Who Failed to Connect the Dots and why?

Written By: Robert D. Sollars

Workplace violence (WPV) assaults, verbal to a point and physical, & shootings can be lessened and even prevented by paying attention to the warning signs, which we just finished discussing last week. We pride ourselves on the Department of Homeland Security’s quote “See something, say something”. They say it works very well but I think it’s overused. On February 9th this year, Gregory Paul Ulrich, who exhibited more than a couple of the WPV warning signs, walked into Allina health care clinic in Buffalo, MN, killing one and wounded several more. Dare we forget about those at that clinic who will forever be traumatized by the death, destruction, fear, & sounds, despite the training and counseling they have and will receive?

The dots for this event were not connected by the individuals who lived close to, knew, and interacted with the 67-year-old, Buffalo, MN resident. They may have been miles apart, but individually they saw the changes that came over Ulrich.

What dots were to be connected you ask? Below are the ones I have pulled out of the media articles I’ve received & read, with doing no research, and the corresponding warning signs that I speak of;

Unshakable Depression…potential is definitely there. he had been depressed for a length of time…at least a year.

Bullying. It had been well-known in his retirement community that he was a bully, and did his best to be that bully when things did not go his way.

Obsession with firearms. He had always owned firearms, but recently had been ‘obsessed’ with them, as said a neighbor, owning a few of them, and purchasing more in the past few months.

Drug/Alcohol Abuse. His argument with the clinic was that he was using a month of pain killers within 10 days of receiving the prescriptions before they stopped giving him more.

Continual Excuses. According to neighbors, he was constantly making excuses for nearly everything that occurred to him or around him, even things he did there was an excuse.

Serious Stress.  Stress can cause anyone to act differently and even strike out at another person, be it a significant other or someone that just out and out pisses them off during the day.

Simmering or Uncontrollable Anger. Because of the clinic’s refusal to give more painkillers, his anger overflowed on the 9th, although his neighbors told the media that he “Always seemed to be mad”.

Threats. Ulrich uttered veiled threats to the clinic, on several occasions and verbal threats, loud enough to be heard by multiple people, in and out of his retirement community.

Unusual or Changed Behavior. While Ulrich had the above attitudes for a long time, they became much more pronounced in the past few months, since he was released from clinical care.


Can’t Happen Here. As I have stated innumerable times, this is the most dangerous attitude that an organization can have. The senior management believes that no one would dare to assault them or that they are too vital to be attacked or that “who would attack us?”. As we have seen in numerous incidents…it can happen there.

deniability of the clinic. Simply put the overall question that many voiced with the assault were “How could this happen here?” or “Why did this happen at a clinic of all places?”.

These are the dots that weren’t connected. It is up to every organization out there, to know the people within their walls. They will never know everyone, that’s being a bit unrealistic, but they should know them well enough to be able to spot these signs and like the old game, connect the dots to make a picture. This also takes in the customers, visitors, vendors, delivery people, and everyone else…as unrealistic as it may be…observation will work if nothing else will.

The rest of not connecting the dots comes into play with the individuals around him, how well people read the reports for others, and how much do the employees trust their management. This is vitally important for employees to be able to trust their management, so they can report such items. Without that trust, there can be no safety or security for anyone within the organization.

Could this tragedy have been averted? Most certainly it could have been, but either the clinical staff or management or the people associating with the shooter failed to put the dots together to form a coherent picture of the danger…” He’d never do anything like that…it’s harmless”

We can choose to either ignore or act upon the warning signs

I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear

Permission to share? Of course, with full attribution.

Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars


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