Don’t allow ‘bystander fatigue’ to be reason we don’t notice red flags
FBI investigators introduced a term few may have heard in describing how Connor Betts managed to reach the point of killing nine people in Dayton, Ohio in 2019 before being killed by police: bystander fatigue.
A man who had fantasized for years about mass shootings, serial killings, sexual assault and murder-suicide had left his friends and family so used to his behavior that they may not have seen the worst coming. Bystander fatigue is “the passivity, inaction, or inattention to concerning behaviors observed by individuals who have a close, interpersonal relationship to a person of concern due to their prolonged exposure to the person’s erratic or otherwise troubling behavior over time.”
After the shooting, those who attended high school with Betts said he had been suspended years ago for compiling a “hit list” of classmates. He asked a friend to purchase for him body armor and a 100-round magazine. He had a “history of obsession with violent ideations with mass shootings and expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting.”
By the time he acted, at age 24, those closest to him had been dealing with his “troubling behavior” and were used to it.
That is why the FBI says it is important to pay attention to people like Betts, and to note even subtle changes in their behavior. Don’t be lulled into ignoring what might seem like a red flag. Raising the alarm could save lives.