Preventing mass shootings: How to keep people from slipping into potentially dangerous situations

Experts say community must work together to help prevent mass shootings

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DETROIT – The Local 4 Defenders are investigating mass shootings and finding out what parents can do to prevent them.

Experts are working with the Defenders to raise awareness about potential threats, warning signs and preventative measures in mass shooting situations.

READFBI works to lock up Michigan man believed to be mass shooting threat despite no serious crimes

Local 4 Defender Kevin Dietz took a look at the issue of mental illness and what can be done for people slipping into potentially dangerous isolation.

According to the FBI, there have been more than 300 mass shootings so far this year. Almost all of them were carried out by single men with easy access to guns, and most planned their attack for about a week before putting the plan into action, police said.

Experts said that week is a time in which family members, friends and co-workers can make a major difference.

A 25-year-old man from Southeast Michigan is an example of a serious problem in the country. Mathew has purchased multiple high-powered weapons while praising mass shooters.

"(He said) that the Virginia Tech shooter had a 'way with words,'" said Hank Moon, the assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. "He describes the Las Vegas shooter as a 'hero.'"

Mathew was also researching potential targets.

"He searched 'Pulse Night Club,' the attack location in Orlando," Moon said. "Then, (he) immediately searched Ann Arbor night clubs, night clubs in the local area. The defendant searched Columbine High School and then immediately searched, 'Howell Michigan High School.'"

"He was buying guns and looking up mass shooters and looking up potential targets in the area," Local 4 legal expert Keith Corbett said. "At the time, I didn't really think it was a big deal because it's not illegal but, obviously, it wasn't a good idea."

Mathew wasn't charged with making threats, but pleaded guilty to a felony for lying about his income to obtain credit cards. He is out on probation, but law enforcement officers are still concerned.

"We all sit there and say this guy may be a mass shooter," Corbett said. "Unfortunately, we don't live in a society where we can arrest people on the possibility that they might commit a crime."

Corbett said officials are handling Mathew correctly. The felony conviction means he can no longer possess guns, and now he is in the system, "which gives the government much more opportunity to review his conduct than they would the average citizen," Corbett said.

Shiner said the community needs to be involved in helping people such as Mathew.

"Maybe part of the treatment has to be some kind of group therapy, some kind of social skills training, vocational training," Shiner said.

He said people can help by interacting with people who are isolated.

"We come over and say, 'What's up? What are you thinking of? What's your interest in this?' We're here to protect the community. We're here to protect you from doing something that's going to get you hurt or have you end up in jail,'" Shiner said.

Michelle Gay's daughter, Josephine, died in the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. She co-founded Safe and Sound Schools and travels the country saying safety is everyone's job.

"We've got mental and behavioral health," Gay said. "We've got physical safety and the environment. We've got culture and climate, emergency management."

She insisted parents and students often have the best ideas on who might be a threat and how to make schools safer.

"The idea is to bring together all of these perspectives and disciplines and stakeholders, all of these community members -- our students, our teachers, our administrators, our mental health professionals, our first responders," Gay said.

Experts said the better teachers, parents and children get to know each other, the better the chance of preventing a potential threat maker from wanting to act out.

They said it's important to recognize when a person might be spiraling out of control. If that happens, someone should contact a teacher, principal, superintendent, police chief or the FBI.

Together, officials can determine what, if any, course of action is needed.

Click here to send a threat tip to the FBI.

Click here to learn more tips for families to make schools safer.

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