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P1 Special Report: Recent school shooting spurs possible copycat trend

Three Incidents During Past Two Days

by PoliceOne Contributor Scott Buhrmaster

The three incidents below underscore a possible copycat trend related to the recent school shooting at Locke High School in Red Lake, Minn. These incidents are a strong example of why officers should be aware of law enforcement related news and incidents from around the country. Events that occur locally frequently have national relevance. As we know, copycat crimes after a high profile incident are not uncommon. The publicity surrounding the Red Lake shooting appears to have been enough to entice three other incidents (see stories below). Officers should be prepared for incidents at schools during the next several weeks, as Lt. Col. Dave Grossman cautioned in an earlier PoliceOne posting.

Officers should also remember that copycat crimes may often be perpetrated by emotionally unstable individuals. Keep this in mind when approaching a subject, even if they have put down their weapon and appear to be "harmless". As you likely know from past PoliceOne articles, emotionally disturbed persons can pose an extremely dangerous threat. As the first two incidents below suggest, that national media exposure can bring out suicide by cop scenarios. We highly recommend that officers educate themselves to the nuances of these situations as they can be very difficult to navigate.

In the aftermath of any school shooting, officers should be mentally prepared to respond to incidents at schools in a tactically sound way, including, most importantly, incidents involving juveniles. It is understandable that you might hesitate in firing at a juvenile, but your job requires you as an officer to respond in the fashion dictated by the threat presented regardless of the location, suspect's age or possibly that a fake weapon might be involved.

Indiana, Penn. School Intruder Shot

A 15-year-old Indiana Area Senior High School sophomore was on his way back to his classroom when he saw Joseph William Stank and an Indiana Borough police officer facing each other in the school's driveway. Stank pulled out what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun and pointed it at the policeman, who ordered Stank to drop the gun and lay it down on the ground, he said. The officer, cradling a 12-gauge shotgun to his shoulder, fired a shot, dropping the 51-year-old man to the pavement.

Police Shoot, Wound Man at El Monte, Calif. Elementary School

Police shot and wounded a man they say brought a replica handgun onto an elementary school campus Wednesday after a brief foot pursuit. Cogswell Elementary School officials called El Monte police shortly after 8 a.m., saying someone suspicious was on their field, said Lt. Daniel Rosenberg of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Police Patrol Montreal School After Threats Against Students

Police stepped up patrols at a west-end high school Thursday and asked several students to stay home after the individuals were named in a threatening letter. Officers planned to interview the students after the letter was found in a girl's washroom at John Rennie high school on Wednesday afternoon.

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