") have been the only "news" most people hear.

Now, as the economy and businesses re-open as we move into late May and spring-like weather across the USA, the alert to the copycat effect must be raised.

Notice what has occurred.

International Mass Shooting: 2020

First, there has been an international mass shooting incident that produced media attention.

In Nova Scotia, on April 19, 2020, a 12 hour mass shooting spree ended with the gunman dead. With his victims, 23 including a RCMP officer were dead. See here, for details.

This mass shooting is part of the growing "incel" trend. Gabriel Wortman, the gunman, is pictured.

Post-Quaratine Shootings: 2020

What is happening? Do we need a weatherperson to tell us which way the wind is blowing?


On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, Arizona, was hit with a shooting. Three people were injured in the mall shooting on Wednesday night, with one critically, and two with non-life-threatening injuries.

The police in Glendale, Arizona, said on Thursday May 21, 2020, that they had a suspect in custody, 20-year old Armando Hernandez Jr. He used a "black assault rifle." State Senator Martin Quezada identified it as an AR-15.

The suspect told detectives “that he was planning on going to Westgate to harm 10 victims with this horrendous act,” and that it was unclear why the number 10 was chosen. “He said that he went to Westgate to target victims,” the police said. “He wanted to gain some respect and he felt that he had been bullied in his life.”

The gunfire erupted just about 7:25 p.m. local time at the Westgate Entertainment District, where panicked shoppers and store employees rushed for cover. The large outdoor shopping center, which is about 10 miles outside Phoenix, had been closed under a stay-at-home order in Arizona and reopened on May 8.


On Thursday, May 21, 2020, an apparent terrorist attack occurred at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The copycat effect exists. Possible future Naval Station attacks should be on the radar of local law enforcement and military police.

A twenty-year-old male named Adam Alsahli of Corpus Christi drove to an entrance at the naval station and shot a security forces member in the chest, hitting the guard in her bulletproof vest and inflicting non-life-threatening injuries. Alsahli then accelerated towards the gate entrance and crashed into a barrier. After exiting the vehicle, he began shooting, and was shot and killed by naval security forces.

The base was put on lockdown after security forces responded to reports of an active shooter around 6:15 a.m. CT, according to the Navy.

A preliminary law enforcement investigation into the shooter has identified him as a US resident who was originally born in Syria, and likely a supporter of Salafi-jihadist ideology. Officials have identified various social media accounts, which initial reports indicate are likely associated with the shooter, the source said. Online postings by these accounts expressed support for ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Naval Air Station Corpus Christi has been home to Naval pilot training since 1941.

Florida: Copycat Source of 2020's Attack?

May 20, 2020's shooting took place three days after the FBI and Attorney General Barr held a news conference announcing they had found a link between al Qaeda and a Saudi military trainee who killed three US sailors and wounded several others in a terror attack in 2019 on Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Mohammed Said Alshamrani (pictured), a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force who had been training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, was killed by law enforcement during the attack.
The shooter in that attack had communicated with al Qaeda operatives as recently as the night prior to the shooting. His ties to the AQAP began as far back as 2015 and were "significant."

Alshamrani had made anti-American, anti-Israel and jihadi posts on social media -- including one on the September 11 anniversary -- that stated "the countdown has begun," and another two hours before the attack that referenced the words of an al Qaeda cleric. During a 15-minute shooting spree, Alshamrani shot at a photo of President Donald Trump as well as a former president. He made statements during the attack that were critical of American servicemen overseas, the FBI has said.
AQAP had claimed responsibility for the Pensacola attack and said it was in touch with Alshamrani. In February, the White House announced that Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of the group, had been killed in an airstrike in Yemen.

The timing of the Florida attack matched the pattern at the Naval base in Texas. On the morning of December 6, 2019, a terrorist attack occurred at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida. Prior to the attack, at 6:39 a.m. a message on Twitter was posted by a user using the handle @M7MD_SHAMRANI, which declared hate for Americans due to its support of Israel.
The shooting was first reported at 6:51 a.m. when the suspect, armed with a 9mm Glock handgun and several extra magazines, opened fire in one of the classroom buildings. During the incident he moved through two floors of the building, discharging his weapon on both. One of the victims was able to make his way away from the scene to alert the first response team of the location of the shooter amongst other details. The suspect was shot and killed at 7:45 a.m. after two deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office exchanged gunfire with him.

Future 2020 Military Base Attacks?

Military bases in the USA are not the fortresses against penetration that they once were thought to be. The enemy on the outside and inside are causing casualties. As the Mother Jones chart from 2015 testifies, the Washington (D.C.) Navy Yard shooting of 2013 involved a high death toll. In that incident, 13 (including the gunman) died. The Fort Hood shooting of 2009, involved a total body count of 14 (including one unborn child). 

Increasingly, military bases in the US have been the site of active shooter incidents. Between 2000 and 2018, there were 277 active shooter incidents, what the FBI defined as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area." In total, 2,430 people were either killed or injured.

From 2000 through 2018, seven of the 277 active shooter incidents were on military property.

During 2019, four of the active shooter incidents were on military bases. These were:

January 1, 2019: On New Year's Day, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Riley Kuznia was killed by another on-duty Marine at the Washington, D.C., Marine Barracks.

April 5, 2019: At the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a 25-year-old male Navy sailor was killed by base security after shooting a female sailor in the parking lot. The woman was taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

December 4, 2019: A 22-year-old active duty sailor killed two people and injured another at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard near Honolulu, Hawaii, according to authorities. The shooter opened fire on shipyard personnel with his M4 service rifle and then used his M9 service pistol to shoot and kill himself.

December 6, 2019: An active shooter was reported at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 6, 2019. Four people, including the suspected shooter, were killed. (Detailed above.)


With the "re-starting" of active shooter situations in 2020, military bases in the United States should consider the rising rate of incidents at their locations alarming. These location must be on alert and prepared for the impact of the copycat effect in the future.

Look to the special dates and situations that terrorists and terror wannabes will try to match with past incidents, times, and numbers.

Be safe.

1 comment:

Occult Fan said...

Loren, I hope you're wrong! ^^