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FLASH ALERT: RISK OF MASS SHOOTINGS AT GRADUATION EVENTS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES

Team: Extremism Team; NORTHCOM Team

Week of: Monday, June 7, 2021


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to all American parents, guardians, students, teachers, and school administrators who are attending a high school graduation event or graduation party in June 2021 across the United States (US). The current CTG matrix indicates that there is a HIGH probability of an attack being conducted by one of the students or attendees. The number of mass shootings in the US has been very high in 2021 and is likely to have inspired a shooting at one of these events. As students have been in isolation, this has given them adequate time to indoctrinate themselves in extremist ideologies.


Outside High School Graduation Ceremony in 2021[1]


This past week, CTG has detected several shootings at rehearsal graduation events and post-graduation parties in the US. Around 0200 EST on Sunday, June 6 at a post-graduation party in a restaurant in Miami-Dade County, Florida, at least three individuals were fatally shot and six others were taken to hospital with injuries; the six injured have now stabilized.[2] Also on Sunday, June 6, eight individuals were shot and killed at a graduation party in Cleveland, Ohio, in a drive-by shooting.[3] On Wednesday, June 10 around 1400 EST, a student was not fatally injured in a shooting outside a graduation ceremony in Roanoke, Virginia.[4] This is concerning as graduation events will be ongoing throughout early June, and attendees must be cautious even at unofficial parties for graduations.


For many of these incidents, police have yet to provide information regarding the motivation behind the shooting. This is because many of the attackers have been minors, who are provided with a level of legal media protection due to their age. However, this is concerning as there will be many more graduation events attended by minors of similar age groups.


The number of mass shootings across the US has remained consistently high throughout 2021. There have been 260 mass shootings this year, which resulted in the deaths of over 19,000 people including over 650 children.[5] This is largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to increased mental health problems, social isolation, increased unemployment, and increased time spent online.[6] Mass shootings are likely to continue to increase as states reopen.


As states re-open, it is important to stay vigilant and ensure safety measures are in place to protect its citizens. Schools and universities are planning to re-open for in-person learning for the Fall 2021 semester. After being in isolation and lack of access to on-campus mental health facilities over the past year, there is also the possibility of attacks on college campuses. College campuses should reinforce security and safety measures and must be vigilant in providing support for students as they return to campus to limit the risk.


The youth have particularly been impacted by the pandemic, as many schools did not allow in-person learning, and online teaching prevented students from fully interacting with one another. Social interactions between children had to shift to online, which has allowed for contacts and relationships to develop online. Young people have become a new target for right-wing extremists seeking to recruit on online platforms, as they target gaming forums that are popular amongst young people and TikTok.[7] In some cases, this will lead to radicalization, which may likely lead to a future attack(s).In addition, to be targeted by recruiters, young individuals have been able to self radicalize by researching violent topics and right-wing themed ideas.


If you are at a venue for a graduation event that is targeted by a shooter, remember to:[8]

  1. Run

  2. Hide

  3. Fight


This is in order of choice; if possible, you should escape the location and get to a safe distance away from the attack, preferably behind a secure and solid object. If not possible, then hide somewhere by barricading yourself into a room and ensuring that no one can see where you are hiding from outside, so that the shooter cannot see you or get to you. Only as a last resort, when your life is in immediate danger, should you attempt to fight your way out of the situation.


Conclusion


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH. We base this assessment on the number of shootings that have occurred in the last week at graduation events, including informal parties and celebrations, as well as practice graduations across the US. While many of the shootings have deliberately targeted one individual and or not caused any fatalities, the increase is particularly concerning as many of the attackers are young individuals who are seeking to cause harm to someone in their peer group. Additionally, the location of celebrations has been targeted by others, and therefore all attendees must be aware that there is a risk and be vigilant while in attendance.


Our analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that there will be further mass shootings across the US at graduation events over the next few weeks. There is a serious threat of mass casualty shootings at the graduation ceremonies themselves.


CTG’s Extremism and NORTHCOM Teams will continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the youth across the US. The Teams will continue to seek information regarding the motivation behind mass shootings, and provide the necessary reports regarding identified trends and how individuals can keep themselves safe.


If any individuals are interested in learning more about security measures to protect their facilities and personnel, please contact The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-248 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1] Outside High School Graduation Ceremony in 2021 by Andy Porter licensed under Creative Commons

[2] 3 dead, multiple people injured after shooting at graduation party in Miami-Dade area, ABC News, June 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/US/dead-multiple-people-injured-shooting-graduation-party-miami/story?id=78114402

[3] 8 people shot at graduation party in Cleveland, News 5 Cleveland, June 2021, https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/cleveland-metro/5-people-shot-on-woodbridge-avenue-in-clevelands-clark-fulton-neighborhood

[4] Student shot outside graduation practice, Associated Press, June 2021, https://apnews.com/article/va-state-wire-shootings-4567a35cc64147dc5476ea0b1821e93c

[5] Gun Violence Archive 2021, Gun Violence Archive, n.d., https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

[6] Factors Contributing to the Increase of Mass Shootings in the US, The Counterterrorism Group, April 2021, https://www.counterterrorismgroup.com/post/factors-contributing-to-the-increase-of-mass-shootings-in-the-us

[7] TikTok's algorithm is sending users down a far-right extremist rabbit hole, Mashable, March 2021, https://mashable.com/article/tiktok-recommendations-far-right-wing/?europe=true

[8] Increased Risk of Attacks in the United States by Lone Individuals, The Counterterrorism Group, April 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/posts/the-counterterrorism-group_increased-risk-in-us-by-lone-individuals-activity-6786015509142880257-fzJc

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