Larry Thomas: Protector and educator at Washburn University

Larry Thomas began teaching a weekend workshop at WU in 1992. The topic for the class was serial killers. 26 years later and the class is still being taught every semester. Many students are intrigued by learning about serial killers because these certain perpetrators are so unusual and yet seem so normal to the public eye. In addition to the serial killer course, Thomas has just added a course this Fall called Mass Murder and Counterterrorism. In it, discussions are held regarding past school shootings and acts of terror that may have been able to be prevented.

Thomas went to school to become a lawyer and decided he wanted to, “Chase bad guys instead of prosecute them.” He has been involved in law enforcement all his life, but officially began his career in 1977. He worked as a criminal investigator for the local sheriffs department in MO. He heard good things about the KBI and decided to pursue an application there. Thomas began working with the KBI in 1984 as a graduate of the FBI National Academy and later the prestigious Royal Canadian Mounted Police College, at Ottawa, Canada. He was able to study much of the investigation techniques while attending this academy and he learned a great deal about law enforcement. A key to his qualifications for teaching the serial killers course, Thomas was a lead investigator and negotiator for the Dennis “BTK” Rader cold case in 2005.

Soon after he was pursued by a Counterterror contractor which worked for the Department of Defense. This led to him being deployed to Afghanistan. He was primarily assigned to the first intel world, wherein he was used to help the US military understand criminal intelligence as apposed to solely military intelligence. Thomas then worked with the command staff at local and national departments, both military and law enforcement, helping to train them in target sourcing. He was key in educating both agencies in interrogation tactics and intel collection until his return to the states in 2011. After his return, the military soon asked him to continue military training, so he accepted and began teaching again at Ft. Irwin, CA. Thomas migrated back to Ft Leavenworth, where he led the command training of general officers in counterterror tactics from a law enforcement perspective.” There Thomas developed what he refers to as, “The sub-dramatic expertise in the counterterrorism world which followed my training and experience with the criminal justice and serial killer investigations during my first career in law enforcement.

Thomas currently works as an adjunct professor at Washburn University while still consulting with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). They utilize his experience and skill set when children are abducted. He deploys to help assist with those cases and in the instance of a disaster, Thomas has been used to help FEMA, who helps to facilitate the reunification of children who have been separated from their parents or legal guardians as a result of disaster. 

Many individuals will never encounter first-hand, Serial Killers and acts of terrorism, but Thomas said he sees it as, ” A way to take my expertise and involvement with those investigations and counterterrorism tactics and share that information to those who may have to work on those cases. It is good to be prepared and helpful to take the information that I have learned through training and experience to share with others as a concept to keep [the information] alive.”

The Serial Killer course was added with a focus on the investigative principles on how one might identify these target suspects. The course deals with the psychology of the serial criminal for identification purposes and then the abilities to manage them when they are discovered. Serial Killers is more focused on the CJ side with some psychology to supplement.

The new Mass Murder and Counterterrorism class is, “sort of a split with how we handle it through military, law enforcement and the DHS as an umbrella for all of it.” It is taught from a law enforcement perspective, preparing for emergency events, the intervention of individuals and preventions to attacks. The idea for the class started as solely a CJ class, but so many other disciplines requested to apply his class to their department, it was added to Military Studies as well. One of the strongest applications to another field, Thomas said, would be Mass Media. “News and social media are always present and it is important to create new relationships in media before a catastrophic event happens.” Many things covered including personal safety tips for yourself and loved one. We talk about things that apply to everyone and how to ID one of those suspects who might be terrorists looking to perpetrate. He is open and likes seeing different views from different disciplines which opens up more avenues for discussion.