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BEHAVIORAL THREAT ASSESSMENT OF ORLANDO HARRIS

Sofia Staderini, Seif Harrasy, Behavior/Leadership Team, Yannik Hunold, Isaiah Johnson, Martina Sclaverano, Weapons & Tactics Team

Marina Campos, Argyrios Chatziilas, Editors; Manja Vitasovic, Senior Editor

November 6, 2022

Orlando Harris[1]


Name of Person: Orlando Harris

Date of Death: October 24, 2022


Summary

On October 24, 2022, 19-year-old Orlando Harris conducted a mass shooting in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, killing two and injuring seven people.[2] After analyzing POI, we classify this attack as terrorism, based on an assessment of Harris’s warning behaviors and distal characteristics. POI wrote a manifesto and owned a list of previous mass shootings, which very likely inspired him, indicating he has likely conducted a copycat attack.[3] POI carried six hundred rounds for his AR-15 rifle and wrote detailed plans to attack the school, showcasing that POI likely planned the attack for a long time and that it was not a spontaneous act.[4] Given the prevalence of POI's warning behavior signs, the attack was very likely preventable if authorities spotted them and acted earlier. POI’s motive was very likely shaped by low social standing, mental health issues, and a lack of emotional attachments.[5] POI’s mother was concerned about his mental health and asked police officers to remove his firearm weeks before the attack.[6] The refusal of the police indicates that authorities need to more carefully assess the threat posed by an individual before declining such a request. It also highlights the importance of monitoring individuals with mental health disorders and grievances about their school experience, while providing them with continued access to psychological rehabilitation programs.


Event Overview

On October 24, 2022, 19-year-old Orlando Harris, carrying six hundred rounds and an AR-15 style rifle, conducted a mass shooting at the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School (CVPA), in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He killed Alexzandria Bell, a 15-year-old student, and Jean Kuczka, a 61-year-old health teacher, and wounded seven. Someone known to Harris’ family confiscated his rifle days before, but he retrieved the gun and used it to conduct the shooting. At approximately 0911, POI entered the school, despite the presence of functional metal detectors, seven security officers, and the doors being locked. Police entered the building four minutes later, reaching the third floor and engaging in a gunfight with POI at 0923, eventually killing him.[7]


POI Overview - Items of Interest

Below are some items of interest that will identify observable indicators and characteristics to determine if there was a chance to prevent this attack.

  1. POI studied at CVPA and would engage with his teachers and peers.[8]

  2. During the shooting, POI stated he was “sick of this damn school”, “tired of everybody”, and that “everybody was going to die”.[9]

  3. During the shooting, POI made eye contact with some peers and teachers and chose not to shoot them.[10]

  4. POI’s family was present and proactive with his mental health issues before the shooting.[11]

  5. POI struggled with mental health and was admitted to a psychiatric institution at his family’s request.[12]

  6. His family routinely checked his mail and room to monitor his behavior.[13]

  7. POI went to therapy and was on medication.[14]

  8. POI had no previous criminal history or record.[15]

  9. POI’s mother was concerned about his mental health and asked police officers to remove a firearm from their house, which was given to a family member with a firearms license.[16]

  10. It is unclear how POI took possession of the same weapon, with which he executed the attack.[17]

  11. At the time of the shooting, POI also had about twelve 30-round magazines, but there is no information on how he acquired them.[18]

  12. POI failed the FBI background check to buy a weapon from a licensed seller on October 15, so he bought the AR-15 rifle used in the attack from a private seller.[19]

  13. Officers found notes in POI’s car regarding previous school shootings and a list of the targets for his attack.[20]

  14. In the same note, POI stated: “I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life. This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter”.[21]



Classification as Terrorism

According to TRAP-18 creators, most lone actors displayed 13 of 18 TRAP-18 variables (72%). These individuals showed a frequency of >70% on five distal factors: personal grievance and moral outrage, framed by an ideology, dependence on the virtual community, thwarting of occupational goals, and changes in thinking and emotion. They also displayed >77% on the following proximal warning behaviors: pathway, fixation, identification, and leakage.[22] Lone-actor terrorists have shown a pattern of common pre-attack behaviors, discerning them from general criminals.


Based on a CTG investigation, POI displayed 12 of the total indicators aligning with other lone-actor terrorists. POI displayed six out of ten distal factors, coinciding with those that terrorist lone actors show a frequency of >70% on: personal grievance and moral outrage, thwarting of occupational goals, changes in thinking and emotion, failure of sexually intimate pair bonding, mental disorder, and creativity and innovation. POI also displayed six out of eight warning behaviors: pathway, fixation, identification, energy burst, leakage, and last resort. At the time of this report, there is no information to suggest POI’s attack was ideologically or politically motivated. However, due to the prevalence of proximal warning behaviors, distal characteristics, and the communal and national impact, CTG considers it appropriate to classify this attack as terrorism.


Suggested Relationship Between TRAP-18 Indicators and Attack[23]


Target and Goal

POI targeted CVPA and had a list of specific targets, which is not publicly available. POI’s manifesto almost certainly outlines his intention to be part of the legacy of US school shooters. He was likely resentful over his perceived lack of meaningful social bonds at his school. Based on his manifesto, preparedness for the building plan, and target list, POI held deep resentment and hatred towards his classmates. POI almost certainly intended to use violent means to enact their revenge on their classmates for perceived grievances.


Motive

POI was very likely motivated to commit a mass shooting by his lack of social standing, emotional attachment, and mental health issues. He repeatedly attempted to purchase a firearm, after he was rejected from the background check for unknown reasons.[24] POI’s family had repeatedly notified mental health authorities of his psychological state.[25] It is unclear whether he had violent fantasies of mass shootings. After he obtained a firearm, his family confiscated it, but he was able to retrieve it a week later.[26] POI wrote a list of personal negative experiences and perceived rejection incidents by peers, both very likely being driving factors to the shooting. POI very likely wanted revenge on those he had personal grievances with, or from those he deemed to be responsible for his lack of friends. Given his psychological state and knowledge of other school shootings, there is a roughly even chance POI committed the shooting intending to enforce his own suicide by planning to provoke police to shoot him.


Conspiracy Theories and Copycats

The attack was the deadliest school shooting on a K-12 campus in the US since 2018. There is no information regarding POI’s belief or involvement in conspiracy theories at the time of this report. His written manifesto and list of previous mass shootings imply this was almost certainly a copycat attack. The amount of ammunition and detailed planning suggests the attack was very likely premeditated.[27] POI’s preoccupation with violence means he likely researched previous mass shooters in preparation. His possible homicidal thoughts and the fixation with guns suggest he likely admired previous attackers. There have been no copycats since the CVPA shooting, despite the weaknesses in the security system highlighted by the attack. POI’s attack has a roughly even chance to inspire copycat attacks, as the incident did not receive widespread media coverage and caused fewer victims than the Parkland shooting. However, the attack will almost certainly be hailed on online platforms like 8chan.


Future Implications

The incident underscores the importance of monitoring individuals with mental health disorders and grievances over their school experience while providing them with continued access to psychological rehabilitation programs. There will likely be further investigations on how POI acquired the weapon, likely uncovering possible external cooperation, and assistance. The possibility that POI taking part in psychological assistance and social integration programs may have prevented the attack cannot be ruled out. Highly publicized mass shootings increase the likelihood of copycat attacks.[28] POI’s manifesto will likely be spread online, and become part of the school shooters’ legacy. Nonetheless, future school shooters will likely find inspiration in attacks that caused a greater number of deaths, like the Columbine and Parkland shootings.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection, and analysis, as well as investigative work for counterterrorism. CTG resources are delivered to advise clients on a business resilience process using current threat intelligence data. We scan for threats across the following regions; Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Our organization assesses evolving threats through, Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) services. Our W.A.T.C.H Officers and Digital Targeters monitor the threat posed by cyber threats, insider threats, fraud, espionage, hazards, reputational damages, violent crime, kidnappings, and bombing threats. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.


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[1] A photo of 19-year-old Orlando Harris, Reddit, October 2022 https://www.reddit.com/r/masskillers/comments/ycoqf2/a_photo_of_19yearold_orlando_harris_who_was_just/

[2] FBI background check blocked gun sale to St. Louis shooter, AP News, October 2022 https://apnews.com/article/us-news-crime-shootings-school-st-louis-1e139ab0f9b9f3b06221ec38a28596f8

[3] Orlando Harris’ gun was taken away from mental health fears, The Independent, October 2022 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/orlando-harris-gun-st-louis-school-shooting-b2212138.html

[4] FBI background check blocked gun sale to St. Louis shooter, AP News, October 2022 https://apnews.com/article/us-news-crime-shootings-school-st-louis-1e139ab0f9b9f3b06221ec38a28596f8

[5] Orlando Harris’ gun was taken away over mental health fears. How did he go on to commit the St Louis shooting?, Independent, October 2022 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/orlando-harris-gun-st-louis-school-shooting-b2212138.html

[6] St. Louis school shooter’s family sought mental health treatment for him and had his gun taken away, police said. Yet tragedy still unfolded, CNN, October 2022 https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/26/us/st-louis-school-shooting-wednesday/index.html

[7] FBI background check blocked gun sale to St. Louis shooter, AP News, October 2022 https://apnews.com/article/us-news-crime-shootings-school-st-louis-1e139ab0f9b9f3b06221ec38a28596f8

[8] Orlando Harris’ gun was taken away over mental health fears. How did he go on to commit the St Louis shooting?, Independent, October 2022 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/orlando-harris-gun-st-louis-school-shooting-b2212138.html

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Family asked cops to take gun from St. Louis gunman Orlando Harris days before shooting, New York Post, October 2022

https://nypost.com/2022/10/27/family-tried-to-take-gun-from-st-louis-shooter-orlando-harris/

[15] Gunman who killed 61-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl at a St. Louis school brought a long gun and 12 magazines, police say, CNN, October 2022 https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/24/us/st-louis-school-shooting/index.html

[16] St. Louis school shooter’s family sought mental health treatment for him and had his gun taken away, police said. Yet tragedy still unfolded, CNN, October 2022 https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/26/us/st-louis-school-shooting-wednesday/index.html

[17] Ibid

[18] Gunman who killed 61-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl at a St. Louis school brought a long gun and 12 magazines, police say, CNN, October 2022 https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/24/us/st-louis-school-shooting/index.html

[19] FBI background check blocked gun sale to St. Louis shooter, AP News, October 2022 https://apnews.com/article/us-news-crime-shootings-school-st-louis-1e139ab0f9b9f3b06221ec38a28596f8

[20] Orlando Harris’ gun was taken away over mental health fears. How did he go on to commit the St Louis shooting?, Independent, October 2022 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/orlando-harris-gun-st-louis-school-shooting-b2212138.html

[21] Ibid

[22] Assessing the threat of lone-actor terrorism: the reliability and validity of the TRAP-18, Forensische Psychiatrie, Psychologie, Kriminologie, 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7149273/

[23]Suggested Relationship Between TRAP-18 Indicators and Attack” by Jessica Yakeley and Reid Meloy licensed under CC BY 4.0

[24] FBI background check blocked gun sale to St. Louis shooter, Associated Press, October 2022 https://apnews.com/article/us-news-crime-shootings-school-st-louis-1e139ab0f9b9f3b06221ec38a28596f8

[25] Orlando Harris’ gun was taken away from mental health fears, The Independent, October 2022 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/orlando-harris-gun-st-louis-school-shooting-b2212138.html

[26] Ibid

[27] Ibid

[28] Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings, PLoS One, July 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4489652/

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