Friday, February 16, 2007

On Monday of this week, an 18-year-old man worked an eight-hour shift at his job, leaving work at five o'clock in the afternoon. At six-thirty, he parked at a shopping mall no more than ten miles from my house and began killing people. He met two people in the parking lot as he walked toward the mall and shot them both. Just inside the mall doors, he encountered a woman and shot her. He made his way a few feet further into the mall and shot five people inside a gift shop. He wore a bandolero filled with ammunition and carried a backpack, also filled with ammunition and carrying a second weapon. An off-duty police officer from a city 40 miles away, just leaving a restaurant after an early Valentine's Day dinner with his wife, engaged the shooter and kept him busy until local police could arrive. By the time it was all over six people, including the shooter, lay dead. Four more were transported to local hospitals in critical condition. Many people around the city have been in shock since this happened, and I guess I'm one of them. I'm not one of those carry flowers to the site, tote my candle to the library and hold vigil types, but I am struggling to make sense of it all. I just tend to ponder these things on my own. Speculation is running wild, of course. It always does when we're faced with a case like this one. Rumors flew as the story was unfolding, and the press reported it all. It took a while to figure out that the "second gunman seen running from the mall, wearing a black trenchcoat" was a figment of someone's imagination. Reporters standing next to each other and sharing a microphone reported conflicting information, making it obvious that nobody was actually listening to what anyone else said. Now, three days after the shootings, the shooter's motives are still unknown. If anyone does know what set him off, they're not talking. Was this young man, a Bosnian refugee, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder? Was he out for some kind of revenge? On last night's news, a woman who had fished the same spot as the gunman in the past recalled that he got upset when he saw someone herding rats. He was concerned that the rats not be hurt because they were living things, and you don't hurt living things. So how does a kid who wants to protect rats from harm turn into a cold-blooded killer? The young man's parents are devastated. The local Bosnian community in the city is in shock. Most people realize this is an isolated incident--one young man with issues--but there are a few who are angry with the Bosnian population of the city, as if they expect the entire group to rise up with shotguns at any moment. I guess situations such as this one make us all go a little nuts, present company not excluded. I just couldn't let more days pass without expressing my condolences to the victims and their families. My heart goes out to them all.

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