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UC Santa Barbara Shooter – Video Analysis

This video analysis is part of our recently released training center content.


In case you haven’t seen it, here is a 7-minute section of the video that was released showing the shooter before he opened fire on unarmed people at UC Santa Barbara on May 23, 2014.  You can find the Wikipedia overview of the attack here.  (In case the video doesn’t play, please contact me since I assume YouTube will take it down and we can find another way).

For an analysis, I want to show how his behavior changes depending on what topic he is talking about.  These changes are what we talk about in our classes as the “repeat topics” that we are looking to identify as we move through a contact.  These shifts and changes in behavior reveal topics that we would want to follow up with because they are causing a response in the person talking.  How you would incorporate these observations into your job depends on what you are tasked with and what you are looking to get out of a conversation, but regardless of your role, we can improve our ability to recognize these shifts by going through this video systematically.

Before you watch the video, anticipate what behavior you expect to see, knowing that this is a justification for why he is about to conduct an attack.  Once you’ve got that, watch through the 7-minute video once in order to get a general feel for the topics and his behavior.

My anticipated behavior was dominance.  I figured that since he was going to be preparing for an attack, the dominant cluster would be present. In the video, we can divide the topics in this speech down into four themes:

  • Why he is going to conduct his attack (the cause)
    • Loneliness and rejection by women
    • College wasn’t fun for him because he couldn’t get girls
  • Why he was rejected by girls (the cause of the cause)
    • “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I’m going to punish you girls for it.”
  • What he is going to do (his plan)
    • “I will punish all of you for it”
    • How he is going to conduct his attack, go to a sorority house
  • The way he will be seen after the attack (the effect of his action)
    • He will be superior
    • He will be seen as the true Alpha Male
    • He will be a god

The two themes that seemed to evoke changes in behavior related to the cause of the cause (why he was rejected by women) and his plan for the attack.  When he talks about the cause of the cause – his behavior shifts to the “Uncomfortable Cluster.”  The behaviors that I observed are:

  • Between 0:44 and 0:53, you see him shrug with his left shoulder three times while talking about girls giving their “love, sex, affection” to others.  The shrug indicates a lack of confidence.  He is assuming that this is happening, but a lack of confidence (and his statement that he is a virgin) shows that he doesn’t really know this to be the case.  That lack of confidence indicates discomfort.
  • At 1:16 of the clip when he is talking about “college is the time where everyone experiences those things” you see him push back in his seat and move around more than he does during times of his talk when he is displaying comfort
  • At 1:50, as he is talking about “I don’t know what you don’t see in me,” you see more shoulder shrugs and pushes back in his chair again.  This behavior matches his statements (and the lack of confidence in why he has been rejected) but reinforces his discomfort with this topic and the behavior continues as he talks about girls throwing themselves at “obnoxious men.”

When he talks about what he is going to do about it – his behavior is what I at first anticipated – the “Dominant Cluster.”  The behaviors that I observed here are:

  • At 1:40, when he says “but I will punish you…” you see him point towards the camera. That is an illustrator gesture used to reinforce exactly what he is saying, in this case, who the target of his attack is.
  • At 2:03, points to the camera again, saying “I will punish all of you for it.” Same analysis as previous point.
  • At 4:58, “If I can’t have you, I will destroy you,” points towards the camera again
  • At 5:12, as he is saying “you denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny you life,” you see him lean towards the camera, posturing as he makes that point
  • At 5:32, “If I had it in my power…” he points towards the camera and does it again as he follows with the people that need to be annihilated
  • At 6:22, “I’ll give you exactly what you deserve,” pointing towards camera

Early in the video, he displays one behavior worth noting when discussing the cause itself:

  • Reveals dominance at 0:56 saying that he is still a virgin and never even kissed a girl. You see him lean forward quickly towards the camera.

How to use this video and to build upon your behavioral file folders:

  • Watch it again (at least once) and focus only on observing the different behaviors that he displays
  • Watch it another time and focus on connecting the behaviors that you observe with the topic he is talking about
  • Repeat the process until you would feel confident recognizing the behavior in real time and associating it with the topic
  • Conduct a mental simulation for how you would use this in your job.  If you are thinking about interviews or interrogations, how would you probe about his intentions to commit violence because of the dominance you observed?  If you are considering this from an intelligence collections perspective, how would you use this recognition of discomfort with women to your advantage?
  • These steps will help improve your recognition primed decision-making and your ability to use this information in real time.  (Making decisions like Peyton Manning).
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