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CLEVELAND - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation reveals there are three key traits that can tip off teachers and parents to what law enforcement studies call an "active shooter" profile.
James Burke, an instructor with the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy operated by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, said a decade of school shootings has produced some key traits.
"There are always signs," said Burke. "There's a very simple checklist that I give to teachers, school administrators and parents."
Among the warning signs is classwork that often reveals a dark side that Burke said is a potential shooter reaching out for help.
"They're turning in these things that are so outlandish that they want someone to go 'what's going on here'," said Burke.
Another trait is odd behavior that often goes unreported.
For example, Burke said the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre actually was seen at a gun range practicing on cardboard targets lying on the ground.
"He'd practice walking by and shooting them," said Burke. "Then he would reload and walk back."
Eyewitnesses later recalled the odd behavior, but failed to make a connection that targets on the ground would later become students on a classroom floor.
A third trait, said Burke, is revealing plans to others simply to strike fear into them -- but no one reports it.
Burke also said Internet and Facebook postings can reveal anger that can be a prelude to violence.
"The key," said Burke, "is to bring all these things together and share them -- often times teachers can spot one trait, parents another, and police another -- but the information is never shared."
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