How Should We Protect Offices From Workplace Shootings?

News reports reveal that weeks before the “Dark Knight Killer” murdered 12 innocent victims, his psychiatrist told the “the Threat Assesment” committee at the University of Colorado that Holmes was a possible danger to the campus community.  But, since Holmes dropped out of school at about that same time, the alerts to the danger he posed fell through the cracks.  The debate now begins about what the University should or could have done to prevent the tragic deaths we morn as a nation.  Shortly after Holmes’ senseless masacre a Maryland man was arrested for making general threats that he too was “the Joker” and, with a substantial arsenal sitting in his home, that he would shoot up his workplace.  He will soon be freed on a misdemeanor.  Here is a reprint of a CNN news report that raises serious issues and concerns about how workplace violence can be assessed and prevented:

The charge in workplace threat case is a misdemeanor

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer, Weds August 1, 2012. Washington (CNN) — A Maryland man accused of making threats against his workplace and who had a large cache of legally owned weapons was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor, according to state officials.

Neil Prescott, 28, has been charged with misuse of a telephone and will be formally arrested once he is released from a hospital, where he’s been undergoing a court-ordered mental evaluation.

Prescott was taken into custody early Friday morning and a search of his home revealed about 25 weapons, including hand guns and assault rifles, along with 40 large steel boxes of assorted ammunition, officials said.

Angela Alsobrooks, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, said that although Prescott allegedly made serious threats, it was not possible to bring felony charges.

“Maryland does not have a statute on the books that makes it expressly illegal for a person to communicate generalized threats over the telephone,” said Alsobrooks. She said Maryland should have a stronger law about such threats and that she would lobby for one.

Alsobrooks also said no weapons charges could be brought because Prescott owns his guns legally.

Prescott worked as a subcontractor for Pitney Bowes and was in the process of being fired.

On July 23, he was on the phone with a supervisor and allegedly said several times, “I am a joker. I’m going to load my guns and blow everybody up,” according to local police.

Police officials said they took the threats seriously and were sensitive to the use of the word ‘joker’ in the aftermath of the July 20 mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie complex showing the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The Joker was the villain in a previous film in the series and also appears in the comic book series that inspired the films. Suspect James Holmes was arrested in the Aurora shootings and charged with murdering 12 people and wounding dozens more.

Alsobrooks said that Prescott is still hospitalized in Maryland. If convicted on the misdemeanor charge, he faces a maximum sentence of three years in jail, a fine of $500 or both.

In a Friday news conference, police also revealed that when they interviewed Prescott on Thursday, he was wearing a T-shirt saying, “Guns don’t kill people. I do.”

Later that day, a judge issued an order for Prescott to be hospitalized for evaluation.

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