The Warning Signs to Look for When a Potential Shooter Has No Criminal History

Posted by on May 26, 2018 in Films & TV, Internet, Media & Arts with 0 Comments

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, is the suspect in a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, May 18, 2018. / Galveston County Sheriff

Meghan Keneally | ABC News

Some school shooters act out and get in trouble with either school officials or police before making the deadly decision to open fire.

For others, the shooting may be their first significant instance of violence.


By all public accounts so far, Dimitrios Pagourtzis fell into the latter category up until the moment he shot and killed 10 people at his high school and injured 13 others last Friday.

Pagourtzis’s clean record contrasts with that of Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter who killed 17 people in Parkland in February.

According to school records obtained by ABC affiliate WPLG, Cruz was involved with an assault in January 2017, less than a month before the shooting. On the same day as the assault, he was suspended for one day and a threat assessment was ordered for him. He had been suspended for two days one month earlier. It is unclear what the result of the threat assessment was or whether one was even conducted.

In spite of an apparent lack of disciplinary issues with Pagourtzis, that doesn’t mean there were no warning signs, experts say.

Scanning social media

Steve Gomez, a former FBI special agent in charge and current ABC News consultant, pointed to a T-shirt bearing the words “Born to Kill” that the teen posted on a social media account less than a month before the shooting.


“Threatening people at school, talking about violence, sharing social media posts showing guns, knives, T-shirts that say, in his case, ‘Born to Kill,’ are all signs,” Gomez said.

PHOTO: A t-shirt with the words Born To Kill is pictured in a screenshot from the Facebook account of Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the suspect in the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018.Facebook via USA Today Network
A t-shirt with the words “Born To Kill” is pictured in a screenshot from the Facebook account of Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the suspect in the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018.more +

Robert Boyce, a recently retired New York Police Department chief of detectives who is now an ABC News consultant, noted that social media can hold a number of clues.

“If someone sees something eerily or out of character on social media, someone needs to step forward. Go tell a teacher,” he said.

Boyce was still working for the NYPD immediately after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, and he said suspected school shooter complaints at schools “went way up” in the aftermath.

Other clues

Pagourtzis had reportedly been wearing a trench coat and heavy boots in the weeks before the shooting — something that should have raised questions given that temperatures in Texas regularly hit the 80s and 90s in late spring, Boyce said.

Other changes in behavior, such as self-imposed social isolation, could also suggest a turn for the worse, Boyce said.

Sandy Hook Promise, a gun violence prevention group founded by the parents of two victims of the 2012 elementary school shooting, started a “Know the Signs” program that teaches students, parents and educators how to recognize red flags on social media and elsewhere before violence unfolds.

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