scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Incidents like S.C. shooting on the rise, study says

FBI report finds steady increase in active shooter incidents in the US

Nuns from the Daughters of St. Paul prayed outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Armed with a rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun, Michael M. McDermott shot his co-workers in the Edgewater Technology Inc. building in Wakefield, killing seven people on Dec. 26, 2000.

When police arrived, they found McDermott sitting in a conference room.

The local incident bore all the hallmarks of something that has become increasingly common: shootings in populated places. The number of active shooter incidents has risen steadily in the US from 2000 to 2013, according to a 2014 FBI study.

These incidents happened an average of 11.4 times a year — or slightly less than once per month — between 2000 and 2013, the FBI study found.


Active shooter incidents are defined by US government as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area,” like a mall, school, or church. Most recently, nine people were killed in such an incident at a historically African-American church in Charleston, S.C.

Between 2000 and 2013, 486 people died and 557 were wounded during 160 active shooter incidents, according to the FBI. This type of violence happened across the country, in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

The incidents took place on military bases, in hospitals, and in churches. Most involved a solo male shooter.

The largest share (45.6 percent) of the incidents occurred in a places of commerce, including businesses open to the public, office buildings, or malls, according to the study.

In the majority of the incidents, the violence ended before police arrived, when the shooter died by suicide (which happened 40 percent of the time), stopped shooting, or fled the scene.

In 21 cases, the shooter exchanged fire with law enforcement. Nine officers died while engaging active shooters during this time period.

Five shooters from four incidents remain at large, according to the FBI.


About 40 percent of active shooter incidents are mass killings, when three or more people are killed. The FBI study did not look at other types of mass killing cases, nor did researchers look at incidents involving domestic violence, gang or drug violence, hostage situations, self-defense conflicts, or deadly crossfire as a byproduct of another ongoing criminal act.

Catherine Cloutier can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @cmcloutier.