The university reached out to the FBI behavioral analysts and worked with them to develop a strategy. Working with mental health officials and campus police, a "caretaking" interview was arranged with the man, Simmons said. And that meeting resulted in a voluntary admission to a psychiatric facility.
"Once in that facility, he was deemed to be of such compromised state, that it turned into an involuntary evaluation," Simmons said. "And the attending physician noted as well that it was not really a question of if he would attack, but when, given the statements that he made and the thoughts he was disclosing."
The FBI would not provide specific details of this case or others they've consulted on because many are ongoing and involve people who have not been charged with crimes.
The Behavioral Threat Assessment Center operates with the knowledge that mass shootings like Newtown are uncommon, and that's important, said Ronald Schouten, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and expert on threat assessments.
"These occur very rarely, and there's no profile," Schouten said of those who carry out the shootings.
The center was launched in the fall of 2010. The unit's existence is not yet common knowledge around the country. But awareness is growing, as the FBI has recently been sponsoring two-day conferences about the threat of active shooters, Simmons said.
Having a mental illness does not mean that a person is predisposed to violent behavior, Simmons said. So a person's history and surroundings are an important part of assessing the threat.
"And we recognize that for many individuals, the coping strategies may be overwhelmed and they may lose the ability to see an alternative to violence," he said.
One year ago, a 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and massacred 20 children and six women with a semi-automatic rifle. He also killed his mother in their Newtown home before driving to the school. He committed suicide as police arrived at the scene, and authorities still do not know his motive. Since the shooting, Lanza has been described as "troubled." Investigators said his fascination with violence was apparent to teachers and other acquaintances.