Possible HCP Kills Former Boss, Injures Lawyer after Mediation

© 2013 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30th, a 70-year-old man shot and killed the chief executive of a company he previously worked for and shot the executive’s lawyer, after a mediation session at a law office in the Phoenix area. CBS 5 News reported that he had a reputation as “angry, a bully, a nut job.” This appears to be yet another case of a possible “high conflict person” (HCP – someone with a preoccupation with blaming others, a history of extreme behavior, unmanaged emotions and all-or-nothing thinking) at a time of high risk. It’s ironic and sad that I just wrote an article a couple months ago about the pattern of HCPs in high-expectation relationships (such as jobs, marriages, etc.) combined with “times of high risk.” Unfortunately, this pattern is not generally recognized by the public or professionals. Employers, lawyers, mediators and others involved in decision-making need to start recognizing this pattern:

HCP + High-Expectation Relationship + Time of High Risk = Extreme Behavior (See article: “Times of High Risk with High-Conflict People”)

Paranoid HCP? If this man apparently had a long history of “acting paranoid” and “obvious anger issues”, then he may have also had a paranoid personality disorder – one of the five common personality disorders associated with HCPs.  Such personalities often see others as involved in conspiracies against them. In this case, he was involved in at least five lawsuits since 1994, and had swore at and made threats to against the lawyer in a letter in this present case, including: “I am going after you with every fiber in my being and I won’t rest until I see you behind bars for conspiracy to defraud.”  (quotes from CBS5AZ.com article “Phoenix office shooter described as ‘nut job’” 1/31/13).

High-Expectation Relationship? It’s hard to know the employment relationship history in this case, but when an HCP becomes fixated in intense blaming of an employer or relationship partner, their fantasies often take over and they view the situation as “all-or-nothing” and experience “unmanaged emotions.”

Times of High Risk are times of perceived loss for HCPs. Legal decisions are especially times of high risk because legal decisions usually involve loss for someone. A cursory review I have done of several family court murders shows that they occurred within two weeks before or after a decision was to be made at a court hearing – and often on the same day. In this week’s case, it was a mediation process in a civil lawsuit at which decisions were to be made. Given that the man brought a gun to the mediation session, he may have been anticipating a major loss and did his shooting immediately after the mediation session was over.

From the early news reports, the above pattern seems to fit this situation. As professionals, we need to also know that HCPs are more susceptible to mirroring the extreme behavior of others. Therefore, I expect that we will see more of these such shootings in the future. And they are no longer just associated with court hearings. Now law firms and mediation providers need to be more alert to clients with warning signs of a preoccupation with blaming others, past extreme behaviors, all-or-nothing thinking and unmanaged emotions.

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.

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