The mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was the deadliest workplace shooting in more than a year, and experts on Friday warned that such incidents could increase as more and more people are returning to work after a year of pandemic-induced isolation.
Eight were killed in the shooting Thursday night, marking the highest death toll in a workplace shooting since February 2020, around the start of the pandemic in the United States, when five people were killed after a colleague opened fire at Molson Coors headquarters. in Milwaukee, according to statistics compiled by NBC News.
“It is entirely possible that there will be an increase in this type of killings when people who have worked remotely start returning,” said James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston and the one of the best massacres experts in the country.
Many have suffered economic hardship without work, he said. Some who have felt cheated by supervisors while working from home will be face to face with their boss for the first time in months.
“Workplace killers see themselves as unfairly treated and want revenge,” Fox said. “They usually think that other people are entitled to promotions, that other people have breaks and that someone has to pay.”
Christopher Herrmann, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, agreed.
“It stands to reason that workplace shootings will increase,” Herrmann said. “School shootings are going to increase because the kids are back in school. Ditto for work situations. It’s just going to happen.
Although investigators have identified the Indiana shooter, they have yet to determine a motive.
“Something tells me that’s probably the case with a disgruntled worker who had been at work before and not someone who just comes back to work,” Herrmann said. “FedEx, UPS, Amazon, they’ve all hired throughout the pandemic.”
But those employees, especially delivery people, were under increased stress during the height of the pandemic, Fox said, and some may have built up resentments against their employers as they risked their lives for a living.
“They weren’t staying home where it was safe,” Fox said. “And you know, you can’t kill the business. But you can harm the business by committing what is known as proxy murder. “
The shooting in Indiana came about a week after police said a Texas man opened fire at a cabinet-making factory in the small town of Bryan, killing a colleague and injuring five more.
Earlier this year, one person was killed and three others were injured in a February 9 workplace shooting at a Minnesota medical clinic.
But between the Molson Coors and Minnesota shootings, there have only been two workplace shootings with multiple victims, according to the NBC News tally.
Three people were killed on June 26, 2020 at a Bunn-O-Matic warehouse in Springfield, Illinois. The next day, three more people were fatally shot at a Walmart distribution center in northern California by a recently fired employee who was later killed by police.
The sudden resurgence of mass workplace shootings is not just the result of more people returning to work, said Lori Ann Post, director of Northwestern’s Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“It’s because the pandemic and politics got all the attention last year,” Post said. “The goal of mass shooters is to kill as many people as possible and get as much attention as possible. Now that Covid is starting to decline and we have a president who is not involved in scandal after scandal, there is more room in the media for something else.
Homicides actually increased by 30% during the pandemic, largely due to an increase in domestic violence brought on by stress, economic uncertainty and other factors, Post said.
The number of homicides, gun assaults and aggravated assaults jumped last year, according to a 28-city survey conducted by Richard Rosenfeld, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and former president of the American Society of Criminology.
“But the pandemic had a positive impact on the number of mass shootings because it sucked all the oxygen,” Post said.
In 2019, the United States carried out an average of one mass shooting per week, Herrmann said.
Like Congress, NBC News defines a mass shooting as three or more people shot or killed in a single incident, not including the gunman.
Last month, a man from Georgia, who claimed to be sexually addicted, was charged with shooting eight people, mostly Asian women, at several Atlanta-area spas. In Colorado, 10 people, including a police officer, died at the hands of a gunman in a Boulder grocery store.
“Clearly this did not happen during the pandemic,” said Mike Lawlor, associate professor of criminal justice at New Haven University, in a previous interview. “While overall crime has declined during the pandemic, shootings, homicides and domestic violence have actually increased. But now we’re going back to what happened before, this kind of senseless slaughter. It could very well be a buildup of pent up frustration by some emotionally disturbed people.