Forensic Psychologist: Racially-Motivated Attacks Will Probably Continue


LA-based clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Tony Beliz says as long as the President and other high-profile people continue to Tweet and speak about anti-ethnic, anti-immigrant views the country will further polarize, and incidents of violence will escalate.

Beliz retired in 2014 from the LA County Mental Health Department. He was the Deputy Director in charge of the Emergency Outreach Bureau, which handled risk assessments. He is credited with creating the School Threat Assessment Response Team (START) which intervened with at-risk students from elementary school through college graduation.

When I asked him about the possibility these recent racially motivated attacks might spill into schools he said, “There is a strong likelihood these White Supremacist-inspired acts will occur in middle and high schools.” Beliz has been the go-to guy for local law enforcement and federal agencies when it comes to violent threat risk assessment. In fact, the LA County Mental Health Department recently hired him back as a consultant.

Beliz says the solution to stopping these mass attacks has been the same since the deadly shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 – a mixture of gun control, mental health treatment, parent education, academic and social intervention programs, and video gaming strategies.

Beliz says there is no profile for racially-motivated attackers but there are common characteristics:

  • Marginalization
  • Despair
  • Hopelessness
  • Simplistic View of the World

He says there’s also a dangerous sentiment that minorities and their children are to blame for society’s problems.

I asked Beliz about the assertion violent video games play a critical role in inspiring violent outbursts, like the recent shootings. He said it’s only part of a bigger problem. He once told me overstimulation from different types of technology has a negative impact on children and could lead to all sorts of behavioral issues.

Beliz says there’s no real hard data to support prescription medication’s role in these types of violent outbursts. He says there’s also no evidence that medications accelerate or diminish violent actions. And, while some attackers may be prescribed medications it’s not known if they were taking them when they carried out their attack.

Beliz says family, co-workers and friends need to be vigilant when they notice changes in someone’s behavior, especially when the behavior turns dark or violent. He says people miss red flags all the time for various reasons – Denial (It will never happen here), Avoidance (Don’t want to recognize problems or deal with complex issues), or territorial/turf (It’s not ‘my’ responsibility).

He says lack of situational awareness and training contribute to bad outcomes.

Photo: Getty Images

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