Clark McCauley Ph.D.


Is Zale Thompson A Lone-Wolf Terrorist?

Man who attacked police in Queens mostly fits Disconnected/Disordered profile.

Posted Oct 27, 2014

Four characteristics make up the Disconnected/Disordered profile: grievance against a perpetrator of perceived injustice, lack of social connection including no steady work (loner), mental health problems, and weapons experience outside the military. 

The Wall Street Journal Monday 27 October describes Zale Thompson, a convert to Islam, as ranting on social web sites against whites, racism, colonialism, and Western victimization of Muslims.  He frequented jihadist websites that included videos of beheadings.  It seems Thompson had many grievances.

"Police...said family members told them that Mr. Thompson was a recluse and had recently been depressed" (p.A6).  It seems he was a loner and his depression may have been deep enough to count as a mental health problem.

Thompson apparently had no weapons experience, and could do no better than buy a small axe.  However, his fascination with jihadist violence, especially beheadings, might count as experience with bladed weapons. 

In brief, Zale Thompson is beginning to look like an approximation to the Disconnected/Disordered profile that links some lone-actor terrorists with assassins and school attackers (see previous post about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau).

McCauley, C., & Moskalenko, S. (2014).  Toward a profile of lone wolf terrorists: What moves an individual from radical opinion to radical action.  Terrorism and Political Violence, 26(1), 69-85.