U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Parramatta Shooting: How Much Do We Really Know About Lone Wolf Terrorists?

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2015

After concluding that although research on killers acting alone (“lone wolves”) is increasing, there are currently few empirically based academic studies on this issue, which this  report summarizes.



Regarding the investigative analysis of the recent shooting and killing of a police employee outside the New South Wales police headquarters in Parramatta, the police believe the shooter acted alone and was politically motivated. This report provides additional online access to investigative information on this case. The current report then cites evidence that lone wolves combine various political complaints with a variety of personal vendettas related to mental issues. It is the lack of connection to an organized terrorist group with a collective ideological focus that distinguishes lone-wolf killings; however, politics may still be the dominant theme in a loner’s radicalization to violence, although a personal grievance may govern the selection of the targeted victim. Any prior ethical restraints on killing a person are overcome by an overwhelming conviction that the killing, whether random or targeted, is the “right” action to take; for example, Shelley Shannon, who attempted to kill abortion provider George Tiller, described her actions as “the most holy, most righteous thing I’ve ever done.” Another motivation or context noted for the motivation to kill persons is an affinity with unidentified online sympathizers, which provides an expanded base of support for lone wolves with no in-person attachment to a terrorist group. Evidence of a “copycat” effect has also been cited in lone wolves who value the attention and singular attention a killer receives in the press and public conversation.

Date Published: October 1, 2015