Community tips help nab potential mass shooters

By Jess Klein

Since the multiple mass shootings that took place earlier this summer, there have been threats from other possible gunmen. Fortunately, those threats were nipped in the bud.

Over the weekend of August 17, police stopped three potential incidents. Twenty-two-year-old Brandon Wagshol was arrested in Connecticut after writing about committing a mass shooting on Facebook. Police apprehended Daytona Beach resident Tristan Wix, 25, on August 16, after he sent his ex-girlfriend texts about shooting into “a large crowd of people.” The following day, police arrested James Patrick Reardon in Ohio. Reardon had posted a video of a man shooting a gun on his white supremacy-focused Instagram account, tagging the Youngstown, Ohio Jewish Community Center alongside a threatening caption.

What led to these arrests? In short, people took signs posted on social platforms seriously. Police received a “tip” about Wagshol’s Facebook post, causing them to cooperate with the FBI in his arrest. Wagshol currently faces four counts of illegal possession charges. Concerning items police found in his home included ammunition, handguns, and “tactical gear.”

Wix’s arrest took place thanks to a tip from the ex-girlfriend, whom he’d been texting foreboding messages. Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood called Wix a typical shooter: “He lost his job, he lost his girlfriend, he’s depressed, he’s got the ammunition, and he wants to become known for being the most prolific killer in American history.”

Reardon’s arrest story is similar. Staff of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation were “made aware of [Reardon’s Instagram] video” before getting in touch with local law enforcement. Police arrested Reardon and the FBI searched his home. They found multiple weapons and ammunition rounds, body armor, a gas mask, and anti-Semitic/white nationalist propaganda.

The lesson here? It saves lives when the public is vigilant about potential gun threats. Former FBI executive, Katherine Schweit, believes “community involvement” is the key to preventing mass violence. She recently identified “red flags” to look out for—like social media posts and changes in behavior—as well as common misconceptions about shooters. For instance, she says a shooter is “often mistakenly characterized as a ‘loner,’ but rarely is that true.”

These latest preventions come in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promising to talk about bolstering firearm background checks on August 8. “The president called me this morning about this, he’s anxious to get an outcome,” said McConnell. “So am I.” Trump quickly flip-flopped on his concern, putting background checks back on the back burner.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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