When Threats of Violence Turn into Reality


In Dallas, Texas on Saturday the 13th, James Boulware drove a modified armored van to the police headquarters building, placed pipe bomb explosives and opened fire. Fortunately, no one was injured during the initial gunfire but Mr. Boulware did lead the police on a car chase to a parking lot in a nearby city, where he again exchanged gunfire with officers. The following standoff ended when a police sniper fired and fatally struck him. It is believed that the recent loss of full custody of his son appeared to trigger the rage that led to the shooting.

Mr. Boulware, 35, was a man that struggled at times with mental illness, obsessed with mass shootings and living a life that was with few friends and reduced family support. He made a number of earlier threats to attack “soft targets” such as schools and churches, threatened family members and even threatened judges on social media.

With recent events like this and others involving individuals that have become violent, it is important to understand how to assess the risks of the actual threats that may precede the violent act.

When an individual makes a threat, here are some indicators to consider:

  • Credibility of the threat. Is there previous history of violence? Is it specific? Is there intent? Is there capability to actually carry it out? 
  • Grievances. Is there blame being placed for the individual’s situation. 
  • Changes in attitude. This could be from a recent failure, loss of status, or change in living arrangements. It may result in a change in appearance. 
  • Delusional behavior. This may be evident with becoming disoriented with people, places and times as well as include hallucinations, paranoid beliefs and homicidal or suicidal thoughts. 
  • Potential triggers that can increase the stress. Are there impending changes in marital status, living arrangements, employment status, recent illness and changes in daily structure.

If these types of threats are expressed through social media or directly, it is important to include law enforcement and threat management professionals in the assessment process. Learn more about workplace violence prevention and download our Risk Management Bulletin, Mass Shootings and Your Business to learn the four key questions that all business and organizations should ask themselves. 

Speak with a HUB Risk Consultant today for assistance with conducting a threat assessment or to develop and implement a violence free workplace plan tailored to your needs, demographics and location.