It’s funny what will query your human RAM (random access memory)…

Memories and fingerprints.

I’m putzing around getting ready for a 5-hour long Zoom video call (progress report for a government contract) and I’ve got a film playing on mute in the background. A scene from the film Serenity (2005) reminds me of a scene in an earlier film, Alien: Resurrection from 1997. That’s pattern recognition, now for a brief analysis.    

Both films were the brainchild of Joseph Hill (Joss) Whedon. Although Whedon is better known for his work on the Avengers Universe series of novels, books, comic books, games, and TV shows, his tastes and patterns come through in everything he touches. They become a unique fingerprint standing out even long after he’s called “Cut!” 

Whedon’s use of a tough band of space pirates that resembles the cast of Glee only with ‘Mad-Maxian’ costumes permeates his work. ‘Reavers’, a race of cannibalistic, unstoppable invaders aren’t unlike the Alien race depicted in his earlier work. Whedon even re-purposes spacecraft from the 1987 film in this film, destroying a Reaver ship in Serenity that appears to be the ‘Betty’, the pirate ship from Alien: Resurrection.

I tolerate Whedon because I read an observation by Joss in his bio that struck me as introspective and uber-intelligent. Whedon was commenting on his time at a school in England as a young teen. He was being bullied and mentioned,

“it was clear to me from the start that I must take an active role in my survival.” 

A recurring theme in my work, a ‘fingerprint’ really, is the statement that YOU are largely responsible for your own well-being, safety, and security. A major influence is training, as it changes behavior. Training is powerful enough to create new mental file folders and fix corrupted mental file folders.



While teaching a course last month at a prestigious university in Virginia, one of the members of Red Cell (everyone is assigned a “cell” identity) was inputting information during the Morning Security and Intel Brief. He stood up, and in a rehearsed role to emblazon a point, pulled up his jacket, and underneath was wearing a white t-shirt with the letters KTW.

Unintentionally his act triggered a panic response in me. I had seen this type of behavior before.

On 27 February, 2012, in Chardon, Ohio, student TJ Lane calmly stood up, unbuttoned then removed his collared shirt revealing a hand-lettered message on a white t-shirt. TJ had written one word. KILLER. No one reacted.

Lane then calmly took a Ruger MK III Target .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun out of his book back and shot 4 students who were sitting at a cafeteria table having breakfast, killing 3. Lane turned, shot two more students. Brave Chardon High School teacher and football coach Frank Hall chased TJ Lane out of the building where he was apprehended by police a short time later.

Later, when Lane appeared in court to plead guilty (on the nose to three life sentences for murder); TJ Lane stood up, calmly unbuttoned then removed his collared revealing a new, hand lettered white t-on which he had written one word. KILLER. No one reacted. Lane turned to the families of his victims and said;

This hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. Fuck all of you.

He gave his captive audience the middle finger, then sat smiling at them.

If Lane would have had access to a pistol rather than only being armed with his middle finger, he would have shot as many people as he had bullets. He had no intention of committing suicide (either at the scene, after, in jail, etc.) as evidence by his later escape and recapture. He would have shot, then run.

TJ Lane wanted his SAYand his WAY, which is the most dangerous type of offender.

How is it the jail staff and Lane’s own attorney were surprised by TJ’s actions?

Why didn’t they predict it?

How did they not take steps to prevent it?

People telegraph their intent.

On 05 September 1949 a mild-mannered World War II veteran named Howard Unruh was “full”. Some kids had kicked down a little picket fence he had erected. That was it, the last in a string of perceived and real insults that Howard took to heart. Howard grabbed a marker from his desk, wrote RETAL on his shirt (short for ‘retaliation’), calmly picked up his loaded, 9mm Luger pistol and walked the streets of Camden, New Jersey exacting vengeance by shooting and killing 13 before he went home and awaited the arrival of police to whom he surrendered. Howard Unruh was 28.

Like TJ Lane, Howard never thought of committing suicide. Like TJ Lane he never intended to shoot it out with the cops. Like TJ Lane, Howard Unruh felt he had been wronged and wanted both his SAY and his WAY, both young men wanted retribution. These are both examples of people telegraphing their actions. It’s a fundamental premise of my hypothesis on human behavior pattern recognition and analysis. My research and scientifically valid training programs now span over 35 years. 

What set TJ Lane off? TJ Lane was a damaged human. His cup had cracks and his broken emotions were leaking out. Lane, with low Emotional Intelligence, suffered a series of incidents during which he demonstrated that he dealt with external stress (relationships, dating, dealing with parents or teachers) through violence. No one put the pre-event indications together soon enough. Lane sought out and got professional mental help, yet because of budgetary considerations, Lane didn’t get the level of intervention necessary.

Lane wasn’t supposed to be at Chardon High or with that group of folks. A limited budget and only one transport bus made it necessary for all of the at-risk kids to meet at Chardon High, have breakfast there, then board the same transport vehicle to another school for treatment. This was an accident waiting to happen. TJ saw this as an opportunity and exploited it, just like he did later to make his statement in the courtroom and after that to make his statement by escaping from prison. TJ Lane “shot then ran” in each incident.

What set Howard Unruh off? He was “full.” Howard Unruh was just another damaged human. Although Howard Unruh had a severe undiagnosed mental illness that plagued him, his condition was untreated. He amassed injustices he perceived until the fence incident pushed him over the edge. The pre-event indications of a slow-burn, violent outburst abounded. No one reacted.

Howard never tried to hide his hate; in fact, he wrote about it daily in his journal. The title page said RETAL, for retaliation. Howard hand-lettered it.

If someone takes time to write something down, you need to take the time to read it!

(AP Photo/Mary McGregor)

Karl Pierson telegraphed his violent outburst and on December 13th, 2013 walked into Arapahoe High School in Colorado with a gun. Karl shot and killed the woman he loved (fellow senior Claire Davis) shot his debate coach, and then stuck the gun under his chin and killed himself. Karl telegraphed his actions a number of ways one of which was to write THE DIE IS CAST in Latin, in large black letters visible to all on his forearms.

A message that Karl Pierson was full. Karl felt that he had been wronged and his situation was hopeless. Karl saw only one way out and he took it.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris gave myriad pre-event indications. Dylan and Eric killed, then killed themselves exactly how they had outlined in their journals. Journals that were read by their fellow students and teachers at Columbine High School. On the day of the massacre, Dylan and Eric wanted folks to remember their hate, so each chose a shirt that matched their murderous moods that day. One wore a t-shirt with RAGE written on the chest, the other with NATURAL SELECTION.

He walked by night.

Erwin Walker’s dad was a prominent engineer in LA. His uncle a famous lawyer who would one day become a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. Erwin was excellent in technology, especially radio engineering and electronics. His skills got him accepted to Caltech.

Erwin found early that it was easy enough for him to outthink everyone in the room. Soon his intellectual sparring with fellow students and even the professors began to polarize him. Erwin was drafted into the US Army signal corps where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Erwin was great with electronics but terrible at being a soldier. One night while stationed at a comms outpost in the Philippines during World War II, Erwin left his post early to read a book and get some much-needed sleep. That night, a highly specialized team of Japanese paratroopers attacked the base killing and maiming dozens. Had Erwin been at his post providing security, the incident wouldn’t have occurred, or possibly Erwin himself would have been killed.

That was it for Erwin. Not only did his guilt send him packing, but his fellow soldiers (those not killed or horribly disfigured in the attack) did not hide that they felt Erwin was largely at fault for leaving his post that night and not conforming to the accepted security protocols. Erwin left the military.

Back on the block and out of the service, Erwin checked out. He was often seen walking outside his home carrying around a WWII machine gun either slung across his back or propped lazily on his shoulder. Erwin was acting out – asking for help without using his voice. No one reacted.

Erwin spent the next few months creating an experimental workshop in a rented garage where he fiddled all day with his electronic gadget and committed robberies and burglaries each night to feed his need to outthink the masses, to be the smartest guy in the room. Erwin’s crime spree led him to steal an arsenal of weapons, garner the precursors for explosives manufacture, and steal a variety of electronic components with which to carry on his ‘experiments’. Erwin made over $70,000.00 just selling stuff he stole.

Everyone that knew Erwin outlined countless ways that he had changed. Yet now one stepped in to ask Erwin what was on his mind. What was on his heart. Remember, even though Erwin Walker was a recluse and shunned society, he had to operate in society to accomplish his ‘mission’. While his criminal exploits outside served his own purposes – he had to interact with people to meet his objectives of selling stolen goods and making money. His social interaction meant his bizarre and criminal behavior was observable and therefore could have been profiled or analyzed. This is not different than killers like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, or Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza. They left their human behavior fingerprints everywhere they went.

As smart as Erwin was, he forgot to factor in Lady Luck. One night while selling a piece of stolen television production equipment, Erwin sold a stolen item back to the man he had unwittingly stolen it from, that man called police. Coppers set up to arrest Erwin for burglary, when approached the cops they didn’t expect anything other than a simple B&E suspect, until Erwin opened fire on them, shooting and nearly killing both detectives. Erwin got away clean then took additional steps to change his name, fake IDs, then steal more vehicles and license plates.

Police underestimated Erwin Walker. They didn’t expect an emotion devoid, cunning criminal. They assumed that they were dealing with a “run of the mill burglar,” not an opponent who was willing to take extraordinary steps to avoid capture. Each day Erwin operated, local law increased their risk exposure and vulnerability.

One night, while Erwin was casing an electronics store that exact situation occurred. As a preventative measure and to avoid detection and apprehension, Erwin had staged his gear in a hedgerow close to his upcoming burglary. In this manner, Erwin could avoid being contacted on the street while carrying burglary tools (gloves, a pry bar, a set of bolt cutters).

Erwin, driving a stolen car, armed with guns, explosives, and even more burglary tools, observed California Highway Patrol Officer Loren Cornwell Roosevelt driving slowly and shining a flashlight near Erwin’s staged gear. Erwin didn’t want his plan interrupted and didn’t want to risk identification through the discovery of his gear, so Erwin pulled alongside the car and fired a burst of automatic weapons fire from a Thompson .45 into it.

Officer Roosevelt died, but not until he gave detectives leads that would ultimately lead to Erwin’s capture. Erwin stopped pulling B&E’s and started a series of brazen armed robberies of liquor stores.

In case he was stopped by police, Erwin outfitted his stolen vehicles so that shoot the contacting officers with a hidden machine-gun remotely, truly demonstrative of a cunning opponent, one willing to kill police officers in order to escape. No matter how smart criminals are, if they continue to offend, they leave a distinct path of human behavior cues and ‘fingerprints’ scattered about, clues visible to the trained eye, every time an offender leaves their lair to interact with their environment.

Cops found their way to Erwin’s lair. After a gunfight, a fistfight, shooting Erwin a number of times and hitting him over the head hard enough to break a long gun stock, Erwin was taken in custody and ended up on death row.

So What?

People constantly telegraph their actions and leave evidence no matter how careful or intelligent they are.

A trained investigator can put these cues and clusters together AND conduct predictive analysis to determine where and when to put surveillance or teams to prevent a crime, stop an event, or catch a criminal in action.

Erwin Walker turned from quiet, smart, professional kind kid and student and turned into a stone-cold mental killer, a burglar, and liquor store stick-up man sporting a tommy gun. Don’t grieve for Erwin, a lot of men and women serve in combat zones, return mixed up depressed loners but NEVER pick up a gun and resort to violence or criminality.

To close the loop on Erwin Walker, he applied for parole in 1974 and was released from prison. After changing his name, he obtained a high-level job as a chemical engineer and dropped from sight until he died in 2008.

Walker ultimately used his military training and police experience (as a Glenwood Police civilian employee) to fashion how he could conduct his criminal activities without drawing the suspicion of law enforcement. That demonstrates tactical cunning. Had the cops in this instance understood access, sophistication, organization, tactical cunning – all the basic stuff we teach in courses each week – they would have caught Erwin sooner and not exposed coppers to injury and death.

Had parents, teachers, church congregations, corporations, employees been trained on Human Behavior Pattern Recognition and Analysis, there is a much lower likelihood that criminals like TJ Lane, Karl Pierson or any of the case study subjects mentioned above, would have been able to plan and execute their attacks without detection.

He Walked by Night - Wikipedia

For those of you that want to see Erwin’s story through a Hollywood lens, go out and rent the film “He Walked by Night”. Great film (not actually factual, but still a great portrayal) from 1948. Side note, the technical advisor for the film was Sgt. Marty Wynn of the Los Angeles Police Department and it’s the first appearance of my  Jack Webb who took lessons from this film and turned it into the Dragnet radio show and finally television series.




Training changes behavior.

–           Greg


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