In our Gabrielle Dee Giffords’ Case File, we shared a detailed description and analysis of the events surrounding the mass shooting at an event in 2011 from the perspective of the attacker — Jared Lee Loughner. The Case File includes the background and synopsis of the event, a detailed timeline, and the pre-incident indicators that were present.

Looking back on the ten year anniversary, it feels important to remember the silver lining in learning from an event such as this one, and realize how far technology and resources have come to help prevent or disrupt similar acts in the days leading up to the event. As Fred Burton shares, “Tragedy has forced lots of changes (in the security industry), mostly driven by intelligence failures. However, adaptation and resilience have been our guiding strengths.”

Three areas, in particular, have notably progressed since this event in 2011:

  • Social Media Listening and Investigations
  • Event Security (Intelligence Support)
  • Mental Health Resources

Social Media Listening and Investigations — 10 years ago, the role of social media threat intelligence in investigations was not nearly as prominent as it is today. The use of social media has grown tremendously in the time since the attack as a way for individuals to voice their behavior and attitudes, although sometimes in a cryptic way. At Ontic, we are confident that messages, such as the ones listed below, would have been discovered, investigated, and scrutinized if the event would have occurred in recent years.

    • Fall 2010 — Loughner posts statements on his MySpace page that indicate he may have been contemplating suicide (September 23, 2010). He records a disturbing video about Pima Community College while on campus, which he uploads on a YouTube account.

November 2010 — Loughner posted a comment online, writing “I have a new tattoo on my back: 2 9mm bullets”. He followed that comment with, “There are important figures in my dreams that accomplished political aspirations: Hitler, Hilary Clinton [sic] and Giffords to name a few”.

December 13, 2010 – Loughner posts statements on his MySpace page that threatens law enforcement and suggests he may have been contemplating his own death.

(Day of Shooting) – Posts “Goodbye… Dear friends” message to his MySpace page.

Event Security (Intelligence Support) — The preparation and screening process for events with high profile speakers and attendees has grown immensely in recent years, with experiences such as the 2011 Giffords shooting to learn from.

First, it has become common place for any security detail working a high profile event to have intelligence support from a local or remote intelligence analyst or team. Intelligence support takes the form of:

  • Listening for threatening online chatter to identify those that might try to act out
  • Identifying anything that might impact logistics of the security team on-site, and
  • Conducting specific tasks for the security team (e.g. conducting due diligence on attendees that engage in suspicious activity such as attempting to gain unauthorized access)

Second, technology has significantly expanded the scope of protection that security practitioners can offer. For example:

  • Machines can be relied upon to scan guest lists for identifiers that match Be on the Lookout reports (BOLOs)
  • Visitor management systems (VMS) and license plate recognition cameras (LPR) can be used to alert for BOLO matches
  • Dynamic BOLO lists can be accessed on smartphones and they are always up-to-date

Mental Health Resources — Both corporations and schools have evolved in their resources available to address mental health, and the overall acceptance of the topic in everyday dialogue. Resources for both in-person and remote counseling are more available, and companies are aware that their duty of care expands into this arena and have invested in resources such as SIGMA’s Threat Assessment Training to ensure employees receive the support they deserve.

We are hopeful that Jared Lee Loughner’s concerning behavior on campus would have been met with support by the school counselor and law enforcement. Examples include:

    • Loughner staged a classroom protest after failing an assignment. When campus police arrived, he claimed a First Amendment right to free thoughts — and a right to a passing grade when he put those thoughts in schoolwork.


    • In another incident, witnesses told agents Loughner disrupted a poetry discussion by blurting, “We should have dynamite attached to babies.”

On September 23, 2010, he records and uploads a disturbing video to YouTube about PCC called “Jared Lee Loughner Pima Community College – School Genocide Scam Free Education Broken United States Constitution”. In the video, Loughner walks around filming the campus, making bizarre statements such as “This is my genocide school where I’m going to be homeless because of this school” and “this school is illegal according to the U.S. Constitution”, and one of the “biggest scams in America.”

For more details on the timeline of events and pre-incident indicators present, read the full Case File.

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