- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A shopping mall where five persons were fatally shot this week reopened yesterday as authorities tried to figure out why a Bosnian Muslim immigrant committed the rampage and how he got his hands on a gun.

FBI agent Patrick Kiernan said the bureau had no reason to believe Sulejman Talovic, who was killed by police, was motivated by Islamic extremism or an act of terrorism.

“It’s just unexplainable,” Mr. Kiernan said yesterday. “He was just walking around and shooting everybody he saw.”

Armed with a .38-caliber pistol, a shotgun and a backpack full of ammunition, Talovic shot nine persons, five fatally, at the Trolley Square shopping center Monday before he was stopped by police, including an off-duty officer from Ogden, Utah.

“We are Muslims, but we are not terrorists,” the killer’s aunt, Ajka Omerovic, said yesterday at the family’s house. She rejected any religious motive and said the gunman’s mother is distraught and the family can’t explain the shooting. The Talovic family left Bosnia for Utah in 1998 “to be free,” she said.

Talovic’s parents do not speak English and did not answer their door.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is investigating how the 18-year-old got the pistol.

“You can buy long guns at 18. That’s not a problem. The handgun he shouldn’t have had; so, obviously, we’re going to look at where he got that gun,” said Lori Dyer, who is in charge of the local ATF office.

Ms. Omerovic said her nephew never displayed any guns. “We want to know who sold these guns to him,” she said.

Less than 48 hours after the shootings, police tape was removed from the parking lot as the mall reopened, although it was up to each shop owner whether to resume business. A worker was repairing pillars damaged by a shotgun blast outside Pottery Barn Kids and a card shop called Cabin Fever, where employees also were replacing products on shelves.

“We’re opening the mall, not in the sense of business as usual, but to let the healing begin,” said Tom Bard, an executive at Scanlan Kemper Bard Cos. of Portland, Ore.

Outside the mall, candles and flowers were left to those killed, who were identified as Jeffrey Walker, 52; Teresa Ellis and Vanessa Quinn, both 29; Brad Frantz, 24; and Kirsten Hinkley, 15.

Four persons who were wounded remained hospitalized yesterday — two in critical condition, two in serious condition.

Talovic worked for two months as a general laborer at Aramark Uniform Services, an industrial launderer and uniform-rental company, manager Trent Thorn said. He appeared for his regular shift on the day of the shooting, he said.

Off-duty Ogden Police Officer Kenneth K. Hammond, who was at the mall for an early Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife, was credited with helping stop the rampage. It was not clear whether he or one of the Salt Lake City officers who responded fired the shot that killed Talovic.

“We were there for a reason. I had my gun on me for a reason. We decided to eat dessert, which we never do, for a reason,” Officer Hammond said. “Everything happened for a reason.”

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