We had too much excitement here yesterday. I was returning home from breakfast along the main road—a six-lane divided highway with stores and malls on either side, you know the sort—and an odd sort of police vehicle went careening past in the other direction: it was an armored car, but with police lights and sirens. Turns out it belongs to the FBI. Straggling behind, also with lights flashing and sirens wailing, were a black-and-white police cruiser and not one but two ambulances.
I learned later that they were among many more such vehicles converging from all directions—we'd had another of those deplorable "mass shooting" events, the sixth in Wisconsin since 2004. It happened right across from my local mall—one of those pathological ever-escalating wife-abuse incidents, except the malefactor not only killed his wife but also shot up everyone at her workplace (a beauty spa), killing two other people and injuring a number more. The killer was fleeing the building when he encountered two armed men coming toward him—hunters returning from up north who had grabbed their rifles and were going in to help. So he disappeared back into the building.
For hours, the police didn't know where the shooter was. The roads were blockaded, the mall was closed (although some of the shops stayed open, as apparently there was no coordinated effort to tell them what to do), and an entire enormous hospital complex was put on lockdown, lest the shooter try to get at the people he'd injured to finish the job. His own neighborhood, miles away, was flooded with SWAT and bomb squads. Later, he was found to have crept into an out-of-the-way office somewhere in the building where the beauty spa was, locked the door, and shot himself to death. (Apparently thinking very little of his two children from start to finish.)
All a little too close to home. The lot where I often park when I visit the bookstore was behind police lines, being used as a staging area for law enforcement operations. And an odd detail: I've snapped the very building where the shootings occurred. "Test shots" for a long-ago digicam...the Sony P150, if anyone remembers that one.
It's a fad, these "mass shootings." Like nihilist assassins in Fin de siècle Europe, or suicide clusters, or copycat killers; a contagious idea. It is one infection that can't become a thing of the past too soon.
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Dennis Ng: "Heard about this even in Hong Kong. In fact you complete the story as the last I heard of it was when their priority was to find the gunman."
Craig: "It's hardly a fad; things like this have been happening for a long time. Surely you remember the source of the '80s expression 'going postal'? And before that there was Charles Whitman, the Texas Bell Tower Sniper...I don't think humans deal well with the pressure of living in a densely-packed society of millions. Things like this are one way the stress expresses itself from time to time."
Geoff Wittig: "These horrific events just make me crazy. As a physician, I see it as a public health calamity. Yet the NRA and its malevolent allies in Congress managed to de-fund and literally outlaw the CDC's efforts at collecting data and researching the plague of gun violence. Mission accomplished!"
Mike replies: I refrained from mentioning this in the post proper, but just before the news of the Azana shooting began saturating the airwaves, I saw the one and only TV ad I've seen from "the men and women of the NRA"—I could write a book about the little ironies like this that rain down on me constantly. Incidentally, the ad was anti-Obama, despite the fact that Obama has shown little discernible enthusiasm for any sort of gun control issues (or even discussion of them).