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FLASH ALERT: HIGH RISK OF A COPYCAT MASS SHOOTING ATTACK


Savannah Fellows, Maria Ruehl, Jan García, Daniel Ruíz, Gabriel Mariotti, Stacey Casas, NORTHCOM Team; Zarah Sheikh, Regional Teams Manager

Hannah Norton, Editor; Demetri Giannakaris Senior Editor

Saturday, May 28, 2022



Screenshots from Telegram User discovered by a CTG Threat Hunter.

Redacted due to the sensitivity of the investigation.



The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for all schools, places of worship, shopping centers, and all crowded areas for a potential shooter following disturbing statements made on the messaging platform, Telegram. Specifically, communities of color, including Hispanic/Latino, African-American, Jewish, and Muslim communities, will likely be targeted. CTG urges US government officials, law enforcement, security personnel, and the civilian population to maintain a high level of vigilance following the recent mass shootings in the US, remaining especially alert for any suspicious activity for a possible active shooter attack.


CTG is on HIGH ALERT due to the HIGH likelihood of an active shooter attack following statements made by a Telegram user who was discovered by a CTG Threat Hunter who idolizes the perpetrator of the recent Robb Elementary School shooting. The account was created May 25, 2022, the day after the elementary shooting, ALMOST CERTAINLY to encourage similar mass shootings. The user made several statements praising the recent attack on children, re-posting images of the perpetrator and the weapons he used. The anonymous Telegram user seems “activated,” meaning the individual is now inspired and capable of carrying out an attack. It is VERY LIKELY this individual will engage in a mass shooting.


On Wednesday, May 25, 2022, a Telegram user started posting statements and pictures idolizing Salvador Rolando Ramos, the eighteen-year-old behind the May 24, 2022, Robb Elementary School shooting. The Telegram user stated they and the Robb school shooter have similar “emotions” and thanked the shooter “for the souls he freed.”[1] The user challenged the FBI to find them in their messages, and their posts already received hundreds of views. On the evening of Saturday, May 28, 2022 information was posted on Telegram providing instructions to potential school shooters on what they should take to school to cause the maximum number of fatalities. Individuals have been known to use Telegram and other messaging platforms as a tool to prepare for a future shooting and learn from other radicalized users. The mass shooter who attacked the TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, NY, also used Telegram as a tool to learn from other radicalized users and prepare for a future shooting. This individual's behavior and statements are almost identical to that of the TOPS shooting perpetrator, indicating they will very likely conduct a violent attack and encourage others to do so. The Gun Violence Archive states that there have been 227 mass shootings in the US throughout 2022 as of May 30, indicating a sharp increase in this figure.[2] This demonstrates the current threat landscape regarding mass shootings, which is almost certain to increase due to unmonitored and encrypted messaging platforms. Since May 25, there has been one gun-related incident in Oklahoma with one death and seven injured.[3] Similarly, on May 29, a Florida student was arrested for a mass shooting threat.[4]


The radicalization of young people using encrypted networks, such as Telegram, is an ongoing threat in the US. Other potential shooters will very likely continue using Telegram and other encrypted networks, such as 4Chan, to spread messages about committing or encouraging mass shootings. The anonymous nature of these networks allows content to be widespread and disseminated instantly, almost certainly making it difficult to prevent the spread of content related to mass shootings. The amount of information on carrying out attacks throughout these encrypted channels will very likely motivate this user to engage in similar violence and almost certainly contribute to the recent spike in shootings in the US. This user will very likely continue utilizing social media platforms and private online channels to express their opinions and will very likely encourage others to act violently. Vulnerable individuals, such as those dealing with familial tensions, mental illnesses, or individuals craving a sense of belonging, will likely subscribe to these ideologies. The use of graphic images, video memes, and propaganda will very likely appeal to vulnerable groups, very likely “activating” them to incite violence.


CTG’s NORTHCOM Team assesses that the current threat climate of a shooting at places of worship, shopping centers, and schools is HIGH due to the Telegram user’s idolization of the Robb Elementary School shooting perpetrator. This account’s content, which encourages mass shootings, emphasizes that people should be willing to attack even if it results in their death. The lack of regulation on social media has almost certainly exacerbated radicalization among many dangerous individuals and groups. This individual was very likely first radicalized from online content, likely from encrypted sites like Telegram and 4Chan, as online radicalization in the US remains a prominent threat to US national security. The account user is very likely utilizing Telegram to remain undetected while encouraging others to conduct mass shootings.


Analysis indicates there is a HIGH PROBABILITY an individual will conduct a mass shooting with a ROUGHLY EVEN CHANCE the attack will occur in the next few days. However, it is LIKELY this user or another individual could attack within the coming weeks. This or another individual will VERY LIKELY target vulnerable areas, particularly schools, places of worship, celebrations, shopping areas, or highly populated minority communities. Threat intelligence discovered ties the user to hate rhetoric, explicitly praising the Robb Elementary School attack, and idolizing the Columbine School shooting, raising the threat level to imminent. Unmonitored and encrypted channels will ALMOST CERTAINLY continue to be used by radicalized individuals, some of whom are likely inspired by the recent elementary shooting or encouraged directly from this user's account. Analysis indicates there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that this or others individuals are preparing to use military-style weapons such as AR-15s, shotguns, and knives, possibly dressed in military or dark clothing similar to the Columbine shooters and will have on body armor. Individuals are conducting surveillance on potential targets and are using Youtube and videos from previous mass attack shootings for training purposes. Law enforcement and security personnel should immediately raise their threat level, look for suspicious activity, and adjust tactics to neutralize the threat from a dedicated, heavily armed attacker with body armor. Law enforcement and security personnel should be aware that individuals are discussing the use of explosive devices.


CTG recommends that federal agencies and law enforcement look further into identifying the individual behind these messages to mitigate any potential violence they may incite. Once identified, local authorities should increase police presence and security barriers in areas of high population, especially schools, religious institutions, or places where minority communities congregate. Authorities should review active shooter protocols and responses, updating these based on recent events. The civilian population should remain alert for suspicious activity and inform local authorities if there is any suspected danger of an imminent threat.

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[1] CTG Threat Hunter on Telegram

[2] GUN VIOLENCE ARCHIVE 2022, Gun Violence Archive, May 2022, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

[3] 1 dead, 7 injured during shooting at Memorial Day festival in Oklahoma, ABC News, May 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/dead-injured-shooting-memorial-day-festival-oklahoma/story?id=85055051

[4] Florida student arrested for mass shooting threat, 12 News, May 2022, https://cbs12.com/news/local/florida-student-arrested-mass-shooting-threat-cape-coral-patriot-elementary

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