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Sacramento Threat Assessment Unit — Monitoring Dangerous People To Prevent Mass Shootings


After the nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead, many people are asking if law enforcement is keeping track of potentially dangerous people in Sacramento. The answer is yes, but there are limitations.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department has criminal intelligence files on 160 people. Each file describes complaints, behaviors and mental health treatment received.

For 14 years, Sacramento County Sheriff's Detective Rosemarie Codog is one of three members of the Threat Assessment Unit who respond to calls from people who are scared -- often because their co-workers or neighbors have threatened violence.

She says the subjects of complaints often suffer from paranoia and delusions.

"It could be anything, there's not any one thing specific," she says. "It's behavior that's gonna be over the top, out of the ordinary, threatening in nature, them talking about being fascinated and wanting to obtain weapons because they want to protect themselves, or they think somebody's after them, or specific targets because they're very grieved about somebody."

She says some people come to their attention by way of law enforcement referral or by a lawyer, doctor or therapist.

They are required by law to notify law enforcement and any potential victim -- if the identity is known -- if a patient or client discloses an intent to physically harm someone or group of people.

Codog is often a guest speaker at Crisis Intervention Training classes for law enforcement throughout the Sacramento Region.

She says some of the behaviors she sees mirror the early actions of mass shooters, like the Arizona man who stalked Congresswoman Gabby Giffords for three years before shooting her and 18 other other people.

Codog says a person's journals, blogs or social media posts are often clues to their mental state.

"Where it might look to be very nonsensical just jibberish writing, if you stop and read through it, from time to time, we find somebody will have a plan or a plot or a thought process where they feel violence is the only solution to the situation," she says.

Writings that include the names of previous mass shooters are also taken seriously. As are any writings that take up the walls of a person's home or jail cell.

Codog says heavy use of aluminum foil is also employed by people in an attempt to block transmission to or collection of thoughts from a person suffering from paranoia and/or delusions.

If an officer believes a person is a danger to others or is unable to provide for him or herself, the person will be taken to an emergency room or psychiatric facility. 

If the person is held for a full 72 hours, law enforcement may ask to begin court proceedings to take the person's firearms or other weapons away for a period of five years.

Codog says that while parents and acquaintances often warn law enforcement about an individual, some of those same people provide the tools necessary to carry out a horrendous attack.

She says the Newtown, Connecticut shooter was mentally ill his entire life, but his mother bought firearms for him in an attempt to bond with him.

"It is -- unfortunately -- common what I'm finding is just like with his mom who wanted to bond and took him to learn how to shoot, things like that, I've had two cases of kids who we thought were going to be school shooters. And lo and behold, their parents -- to try to bond with them -- have taken them and bought them guns and taught them to shoot," Codog says.

"Another one," she adds, "the kid was fascinated with bladed-edge stuff. So, dad went and bought him a samurai sword -- knowing that this kid thought the bible and ouiga board in the house were talking to him, telling him to kill them and other people with these swords, but the dad still went and bought it for him. 'Well, he likes them,' (the father said.) 'Well, I hope you're sleeping with your door shut, because you know you're one of the people his voices are telling him to kill.'"

The Central Florida Intelligence Exchange reviewed mass shootings between 2011 and 2013 and found 79 percent of the attackers had a history of mental illness.

Codog says about 10 percent of the cases she handles are serious or worth monitoring closely.

Federal law requires purging of a file if there have been no changes to it in five years.

However, the Threat Assessment Unit and other agencies may keep a log of people they have contacted without the full information from their files.