September 20, 2013
The dots were not connected
This past Tuesday, Aaron Alexis, 34, gained access to the Naval Ship Yard in Washington D.C. and killed 12 people. He also wounded 14 more (according to the Washington Post) before he was shot and killed by a police officer. This brings the total of people killed and wounded in WPV incidents in 2013 to 94 Dead and 108 Wounded (in Arizona the number is 20 Dead 19 Wounded).
The ship yard used to contain manufacturing facilities for naval weaponry. Now it is the headquarters for the Navy’s combat Systems division and the Naval Chief of Staff. More than 15,000 people work at the former ship yard and more than 3,000 were in the building that Alexis went into and started firing.
It is typical that the people who were closest to Alexis have all stated the one thread that binds them together, ‘I didn’t know he was capable of that!’ Of course because they denied the facts in front of them (see the blog poste on Tuesday). But the signs were there and have been for several years. It is unfortunate that the people closest to him were lulled into complacency by being friends with him.
So what were some of those warning signs that people failed to connect together? Here are 9 signs that I’ve heard about in the media. And no one has actually connected these together in one place. They all claim, justly, that he was ‘mentally ill’;
- Obsessed with violent games, which he played for hours (alone)
- Had unusual/changed behaviors in the past few months
- Felt he was treated unfairly by the military
- Serious personal stress (felt the contractor he worked for under paid him and estranged from his family)
- Had attendance problems both in the military and as a civilian
- Was having mental issues (heard voices and was severely paranoid)
- Had several arrests for weapons violations in multiple jurisdictions, that no one ‘was aware of’
- Had an anger management issue
- Had converted to Buddhism in recent years and was fervent about it
If you’ll remember from my previous posts you’ll see multiple warning signs (9 of 21) of Alexis in this list. It is unfortunate that some many lives and families have been changed forever because a few people didn’t see, or know, the warning signs. Another case in point that the warning signs must be taught and known. If we don’t learn them, or keep denying them, then we’ll have many more tragedies like this one.
Any time we have an incident such as this, or any incident large or small, it always comes down to why no one was able to connect the dots and know what was happening. Is it possible that this tragedy may not have happened if someone had put them all together? Possibly. There are no guarantees in these issues.
But in order for us to even attempt to avoid such murderous rampages in the workplace we have to absolutely learn how to connect the dots! Much like we do as a kid with the games of connect the dots in a book. Moving from one dot to another to form a complete picture.
And in order to do that we have to be able to learn what the dots are. Because if we don’t know what to look for and connect, then we won’t recognize it when, and if, we do notice them.
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Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace/school violence prevention. He has appeared in numerous media outlets in the past 30 years of being in the field and 20 studying, writing, and speaking about WPV/SV.
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