Warning signs and red flags: spotting them before a school shooting happens

Experts warn of depression, paranoia, anger problems

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference Wednesday that the suspected Uvalde shooter posted on Facebook shortly before the attack. Salvador Ramos, 18, said he was going to shoot his grandmother and then attack a school, the governor noted. It once again raises the questions of how to spot and report warning signs.

Uvalde, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a news conference Wednesday that the suspected Uvalde shooter posted on Facebook shortly before the attack.

Salvador Ramos, 18, said he was going to shoot his grandmother and then attack a school, the governor noted.

It once again raises the questions of how to spot and report warning signs.

Were there red flags with the Texas school shooter? That’s what investigators are trying to find out now

“The gunman was 18-years-old and reportedly a high school dropout,” Abbot said. “Reportedly, there has been no criminal history identified yet. He may have had a juvenile record but that is yet to be determined.”

Abbot said he wasn’t aware of any documented mental health problems at the time of the news conference.

However, Salvador Ramos’ former classmates said he was troubled, telling ABC News he showed “aggressive” behavior and “immediate” red flags.

“He was very quiet -- didn’t really have a lot of friends, so he kept to himself a lot of the time,” former co-worker Yerelli Vasquez told ABC. “I remember an interaction we had with this couple that worked there -- he told the boyfriend that he wanted to fight his girlfriend for no reason.”

“I would see them (TikTok videos) all the time and they would be like, ‘I could fight anyone, none of y’all can touch me. I’m untouchable,’ former classmate Crystal Foutz told the network.

Ric Prado, a former Central Intelligence Agency operative and counterterrorism task force supervisor, told News4JAX mass shooters usually hint at their intentions before the attack.

It literally kept me from sleeping last night, you know, the fact that 19 young souls and a couple of teachers were killed, and that we have those kinds of people in our society, that all the flags are there,” Prado said.

Prado, the author of Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior, is now retired and teaches security tactics in the St. Augustine area. Weeks earlier, reports claim the suspected Buffalo mass shooter made violent, racist, and anti-Semitic posts before opening fire at a primarily black grocery store.

“I think it’s a cultural thing that we don’t like ratting people out, but time and time again, a pattern here is that these people have people, you know, people, a lot of people are less surprised when these people go out and in do something this atrocious?”

Which brings up the next question: what red flags should people look out for?

“Are they isolating more?” asked psychologist Tracy Alloway. “Do they have more sense of negative self-talk? So my own research I’ve benefit that that a very self-critical attitude is one of the main indicators of depression and even suicidal attempts.”

Experts said other warnings include violent fantasies, anger problems, paranoia, and an obsession with police or military equipment and tactics.

“The main thing as a parent is to provide support as soon as you’re detecting these signs,” Alloway added. “That support may be a conversation to begin with. It may be seeking professional help. These are important things not to disregard as a parent.”

Law enforcement across the country urging people who see something to say something. It could mean the difference between life and death.


About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.