Violent 4th of July sows fears, mental health concerns

Psychologist says mass shooters exhibit ‘red flags’ before attacks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a violent 4th of July across the country with at least two mass shootings – including the attack at a parade near Chicago.

Federal, state, and local authorities in Highland Park are investigating, as the death toll claimed to seven people -- with more than 40 others injured.

Police said the suspected shooter likely planned the attack for several months and dressed as a woman to blend in with a crowd.

There are psychological impacts for people even far removed. Many people are anxious; they’re scared to go to public events and this weekend’s violence adds to that.

Disturbing footage showed people rushing for cover as 70 rounds are fired. Police said the gunman was on the rooftop.

Officers arrested 22-year-old Robert Crimo later after a brief car chase.

A shooting at a block party in Gary Indiana left three people dead and at least 7 others injured. In Philadelphia, during a fireworks show, thousands scrambled as someone shot two police officers. The officers were injured and taken to the hospital.

There were also false alarms. Several people were hurt in Orlando when the crowd mistook firecrackers for gunshots.

“Violence can strike anywhere and it’s a great time to teach our families ourselves and our children about situation awareness,” said Justin D’Arienzo, a psychologist and military veteran who practices in Jacksonville.

He noted seeing these mass shootings can be traumatizing with schools, churches, events, and grocery stores all targets.

“It can create a lot of strain,” he added. “It can certainly create copycats where people see that this is an outlet or a tipping point.”

Investigators said the suspect in the parade shooting, Robert Crimo, showed red flags. He’d posted ominous and violent content on social media, even a drawing of a man pointing a rifle with a body on the ground.

“We’re humans, we operate with the concept of diffusion of responsibility, or you think that somebody else will take care of it,” he noted. “And you know what, somebody else will not take care of it. It’s your job and it’s my job to do something about it. If you’re worried about somebody exhibiting concerning behavior, then you have to take action.”

He said there’s a mental health crisis, there’s not enough access to mental health and many services are voluntary unless someone’s Baker Acted or arrested.

“As a mental health professional as a healthcare provider we have a duty to warn and a duty to protect,” D’Arienzo said. “So if someone is identifying someone and they get hurt or killed, then I have the responsibility to tell that person that they are in danger.”

He opined there needs to be more attention on mental health and that means the nation is going to have to find the funding to do that.

About the Author:

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