Security expert expects Santa Fe shooting suspect to be quizzed


AUSTIN (KXAN) — While investigators try to pin down a motive behind the shooting attack that killed at least 10 people Friday morning in Santa Fe, Texas, they also worked quickly to determine any continuing threats to public safety. 

“Forensically, you have a heck of a crime scene to try to look at whenever you have this many people shot. You have a police officer that’s also wounded — very badly, I understand — and then you have the introduction of improvised explosive devices, which adds a little bit more complexity to the situation,” explained Fred Burton, the vice president of Intelligence at Stratfor, an Austin-based intelligence firm.

Burton told KXAN that as local and federal investigators work hard to collect evidence at the scene, they also work to maintain safety in the area.

“I’m sad to say we’ve gotten very good at this. We’ve had so much experience at mass casualty attacks across the country that the system kicks in and so, you’re going to rely upon your federal partners, ATF and the FBI predominantly,” he said. 

Burton says the kind of questioning that will take lead with the shooting suspect will reveal information about any additional security threats he may have planted.

“One of the things you’re going to want to ask him early on is: where are other possible bombs that you might have left or placed? Help us understand where those could be,” said Burton. 

Getting that information, Burton says, could prevent additional injuries and/or even deaths in the wake of such a tragedy, while at the same time could help law enforcement gain even greater insight into the shooter and his motive.

“The degree of sophistication of the actual bombs is something that I would find most interesting,” said Burton. “Are they basic pipe bombs? Are they more sophisticated? Perhaps propane-enhanced? Maybe presser cookers, like we saw at the Boston Marathon. When you add bombs into the shooter’s mix, that shows also a very long planning cycle.”

He said investigators will work to learn when the shooter started planning the attack, when he started procuring the proceeds to put together the bombs, and who he decided to kill and why.

Either way, Burton says the fact that the suspect is still alive is to the benefit of law enforcement.

“That gives investigators an opportunity to try to quiz him and question him and learn from this,” he said. “You’re never going to be able to make sense of all of it, but hopefully at least from a motive perspective, this will help and then we can move on and better prepare for the next one.”

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