There is no standard profile of the American lone wolf terrorist, but evidence shows most are unemployed, single white males with a criminal record. When compared to members of terrorist groups, lone wolves are older, less educated, more prone to mental illness and disconnected from society. This social isolation leads to lone individuals to feel deprived of what they perceive as things to which they are entitled. They then form grievances against the government they view as responsible for their unemployment, discrimination and injustices. More than half of identified lone wolves embraced right-wing or anti-government ideologies.
These political grievances become the foundation to become affiliated with an extremist group. These connections are typically made through online communities. This is true for individuals who adhere to radical Islamic beliefs, political extremism or racial prejudices. With the prevalence of Internet chat rooms, conspiracy websites, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, online extremists can connect scattered people from every ideology and encourage their radical beliefs and behavior.
Since 2008, there has been a shift in the focus of Lone Wolf attacks. A dozen law enforcement officials were killed or wounded by a Lone Wolf attack in the 60 years preceding 9/11. The majority of these attacks were motivated by the black power movement, anger about U.S. policy in the Middle East or abortion. Post 9/11, over two dozen members of law enforcement have been injured or killed by individuals motivated by anti-government and anger over the election of the nation’s first African American president. The one exception is the shooting of five Dallas police officers by Micah Johnson in 2016, who claimed retaliation of black men shot by police officers across the country. All of these attacks occurred between 2009 and 2016.