The title comes from a line in Don Henley’s 1984 song, “All She Wants to Do is Dance.” The tune talks about living and partying in a third-world hellhole, where everyone is armed, everyone is on drugs, and no one is in charge. (As the late great George Carlin used to say, “Just like now!”)
The list of tragic national murder cases continues to grow, from the Boston bombing brothers, to the young school killer in Newtown, to the sniper who killed firefighters in upstate New York, to the mall shooter in Portland, to the hostage-taker in his bunker in Alabama, to the hostage-taker of four firefighters in Atlanta. The city of Chicago had 44 murders just in January 2013 alone, almost as many as my city of San Diego had in the entire past year. (Let’s not forget to mention the Aurora, Colorado movie theater killer or the alcoholic ex-Army soldier who shot up the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, both in 2012.)
What many of these public-place killers share in common is their desire to become internationally infamous in a matter of minutes and their need to either commit suicide or have the responding officers do it for them. (Lady Gaga is famous; the brothers Tsarnaev, ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, Adam Lanza, Seung-Hui Cho, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and James Holmes are now infamous.)
It’s easy for police officers to get into a rhythm working in the field, where nearly all regular people and most crooks cooperate with them. While many law enforcement agencies have had their occasional cases of the violently mentally ill, who wanted to go out in a blaze of gunfire and had the cops make the decision for them, most criminals are not suicidal-homicidal.
But if 99 percent of even the angriest and most aggressive people out there give up and give in eventually, submitting to handcuffing after a high-risk vehicle stop, a long pursuit, or a wrestling match, what about the one percenters who don’t fear the police, or what they represent, or the consequences they can bring to them? In their minds, they have absolutely no reason not to do what they are planning. They already know the police will come armed to their situation. Only they know if they will surrender to law enforcement, shoot to try and kill them before they kill themselves, or simply make it impossible for the police not to kill them.
Whether the incident is an active shooter situation at a school, college, malls, church, workplace, or as part of an on-going crime spree that started with the murder of a spouse or all of the shooter’s family members, these actors want to go out big, and make themselves known forever in their communities and even around he world.
Shocked friends, surviving family members, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances will all say how surprised they were that such a “quiet man” could do such a thing. But these shooters, with their martyr complexes and unjustified narcissism, who have lived such short or long lives of quiet desperation, do not care.
Dr. Steve Albrecht, PHR, CPP, BCC, is a San Diego-based speaker, author, and trainer. He has spent his career focused on high-risk employee problems, crime prevention, threat assessment, and school and workplace violence issues. In 1994, he co-wrote Ticking Bombs, one of the first books on workplace violence. He holds a doctorate in Business Administration; an M.A. in Security Management; a B.S. in Psychology; and a B.A. in English. He worked for the San Diego Police Department for 15 years and has written 15 books on business, HR, and criminal justice subjects. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht