‘Random’ shootings are not the same as getting shot by a stranger

Author: Shannon Smith
Published: 11:58 PM EDT April 17, 2019
Updated: 11:58 PM EDT April 17, 2019

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Random shootings are not common, but crimes committed by strangers can be.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 50.5% of victims of firearm violence do not know their offender.

That’s from crimes that happened from 2013 through 2016.

Nationwide, the FBI reports more than 15,000 homicides in 2017.

And 9.7% of those victims were killed by strangers.

Law enforcement said being shot by a stranger and a random shooting aren’t always the same thing.

Random shootings are just that: random.

“[These are] shootings that are unexpected in places that you typically don’t see,” said Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker.

Places like Tanger Outlet Mall in Sevierville.

“Unfortunately it’s becoming more common than it has been,” said Chris Jones, training specialist at the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center. “It is definitely rare.  Although the one we had recently in Sevierville hits really close to home.”

These really are rare occurrences, especially in Tennessee.

The latest TBI data from 2016 said half of gun violence victims were shot by strangers.

Barker said few if any were random.

“Generally you’re already the victim of another crime if something like that’s gonna happen,” he said.

For example, if a stranger is robbing someone, and shoots that victim during the robbery, that’s not considered a random shooting.

“They might have selected the person at random, but as far as just a complete random shooting where somebody shows up [and starts shooting], that kind of stuff is very rare,” said Barker.

It’s hard to prevent a random shooting.

Barker said with most shootings, there’s a domestic element to them.

It’s an argument between friends or relatives, and often officers have responded to those locations before on disturbance calls.

With random shootings, there’s no warning or rarely any clues someone is planning the crime.

Police and people can practice how to respond.

“Observe, orient, decide and act,” said Jones.

Being aware of your surroundings is a big factor, Jones said.

If you notice someone acting strange, report it, and be prepared to protect yourself.

“Even in those instances where running and hiding and fighting aren’t gonna work or aren’t gonna be effective, organizations can do things like train their employees in First Aid, or have first aid kits available,” said Jones.

Jones and Barker both stress random shootings like the one in Sevierville are very rare.

Law enforcement said people shouldn’t be afraid to go to the mall or other public places for fear of being shot.

Barker said you’re much more likely to get in a car accident than be randomly shot.


Click HERE to view the video interview.