Why, What, Where and How of 17 Dead in Parkland Florida: Where Do We Go From Here

Candles for victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are placed at a vigil at Pine Trail Park in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 16, 2018. Source: http://abcnews.go.com

by: Robert John Zagar PhD MPH  

The Statue of Liberty cried and Uncle Sam pounded his fist in anger Valentine’s Day when 17 innocents were needlessly slaughtered in a Parkland Florida high school. The Florida and nation’s teens are up in arms about a solution and as has happened frequently, guns and gun control are the target. Regardless of whether local or federal laws are passed, the mass murders or active shooting incidents will persist. Why?

First, the parents who adopted the shooter were not prepared or trained to deal with a high risk child who required considerable support including intervention, medication, therapy, and treatment to bring back to the “normal” developmental trajectory. These parents then died and the neighbors who took the shooter in were also not prepared or trained on what to do.

Second, the school personnel, namely the principal, case manager, psychologist, counselor, social worker, nurse, and special education teachers did not go the extra mile to get the shooter into therapeutic school and keep him there for years to reverse the abuse and the neglect before the adoption including likely fetal polysubstance exposure, the emotional adjustment disorder, and the oppositional defiant behavior disorder he exhibited in the home, community and the elementary and high school.

Third, the mental health and medical personnel, the physician and counselor who treated the shooter did not take the professional time or interest to convene a multidisciplinary hearing and if needed due process hearing to obtain therapeutic residential school for this high risk shooter who was exhibiting all of these risk factors and symptoms.

Fourth, the local police came out to his home 30+ times. Why couldn’t the public safety officers in cooperation with the local district or states attorney and public defender obtain either jail, prison or mental health facility for the shooter for the numerous offenses that were “station adjusted” instead of prosecuted, including shooting at the neighbor’s chicken livestock, a felony.

Fifth, and finally the Federal Bureau of Investigation or F.B.I did not also work with the local district or states attorney and public defender obtain either jail, prison or mental health facility for the shooter for the numerous offenses including posting online “professional school shooter” and having the gun, a plan and a motive to accomplish the mass murder.

The solution to the situation is as complex as the challenge and does not require a new law but better training of parents, school, medical, mental health, police, district and states attorney and F.B.I. personnel in taking these threats seriously and then following up to predict and prevent them. Until this happens these will continue to occur and more innocents will be needlessly slaughtered. Perhaps this incident is the first one that will be a catalyst to energize the nation to act toward a safer society.

Robert John Zagar PhD MPH is a clinical, forensic, industrial, school, and neuropsychologist. He testified before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime Terrorism and Homeland Security 24 July 2012 about saving 324 lives and $2 billion with the teen summer job program using jobs, mentors, anger management under Mayors Daley and Emanuel and diverting 56% of nonviolent offenders from Cook County Jail copied by President Obama in releasing 6,800 nonviolent federal prisoners by commutation and pardon. Mayor Daley shared Robert Zagar’s research with the University of Chicago who founded the Crime Lab to impact policy reforming the justice and mental health systems. Robert graduated from Northwestern University with a doctorate in research design and statistics and has taught in a dozen universities and authored fifty peer reviewed scientific articles.