How 'Bystander Fatigue' Prevented Catching Dayton Mass Shooter Before Rampage

On Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) closed a two-year investigation of the August 4, 2019, mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. According to the investigative report, the shooter, Connor Betts, "was solely responsible for the injuries and deaths that were a result of his actions. He acted alone and was not directed by any organization or aligned to any specific ideological group."

The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) released its key findings regarding the shooter's motivations for the attack, during which Betts killed nine people and injured 27 others. They concluded that the attacker's decision to commit the mass shooting was likely a result of his "enduring fascination with mass violence and his inability to cope with a convergence of personal factors."

It was also found that the attacker had "fantasized about mass shootings, serial killings, and murder-suicide for at least a decade."

An FBI report titled "Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing, and Managing the Threat of Targeted Attacks" said that "this is one advantage that threat assessment teams have-preparing to engage in violence almost always requires time and action, which in turn allows for opportunities for bystander observation and reporting."

However, interviews with the attacker's friends and peers indicated that they did not know about his violent fantasies.

Dayton Gun Violence Protestors
The Federal Bureau of Investigation closed a two-year investigation of Connor Betts' 2019 attack on Dayton, Ohio. In this photo, gun control demonstrators line the street near Miami Valley Hospital in anticipation of a visit from President Donald Trump on August 7, 2019, in Dayton. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The report pointed out that "bystander fatigue" was possibly a major factor contributing to the attack. According to the investigative report, "the term 'bystander fatigue' is used by the FBI's BAU to describe 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."

The "Making Prevention a Reality" report emphasized the importance of intervention by bystanders (or "upstanders") and the responsibility they have, stating that "in view of the impact these events have on communities and the nation, virtually everyone in society can be an upstander. They should be viewed as such, and more importantly, encouraged to view themselves as such."

The investigative report concluded by thanking those who came to the aid of the victims during the attack.

"The FBI and Dayton Police Department commend all of the partners involved for their efforts in the response and investigation of this horrific attack," the report said. "The rapid reaction by Dayton police officers and their decisive actions at the shooting scene undoubtedly saved additional lives from being lost. Both agencies continue to work with the victims who were impacted and have updated them on the status of the investigation."