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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 16:28 GMT
School shooting: The warning signs
Charles Andrew Williams
Williams had talked about a shooting spree
The shooting spree at California's Santee High School has left students, teachers and parents asking themselves if they ignored signs of the impending attack.

Charles Andrew Williams, 15, has been accused of killing two fellow students and wounding 13 other people on Monday, in the worst such incident since the Columbine High School killing in April 1999

Warning signs for schools (FBI)
Fascination with violence in films and TV
Angry outbursts
Inability to take criticism
Exaggerated sense of self-importance
Intolerance
Narcissism
Attention seeking
Nihilism
Mood swings
Inappropriate sense of humour
Drug and alcohol abuse
Excessive practising with firearms
According to friends and an adult acquaintance, only two days earlier he had talked about going on a shooting spree. They thought he was just joking.

"The whole weekend I was with him, and he was joking on and off that he was going to come to school and shoot people," student Josh Stevens said.

"He had it all planned out, but at the end of the weekend he said he was just joking."

Chris Reynolds, whose son was friends with Andy Williams said the boy had stayed at his house on Saturday night and talked about his plans.

"I even mentioned Columbine to him. But he said: 'No nothing will happen, I'm just joking."

He now regrets not taking some kind of action to prevent the shooting.

"That's going to be haunting me for a long time. It just hurts, because I could've maybe done something about it," said Mr Reynolds.

Red flags

Experts say that most, if not all, school shooting incidents are preceded by verbal threats and these should be assessed together with other potential warning signs.

Paramedics help the injured
Some shootings are preventable
The FBI published last year a study of indicators that could show a pupil is inclined to violence.

Joanne McDaniel from the Center for the Prevention of School Violence says there are always red flags that have to be looked out for. Not a single indicator, she explains, but a set of them over a period of time.

Threatening statements should always be looked into.

Ms McDaniel says interest needs to be taken if certain indicators are present:

  • withdrawal, or feelings of isolation and rejection
  • if a student is bullied or teased - as appears to be Andrew Williams' case
  • if they cannot handle anger

Charles Andrew Williams
Seven rifles were found in the flat Williams sharerd with his father
Similarly lack of interest in school, a difficult family life and access to arms - seven rifles were found in the boy's flat -, should be taken into account.

"There is no guarantee that a shooting can be prevented, but there is an opportunity to intervene and some incidents can be averted," says Ms McDaniel.

And thanks to special hotlines and tip-offs there have been examples of this.

In 1999 a girl alerted her parents about an alleged plot to carry out a Columbine-style shooting spree at a school in Cleveland.

Earlier this year, a California student was discovered to have an arsenal of weapons and accused of planning to carry out a shooting at his college.

The alarm was raised by a photographic laboratory technician who called the police after developing pictures of the suspect posing with his weapons.

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See also:

06 Mar 01 | Americas
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In pictures: Shooting aftermath
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Columbine killing took 16 minutes
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