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Assassination in the United States: An Operational Study of Recent Assassins, Attackers, and Near-Lethal Approachers

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Dated: March 1999 Pages: 321-333
Date Published
13 pages
This study was designed to operationally explore the thinking and behavior of 83 persons known to have attacked or approached to attack a prominent public official or public figure in the United States since 1949.
In addition to data about each attack or near-attack and each subject's demographic and background characteristics, information was gathered about each subject's ideas and actions in the days and weeks before their attacks or near-lethal approaches. Questions were asked about each subject's movement from the idea of attack to actual attack, motives, symptoms of mental illness, and significant life experiences. In every case, the attack or near-attack was the end result of an understandable and often discernible process of thinking and action. Many attackers and near-lethal approaches moved through life on a path that led them to consider the assassination of a prominent person as a way of improving their situations or resolving their problems. At some point, often after a life crisis, attackers and near-lethal approaches began to see the idea of assassination as acceptable and desirable. Persons who continued along the path to attack often carefully considered how to carry out the attack and frequently considered more than one target. Implications of the findings for protectors, investigators, and researchers are discussed. 8 references and 12 tables

Date Published: January 1, 1999