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Kentucky criminology professor says workplaces need more training to mitigate mass shootings

Ryan Van Velzer

Many questions remain as to why an employee opened fire this week at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville. The 25-year-old gunman killed five colleagues and wounded several more, including police officers responding to the scene.

While a motive hasn’t been released, a criminal justice expert in Kentucky says most workplace shootings involve a disgruntled past or current employee. Many of the perpetrators showed violent tendencies or warning signs.

Dr. Dan Phillips, a professor of Criminology at Campbellsville University, says many workplaces are ill-prepared to respond to mass shootings.

“One thing I’m afraid of is that I think there are some people who are afraid to talk about this, we’ll create anxiety in our employees," Phillips told WKU Public Radio. "While you may create a little anxiety, when people are prepared for situations, they do much better and lives are saved.”

Some law enforcement experts use the acronym ESCAPE to help train workplaces to respond to mass shooters.
That stands for Exit, Seek cover, Conceal yourself, Assess alternatives, Present a small target, and Engage only as a last resort.

Professor Phillips says while there can be some benefit to having employees armed, it can also be harmful without proper training.

While Monday's attack was Kentucky’s first mass shooting of 2023, it’s the 147th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, according to Gun Violence Archive.

The Louisville shooter, identified as bank employee Connor Sturgeon, live streamed the attack on Instagram, once again placing social media companies in the spotlight. The Associated Press reports that tech companies have become better in recent years at cooperating to tamp down the spread of mass shooting videos on mainstream platforms. But there’s still no easy way to stop shooters from broadcasting their grisly crimes
without shutting down live streaming services altogether.

Professor Phillips says displaying the violence to a national audience can be seen as a last attempt at fame, or even acknowledgment.

"I tend to think some people feel less than in society," stated Phillips. "They may have a problem with other people, and so they're going to do something horrific, and then everybody's going to know their name."

Instagram parent company Meta, which also owns Facebook, said it quickly removed the livestream of the Louisville shooting on Monday morning.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.