Searching for Signs: New BSO unit aims to help prevent mass shootings

(WSVN) - In an era where mass shootings are common, law enforcement agencies say they need to evolve with the times. After receiving harsh criticism for how deputies responded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Broward Sheriff’s Office created the Threat Management Unit. 7’s Kevin Ozebek was given exclusive access to the unit and its detectives who are “Searching for Signs” of another mass shooter.

It’s a rare look behind these usually closed doors and into the heart of BSO’s new Threat Management Unit, led by Capt. Mike Riggio.

Capt. Mike Riggio, Broward Sherif’s Office: “Everybody is working on their cases and digging through data.”

In this room, Capt. Riggio oversees a team who scours social media posts, dispatch calls and security camera feeds.

Capt. Mike Riggio: “Our job is to save lives, to prevent a targeted act of mass violence.”

During our visit, publicly available video feeds are sprayed across a 40-foot screen. But the moment a Broward school goes on lockdown, Detective Jose Flores and Crime Analyst Shana Parrella will pull up every camera in that school to guide deputies on the ground.

Detective Jose Flores, Broward Sherif’s Office: “Being able to see in every nook and cranny of a facility, in real time, and take that information and send it on to the person actually responding is critical.”

Crime Analyst Shana Parrella: “You want to be that person who prevents a tragedy.”

Sheriff Gregory Tony spent $2 million building the unit to protect Broward residents, especially students, from the possibility of another mass shooting.

Kevin Ozebek: “Does this make them any safer?”

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony: “It does. We’re not going to drop the ball. We’re paying close attention to the day-to-day threats that exist.”

The unit has already investigated nearly 200 cases that led to more than 50 arrests of people ranging in age from 11 to 71 years old — including Patrick Taylor.

Broward Circuit Judge Ellen Feld: “You’re charged with intimidation, writing or sending threats to kill.”

Taylor was charged for posting on Facebook, “The governor of Florida will be executed.”

Detectives say David Kasanof drafted a hit list of 20 people.

Prosecutor: “His friend has said he has become involved in white supremacy.”

Detective Roderick McHenry, Broward Sheriff’s Office: “Thet are like recurring themes that you kinda come across with certain people, and they kinda trigger red flags.”

These detectives follow up on tips about threatening or suspicious people, and they dig through years of 911 calls, especially domestic violence calls, looking for patterns that fit previous mass shooters.

Dispatcher: “911. What’s your emergency?”

Capt. Mike Riggio: “Then we give it to our detectives and say, ‘Hey, listen, there could be something in this home. There could not be something in this home, so we need to go and pay a visit.'”

Capt. Riggio says it’s crucial his detectives are out here on the streets talking to people. Whether a tip, social media post, or 911 call leads them to someone, he wants his deputies speaking to that person right away before any crime is committed.

Capt. Mike Riggio: “In this day and age, if you wait, you risk putting yourself in danger of an incident happening.”

Everyone arrested by this unit gets classified as either being a low, medium or high risk of committing a violent act.

Capt. Mike Riggio: “So you can get arrested and then end up getting visited by us every two or three weeks.”

The unit also honors those who were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High with their emblem, which is a circle of 17 stars, one for each victim. It serves as a reminder for these detectives to never forget why they’re here.

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