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FBI: Noblesville school shooting was preventable

Posted at 6:44 AM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 14:34:24-05

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — The man in charge of the FBI in Indianapolis said the Noblesville Middle School West shooting could have been prevented.

Call 6 has learned there were key warning signs that were never reported, that could have potentially stopped the shooter before he even came to school that day. FBI Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall said most school shootings are preventable, including the Noblesville one. The difficulty is people reporting the concerns.

"They might not know exactly what the shooter is going to do, but in the vast majority of cases, somebody in retrospect had recognized some type of behavioral change that could have been significant and again, not a very high percentage of people reported it to law enforcement," Mendenhall said.

The findings are all part of a new study released by the FBI that studied active shooter incidents over 13 years. 

The report states, in part: 

In the weeks and months before an attack, many active shooters engage in behaviors that may signal impending violence. While some of these behaviors are intentionally concealed, others are observable and — if recognized and reported — may lead to a disruption prior to an attack. Unfortunately, well-meaning bystanders (often friends and family members of the active shooter) may struggle to appropriately categorize the observed behavior as malevolent. They may even resist taking action to report for fear of erroneously labeling a friend or family member as a potential killer. Once reported to law enforcement, those in authority may also struggle to decide how best to assess and intervene, particularly if no crime has yet been committed.

In Noblesville, the school was aware of 21 incidents of misconduct involving the teen in the seven months before the shooting. RTV6 is not naming the shooter because he is a juvenile.

But the biggest sign was on the morning of the shooting. It was revealed in court that the shooter sent a text message to three different students warning them not to come to school.

Noblesville Schools Director of Marketing and Communications Marnie Cooke released the following statement: 

"While we can’t speak to specific items in an individual’s file due to privacy laws, it is important to note that nothing in this individual’s behavior record would have led us to believe there was a safety threat. 

To clarify, there were 21 notes regarding behavior, not 21 incidents of discipline, and that level of documentation in a student’s record is not uncommon. In general, file notes can contain documentation regarding a student’s grades, and teacher and parent conversations, in addition to actual behavior or discipline concerns." 

Dr. Jill Fodstad, a child psychologist at Riley Hospital, said while she isn't aware of the specifics of the Noblesville case, she says the warning signs are often the same across the board.

"It's not just because someone is odd or has disruptive behaviors that makes them a school shooter, it's that they have that may have those warning signs and they're talking about hurting themselves or other people," she said.

The FBI field office in Indianapolis has been distributing the report to school districts and police departments across the state to help recognize potential threats. Click here to read the full report. 

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