Buffalo shooter was given psych eval one year ago, found not a threat.
Mass shootings make great headlines, but represent a very small proportion of gun deaths each year (the majority of which are suicides). Compounding the difficultly in reducing the number of mass shootings is the fact that we have over 300 million folks in this country. It's difficult to predict when someone is going to blow their cork? And if a students says something "odd" do you have the right to lock them up?
Want to take a deeper dive into the data? Of course you do, you morbid SOB. Great link to Pew Research below.
Payton Gendron, Accused Buffalo Shooter, Was Deemed Not a Threat in Mental-Health Evaluation Last Year
After families ask why more wasn’t done after Payton Gendron said he wanted to kill himself and others last year, district attorney defends local officials’ actions
By Zusha Elinson and Andrea Petersen, WSJ
May 19, 2022 7:42 am ET
The 18-year-old accused of killing 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday didn’t discuss any specific threats and was deemed not to be a danger by mental-health workers after he wrote that he wanted to kill himself and others last year, according to the local district attorney.
Payton Gendron, then 17, made the comment in an online economics class last June and was referred to a hospital where medical staff determined he wasn’t dangerous or mentally ill and sent him home, said Mike Korchak, the district attorney of Broome County, N.Y., where Mr. Gendron lived.
Mr. Gendron told his teacher and the state troopers who took him to UHS Binghamton General Hospital that the threat was a joke. He likely told the medical staff the same thing, Mr. Korchak said. A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment.
Law-enforcement officials and mental-health providers argue that there is little they can do in many cases, particularly when the only warning sign is a vague threat.
“He never even mentioned a gun. He didn’t make any direct threats against students at the school or teachers or anything.” Mr. Korchak said of Mr. Gendron.
In a digital diary he later posted online, Mr. Gendron said he spent 20 hours in the emergency room before talking to someone for 15 minutes. “This proved to me that the US healthcare system is a joke,” he wrote.
“I got out of it because I stuck with the story that I was getting out of class and I just stupidly wrote that down,” he wrote. “It was not a joke, I wrote that down because that’s what I was planning to do.”
Mr. Gendron, who has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, legally purchased the AR-15-style rifle that he used to allegedly shoot 13 people, 11 of whom were Black.
He wrote online that he picked the grocery store where the mass shooting took place because the surrounding ZIP Code had the highest percentage of Black people within driving distance of his home in Conklin, N.Y., a suburb of Binghamton.
On Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order that would require state police to seek court orders to temporarily bar gun possession if there is probable cause to believe someone is likely to harm themselves or others. Authorities didn’t pursue such an order under the state’s existing “red-flag” law against Mr. Gendron.
“We have to prove to a judge that the person is an immediate risk of harm to themselves or others,” said Mr. Korchak. “But a mental-health professional had found that he wasn’t a risk so at that point, you have no basis to be requesting the order.”
Psychiatric clinicians generally base their risk assessments on factors including a patient interview, the person’s psychiatric history and reports from others including police, school officials and family members, said Suzanne Bird, director of the Acute Psychiatry Service in the emergency department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
When trying to ascertain if someone is a danger to others, the clinician generally asks questions including if the patient has a specific person they want to hurt and has access to a gun or other lethal means, said Jimmy Potash, psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Psychiatrists say such evaluations are an inexact science.
“There’s absolutely no instrument or tool or test that has been validated to identify risk,” said Dr. Bird. “You can’t do a CAT scan. You can’t do a blood test.”
Emergency rooms have been overwhelmed by teens with mental-health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the bar is high to admit them to the limited number of inpatient psychiatric beds. Patients sometimes have to wait days or weeks in the emergency room before a bed opens up, says Robert Trestman, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing.
Many states, including New York, have laws that allow hospitals to hold patients involuntarily if they are deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Such holds usually have strict time limits, while longer involuntary stays generally require a court order. Federal law prohibits people who are involuntarily committed by court order from possessing guns.
In some communities affected by mass shootings, school districts and law-enforcement agencies are taking a more aggressive approach to threats.
The Colorado school district where the Columbine High School massacre occurred in 1999 conducts thorough assessments of students who threaten violence and shares its findings broadly with local law enforcement and school officials, said John McDonald, the district’s security chief.
“A mental evaluation is not a threat assessment and the mental-health evaluation is not shared with schools or law enforcement,” Mr. McDonald said.
Aidan Ryan, a spokesman for Susquehanna Valley High School, where Mr. Gendron was a student, said the school follows a strict protocol when students threaten violence: The school notifies police and the student must undergo a mental-health evaluation to determine whether it is safe for them to return.
“Our faculty and staff have followed exactly these protocols in coordination with state police and local health providers when responding to all incidents,” Mr. Ryan said.
Corrections & Amplifications
The district attorney of Broome County, N.Y., is Mike Korchak. An earlier version of this article misspelled his last name as Korchack in one instance. (Corrected on May 19.)
Write to Zusha Elinson at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrea Petersen at email@example.com