The Tale of Two Tragedies

The Need for a Preventive Strategy – Spotting Red Flags

On the morning of February 9, 2021, a 67-year-old-man opened fire in a medical clinic because he was furious with his health care experience in small town Buffalo, Minnesota. The suspected shooter, Gregory Paul Ulrich, was arrested before noon. One woman, a 37 -year-old medical assistant and mother, was killed. Four were injured, three were left in critical condition and one released.

Investigators said Ulrich acted alone. They also said it was not unexpected.

In October 2018, a police report indicated that Ulrich threatened to attack Allina Health medical facilities. He dreamed of getting revenge on doctors and medical staff who “tortured” him. His doctor told police Ulrich called repeatedly with threats involving “shooting, blowing things up and practicing different scenarios of how to get revenge.” The doctor did not believe the threats were credible at the time but thought he was a danger to himself and others.

According to those close to him, Ulrich’s threats stemmed from opioid addiction – a dependence formed after a medical procedure. Once the clinic and hospital system stopped prescribing, the threats began. After a visit to the emergency department, Allina Health employees filed restraining orders against him. The following month he was arrested for violating a restraining order and received a notice of trespass.

Ulrich had a history of violence and blamed the health care community for his current situation. He was angry and repeatedly made escalating threats of bodily harm. Although it is impossible to say if this could have been prevented, this fatal incident provides another example of why creating thorough threat assessment as well as a threat management plan, is vital to prevent such an attack. The follow-up is the key.

Creating a threat assessment with a Certified Threat Manager™ helps your organization determine the appropriate threat level and prepare a plan to react. Don’t count on a restraining order as the only means of prevention. Ulrich was a known and escalating threat. When you are able to create a threat management plan early, the more opportunity your organization has to prepare for a dangerous eventuality.

The Need for Reactive Strategies – Preparing for the random

In mid-January 2021, Dr. Bharat Narumanchi walked into the offices of the Children’s Medical Group clinic in Austin, Texas. He identified himself as a recently arrived pediatrician with Stage 4 metastatic cancer. He said he had a desire to volunteer in the final three to four months of his life.

Four days later he returned to the clinic office near closing time, this time with duffel bags full of weapons. He used those weapons to hold five people hostage. After six hours, SWAT breached the building and found Lindley Dodson, 43, a beloved pediatrician, wife and mother, killed. Narumanchi was dead by suicide.

The two physicians had not had any contact or connection prior to the random encounter earlier that week at the clinic. From his comments during the ordeal, the perpetrator appeared hyper-focused on physicians in general. He released all hostages except for Dodson. Narumanci’s volatile behavior and history of domestic abuse is being investigated to attempt to make sense of this attack.

This incident, seemingly random, is perhaps the most difficult type of threat to prevent. This was an unknown person with no prior history with the victims. This horrific incident is an example of why threat managers should not only analyze the known threats, but also manage vulnerabilities. This work includes regular training with de-escalation techniques as well as reviewing all locations for potential weaknesses including physical barriers (locks, screening, exits, etc.)

This is the reactive component of threat management. We will never be able to identify all threats, but if we prepare our businesses and employees in defensive work (like training, physical adjustments, etc.) you can ensure you have done everything possible to prevent a disaster.

A Certified Threat Manager™ can create a training plan to help your team prepare for the unknown.

What Can You Do to Improve Your preventive and reactive strategies in Threat Management?

Working with a a Certified Threat Manager™ will help you develop a thoughtful threat management plan. Together, we will develop a comprehensive plan to identify gaps in current practice, training and processes. Some of the items we will review include:

Establish a Process for Threat Assessment and Management

  • Who “owns” Threat Management in your organization?
  • How do you identify and track behaviors of concern?
  • When does the “troubled” individual become the “troubling” potential attacker?
  • Identifying a potential threat is not enough – How do you manage the threat once identified?
  • Who can you call for help?

Assess the Vulnerability

  • What physical security measures are in place?
  • What training has your staff received: De-escalation? Threat Recognition?
  • Does your staff know how to respond to an Active Assailant?

Don’t Assume “It Won’t Happen Here”

  • The initial threats of violence in Buffalo were deemed non-credible, but two years later, he carried out his threat.
  • Being in a small town or working for a small office doesn’t protect against violence.

Take these tragedies as an opportunity to reassess your current situations, re-analyze current threats and ensure you have your own plan to prevent such an outcome at your place of business.

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