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San Bernardino Shootings: What We Know, One Day After

December 3, 2015 1:13 p.m.

San Bernardino Shootings: What We Know, One Day After

GUESTS:

J. Reid Meloy, forensic psychologist

Dan Willis, author, "Bulletproof Spirit: The First Responder's Essential Resource for Protecting and Healing Mind and Heart"

David Peters, licensed marriage and family therapist

Related Story: San Bernardino Shootings: What We Know, One Day After

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

It is possible that this was terrorist related, but we do not know. We all have a part to play. I do think that as the investigation moves forward, it will be important for all of us including our legislature to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide they want to do someone harm we make it harder. Now it is too easy.
That is the president's reaction to what happened one day after. Still trying to piece together as to what happened at the inland center. Why do mass shootings keep happening closer and closer to home. We have several experts and we will give our listeners a chance to be part of the conversation. 888 895 57 5727. 888 --.
If you want to be a source on this topic you can go to K PBS.OR G/source NBA source for the station.
Captain. Dan Willis author of book bulletproof spirit: the first responders essential resource for protecting and healing mind and heart. We also have David peters who is a family therapist in Mission Valley. And J. Ried Meloy who is a board-certified forensic psychologist. He is a consultant for the behavioral analysis for the FBI. There are a lot of folks here.
Let's start with Dan. Law enforcement. You watched this and -- unfold on TV. What were your thoughts.
The officers. When something like this happens the only objective is to protect life. They're responding and getting conflicting information and they are trying to engage the threat as soon as possible. My heart goes out to the officers. I think they did a fantastic and a credible job they were able to get both suspects. These officers will deal with what they experience for years to come.
It is amazing that you get a 911 called with shots fired in a complex, you're not associating with any terrorist threat or anything and you have to respond. It is full of people. How do you deal with that?
We tried to crow -- control what ends up being complete chaos. The objective is to engage the threat as soon as possible. The first officers there are trying to direct the other ones for tactical and protect life as soon as possible.
It would be incredibly difficult to tell who is a potential threat and who you are there to save their lives. Let's talk to David for a second. This is not the first time this is happened for the first time we have been through this type of coverage. It is getting closer and closer to home. Maybe you do not have any personal connection to what happened, but you can fill the coverage. How do you cope with this as an individual who may have shooting fatigue?
Be terror and terrorism often occurs as America watches life on air, and cable network, online. You see people fleeing the same with bloodstained shirts, people crying talking to the news media. People talk -- experience this together. The real risk is we can all be traumatized by watching the view over and over again as the days go by. I tell my clients to get away from the television. You only need to have the update on the news every several hours. To leave it on every day all day and watching the replay of the video gives a continuous experience of the world being out of control of their own safety being in jeopardy.
Can from San Matteo is on the phone.
While we wait for can, let's go to J. Ried Meloy. You were quoted in the LA Times that shootings made them immune
We found that people will have complex reactions depending upon their personality and temperament and experience. Some of them will become desensitized to these events. It will become the new normal for them. That is a real critical problem in our society when we assume this level of target of violence is the norm. Other people will be traumatized by these events and then try to generalize them and believe they are in imminent danger themselves. I think it is very important, and I want to criticize your choice of words, this is coming closer to home. I think the inference is it is encroaching on the boundaries of San Diego. I think it is very important to recognize that we do have a huge public health problem targeting these public events. I want to recognize that these events are not specifically encroaching upon San Diego and we are not in imminent threat of being attacked.
What do you mean by that? We have seen the coverage coming out that there has been more these mass shootings in the United States then there are days in the year of 2015. Colorado, community campus in Oregon. There are a number of the shootings going on and it does seem to be more prevalent.
From a science per effective, study one by the FBI that came out in 2014 that showed 150% increase over the past seven years in the country where there was intended shooting in public places and Harvard Public health showed an increase in the frequency of these over time. We know from data collection that it is true that there is an increase. It is horrifying and disturbing and we need to take steps as a society to address those problems. On the other hand, we have to be careful to not instill fear and panic in people as a way to drive ratings for the commercial media which is a great concern to me. These events, even though they are absolutely horrific, the media will try to drive ratings by adding further drama to it that has not been based in evidence or factual data collection.
I see David shaking his head agreeing with you. I'm got up at the number out there since we still have time in the segment. 888 888-895-5727.
What we do not see on television is also a fact that when you measure a salt depth we experience our most half the amount be used to have in the 70s and 80s. Yet, we do not have urgent headlines announcing that we are safer on the streets of America than the 70s and 80s. By a longshot, this is not urgent news. The urgent news is that which is scary. We do not want to increase the terror there by going along with the terrorist motivation.
I agree with that completely what Dave just said. We have seen a general decrease in violent crime over the past 30 years in the United States and it has been very steady and consistent. However, in targeted violence, in public places, where there are four or more individuals, this is also very disturbing that it is going against the general trend in which there is a decrease in violent crimes throughout the US that have been occurring over the past 30 years
This is maybe part of it. A decrease in violent crime in other areas so it becomes that much more shocking to people that they see this is happening.
Yes.
Captain. Dan Willis . Let's talk about if you are a person that is involved in this. You are in your workplace and shots fired what do you do?
The best thing people can do is run. Get out of there and create distance between you and the suspect. If you cannot run hide, if you can't hide, fight. Remember run, hide, fight. We really need to more mindful and vigilant. I heard a report that one of the neighbors of the suspect saw a lot of suspicious activity and thinking of calling the police and decided not to. The police really need that information. Let us come out and figure out if they are bad people or not. If you suspect anything at all, you do not have to know for sure, but the police know and do their job.
Has that philosophy of run, hide, or flight, has that evolved over time as we see more of the shootings happening?
It has. First responders and active shooters have been evolving to enhance your chances of surviving. Get out of there. When you can and it is safe call the police. Do not assume that everyone else has. Provide whatever information you have. If you cannot hide than fight for your life.
What kind of training -- at this would've happened in San Diego -- what kind of training is happening right here? Are you prepared? I don't know if anybody can truly be prepared and how well are you prepared locally with law enforcement?
The law officers are very prepared. They train annually or several times annually. The SWAT teams will train several times for active shooters. When this happens it goes over the countywide radio and you will have hundreds of officers responding to something like that. Some of the training is within other agencies. We trained together and we know how to respond in a tactical approach and engage the suspect as soon as possible.
I got a question from a call. I am a mother from a 12-year-old son. The availability of the first person shooter game echoes so much of what we are saying. Is there any reason to show a link between those violent video games and what we are seeing here?
One of the things we know, Steve, coming at it from a forensic psychological and research perspective, 99.9% of kids that are involved in those games it is not going to contribute to risk. But we do know for individuals of concern at times they will use first shooter person games they increase accuracy. When those games are utilized in preparation for an attack typically, when studies have looked at first-person shooter games, there are lots of other ingredients in the mix that will contribute to risk to a much greater degree than utilizing those games. You do not want that to be the one hater that is focused upon, even though recognized, there may be a whole bunch of other aspects and that individuals life that are suggestive of warning behavior. I want to underscore something that Dan said that is absolutely critical. This came out from the New York Police Department after 9/11 is if you see something say something program. People need to be situationally aware and see what's going on around them. If they do witness behavior or see behavior of concern, they need to act. They do not want to be a passive bystander. S Sandy Hook said we need to be up standards. We need to report these events of concern and have them looked into if we are going to keep our community and fabric of our society intact and trusting.
I want to get David again on the violent video games. Is that something we need to address?
The first I would like to say is that it any given time, there is a certain percentage of people in society that have mental illness that are unstable in the majority are stable. There is also a small percentage that has antisocial disorders and narcissistic personality with violent backgrounds. These are the people most borrow both by being inflamed by what they see or play with. I really do think, philosophically, what we use for toys and games we do need to be cautious about what we are putting out there. On the other hand with the video game situation, if it trains young people to experience violence and shooting as part of a game are fine with that a realistic assessment is what is at stake. I think it leads people to be very simpleminded when they think what it could the to march and army in to take over something they overestimate what real blood and fear or trauma when they are playing games like this.
So video games aren't a major factor, then what are the major factor? We heard the president at the top of the show talking about how we each need to take responsibility for this. If it is not something like video games, what is it?
Here's the challenge. We do know from watching our history, that a poor black kid in the ghetto with anger and humiliation, put a gun in his hand and he is at risk. For the white kid in the sticks who fills marginalized, he could be fun realized -- joining a skinhead group to bring meaning into his life. For a militant person who fills fear that the enemies are encroaching around us, he could want to pick up a gun and arm himself. In this case, what seems to may be the unfolding, we have someone who was a US citizen living a perfectly normal life, who came to believe somehow that he was under threat and have something to defend or assault and there is a triggering incident and we don't know when it happens
Syed Farook , a 28-year-old had been to Pakistan. His wife, Tashfeen Malik , was Pakistani and had a six-month-old daughter. Reports are they dropped the child off at a relative's house and went to the shooting. That has to be -- yeah. Let's talk a little bit to J. Ried Meloy about this. That has to be fairly unusual . The notion of a husband and wife with a small child.
We have a study coming out in the next couple weeks where we looked at 22 European terrorist and found those that operated in cells of two or three individuals, it was not unusual for them to both be with a partner and in some case have a child. But it does, in this case, and it's accurate information, I'm always very kill for in an ongoing investigation this early to not assume everything is factual. If this is true, it contributes to our understanding of premeditation and intent in this case to save the child, to ensure genetic liability for the couple to turn the child over to another cake taker. And to increase their survival rate. They did use tactical gear plus Kevlar vest. The protection of their offspring, prior to the planning involved in this particular event.
They might've thought they were going to survive this? They were going to away with it?
From my perspective, when that occurs, it is safe quite grandiose notion. Given the firepower they will come up against, but we have to look very carefully at the degree of tactical planning and preparation before you try to attribute it to anger in the workplace. There may have been the precipitating event that invited the unfolding of a mass murder that had been planned over a period of time.
Captain. Willis, when you're training locally, who are you training for? Who do you expect will be at the other end of these mass shootings?
It could be anyone. You cannot get inside the mind of evil here we have to recognize evil for what it is. Is been a lot of talk about militarization of the Police Department and equipment being taken away. The victims of shooting, they don't want people -- police less militarized. We need the bulletproof equipment and assault rifles. When these things happen and are likely as time goes on, potential targets of schools, you don't want someone to go in there to save the life of your child with a handgun
When you see that equipment team deployed from bonds -- bombs, the military situation, in that context it's more logical where you would use it. We need as much of that equipment as we have seen going to some of these local police station. Or as a coordinating some of it for specific situation.
It needs to be available whether it's regional or agent the. Officers are trained to look for explosive devices and other suspects that are trying to assault officers that are responding. The training is really all-inclusive. The more equipment we have to be prepared so the officers are safe and deal with whatever the people will have against them, the safer people will be.
Earlier today Jean Guerrera spoke to former Mayor Jerry Sanders. Here's what he had to say
When you have something that occurs like that that is so tragic, it really kind of rips people apart and takes them a long time to bring them back together. I would imagine in San Bernardino will have the same issue. Someone will blame someone when it is the work of arranged people who for whatever region -- reason decided to take a lot of lies before they were killed. It is like losing a loved one in your family, everybody is looking or somebody to blame on it. It is not a productive think the
He is worried about playing the blame game coming out of this. David you are shaking your head yes.
We are much greater risk of the blame game then when Jerry Sanders made that relevant comment in that shooting. The blame game is arty on the air from rational concern to irrational conspiracy theory. We have a major presidential candidate on the air stating something about the president that has him refusing to label terrorist as it's Islamic extremism. With candidates who can influence people breeding greater suspicion and fear and -- in the rational ways, you do affect society. They do follow along in that discussion and people feel more free to throw in their own conspiracy theory or anger or pain or terror thoughts that are not good contributions to that.
On the other hand, don't we need to learn some sort of lesson from these at some point. We may have from a law-enforcement perspective to responding to them, but we do need to come out with some sort of lessons learned. We not?
There are lessons learned. But they have to come from people who are doing research, publishing studies, talking immature ways using science and sociology to discuss the issue rather than the need for ratings.
J. Ried Meloy want to jump in here?
Since 9/11, there have been twice as many of targeted violence and killings of people that have died that were motivated and committed by the extreme right than the jihadist on the left. Them media needs to focus on the jihadist threat rather than the threat on the right often times because of the political blowback if they do that. We need to make sure we stay very aware of the facts of potential facts and not be influenced by being politically correct by attempting to drive ratings.
What you think the consequences are of that ? this may have it a terrorism front. Working to get a case study of the different perception of the motives of all here. Were the consequences of that?
Just to add something, typically workplace violence, which we study a light, defines a place for the violence occurred. Terrorism is either a tactic or motivation or both. That's like apples or oranges suppose it as either or is a misunderstanding of what those terms mean. Also, even with individuals that are radicalized from our study and work, if that turns out to be the case, often times these individuals do have a personal grievance that they then join with a moral outrage about some group that they fill a suffering and then it is framed -- framed by ideology. It becomes complex and it becomes careful to not simplify them or create false dichotomy's
Do we want to get into the notion of potential lessons learned here? We see statements coming out from Hillary Clinton, presidential president saying this cannot be the new normal. How do we prevent it? We arty see it is the new normal. Cattle we prevent that?
The best way to prevent something is everyone has a responsibility in our society to be diligent to be watchful and not fear any repercussion for calling about suspicion and in not being anything. If you suspect something or is it right, but the police still with it.
Some of these handguns were purchased illegally. Do gun laws play a role in this? It looks like now, the press conference, they had an arsenal at their home when he to go.
Gun laws are not going to prevent making explosive devices which they had over dozen at home. If people are going to kill, they're going to kill.
Looking at the problem from the larger social level, as well as the more specific level, who are the persons of concern that we need to attempt to apply some interventions are they cannot do perhaps what they're planning to do.
We were talking earlier in the week, the meth epidemic when this first came out. They change the laws and made it harder to buy some of these things over-the-counter and a longtime it drew down the myth problem in San Diego. After Timothy McVeigh, they change the law about fertilizer to make it harder to use those things as explosives. Are there things that can be changed in the wall that would make some of this weapon tree or the amount of ammunition coming in at one period of time. Making it harder for people to get. Do we know enough about the psychology about the people as to what we need to be targeting if we need to take another look at what is available over the counter when it comes to explosives and firearms question mark
My position as a gun owner, we need to register and regulate and require competency for an individual can get a hold of a firearm. The majority, it appears from the polls, support a tightening up of restrictions. I think on a macro level it needs to be considered. I don't think the political will in the country to do that among our representatives. I also agree, typically if a person is desirous enough her plans on violence, they will find some weapon to do that.
So you will never eliminate totally.
No. Technology moves ahead. We are entering the era were guns can be printed on 3-D printers. These are going to be very difficult to detect. There are things we can do and the majority people agree can be done, but we have a political discourse where things are all or none, left or right. It is still possible for someone who's on the name of a terrorist watch list to purchase firearms. This is absurd. We can't have the discussion because it becomes an all or none discussion. We need more sober minded individuals to step up to the plate and push this forward.
Sober minded individual, politics or not they are in these cases.
That also applies to equal weighting mental illness with violence. Only about three or 4% of criminal violence in the United States is committed by the severely mentally ill. This is also somewhat of a false flag and we need to recognize that for instance, the majority of the individuals that are radicalized committing terrorism, do not have a mental disorder. This is driven by a radical invasion and a commitment to an ideology often times coupled with a personal grievance Dierks
If we can do anything with guns because of policies, are we talking other extreme? Every time one of these happen we talk about we need good guys with guns, people arm themselves. If someone runs into your business with a rifle you can shoot back at them. How feasible in the end is something like that?
Unfortunately, a large percentage of people are not mature enough, wise enough arm mature enough to own weapons and they don't -- and they do. We can't take guns away from people that will not work here we do need sober minded leaders to come forward and discuss this. We need the American public to get involved in push politicians to discuss in a sober way. We cannot have a situation where the angriest person in the room gets to inflict fear on everybody because they could come back with a gun. Yet we do have more people that feel frustrated and fearful. They are fueled by what they see on television and they are besieged whether from the right or left, Muslim or white Christian. Pushed up against the wall partly because of what is happening in the media and politically.
Captain. Willis, if you ran into this situation and San Bernardino, which you want people there with guns? Not just a security office but someone who work there with their firearms? That help the situation?
That would hurt more than it would solve. To separate the person trying to help versus the person trying to hurt. We need to try to treat the mentally ill and understand why people get radicalized in driven to kill and work on it from that angle because those type of people will find a way to kill people no matter how hard we make it.
Individuals are start profiling people more seriously than we do? What we talking about?
As a society, we have to look at how are we treating the mentally ill and is there more we can do, even though only a small percentage are violent, those can create a tremendous amount of destruction. As a society, deal with how people are getting radicalized. What is driving them and how we counteract that it
It is important to understand, the term profiling which is charged, we are not talking about demographic profiling. We are not saying all Muslim in our potential terrorist but we are talking about behavioral profiling. You look at NPD -- vigilance of behaviors of concern that you may observe and a particular individual regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Focusing on proximal behavior is very important based on what we know about individuals that have done these acts before.
That what we looking for? Were hearing the same thing that comes out in so many the situation that he didn't seem harmful at all, he was a nice guy. He didn't get a sense that he could come back with a weapon and shoot everybody. Often they seem to be completely flying beneath the radar to the people around them. Even their families are saying we did not have any idea they were planning the spirit
My hunch, and out take a risk of the prediction, over the next few days, people will come forward that had a knowledge or information about the preparations that were being made by these two young people. In terms of weapon and ammunition accumulation and IUDs. All of this done in secret see but with other people being aware of that. We refer to that as another example of warning behavior. These individuals typically don't snap. The haters that unfold over time as a pathway to violence. That observation and willingness to alert somebody in authority that there is a person of concern, is critical if we maintain the safety of our society
So someone saw something to did not connect the dots.
Are typically people passably will say this is of no concern to me or none of business. They minimize it or deny it and that has been a constant problem in intervention with people who are planning an act of violence.
Obviously we will be following this the route that day. We will also be following this evening edition. This topic will not go away quickly. I would like to thank my guest, David peters and Dan Willis and J. Ried Meloy . Thanks to all of you for being on.
Thank you.