Forensic psychologists learn to be very thorough in our work, I assume (hope) that police investigators learn this also. However, I was a bit dismayed at the school shooting at Inskip Elementary in Knoxville where Principal Elisa Luna and Assistant Principal Amy Brace were shot by teacher Mark Foster.
My dismay comes from reading at WBIR.com that an anonymous emailer
(who later turned out to be the suspect's brother
) told the school that Foster was a "ticking time bomb." Naturally, this is not enough evidence to fire someone over, but it ought to be taken seriously, especially when there were two incidents reported at the school, involving yelling at students and grabbing one. An investigation on Foster was opened up but it seems the investigators did not go far enough. The most glaring mistake the investigators made was not contacting a boss from Oak Ridge that Foster threatened to shoot:
10News looked deeper into the school system's investigation on Mark Foster.
Despite the school system's repeated efforts, they missed an important link in their investigation.
Johnny Sellers' email listed Terry Mullins.
School investigators said they tried to contact Mullins twice, but never reached him.
10News quickly found Mullins Wednesday night. He told us Mark Foster was fired from his company, Oak Ridge Tool Engineering, in 1995 for absenteeism.
The CEO said a disgruntled Foster tried to return a few weeks later to shoot him.
Mullins also told us Foster was taken to Ridgeview after his arrest.
School investigators never heard Mullins' story.
Mullins told 10News he never got the messages investigators said they left for him.
Forensic psychologists are supposed to use third party information when we do a violence risk assessment. This means talking to family, friends and yes, co-workers and bosses. I realize that police investigators are not forensic psychologists but I would think they would be just as thorough or more so, given the stakes in these cases. The case should not have been closed until this boss had been reached. If not by phone, they could have gone in person, Oak Ridge is not that far. It is a big deal and not something to overlook or dismiss so easily. Surely, a little more effort on the part of the investigators would have been warranted.
A good book on workplace violence and how to avoid it is Mark Braverman's Preventing Workplace Violence: A Guide for Employers and Practitioners.
Labels: school violence