Forgotten Already

Since it made national news. I think I have no choice but to comment on the Tacoma Mall Shooting yesterday. For those of you unaware of what happened. A 20-year-old Tacoma man walked into the mall and shot six random people, killing no one and critically injuring one. He then took three hostages in a Sam Goody music store before being captured by the SWAT team.

A girl my friend is seeing was working in the mall at the time of the thing shooting. She called him up two or three times throughout the day crying and freaking out. After the second call, I said, “She’s not from Tacoma is she?”

The thing is mall shootings in Tacoma aren’t anything new. The Tacoma Mall has had its share of shootings both inside and outside. In fact there was so much crime in the Tacoma Mall area that the Tacoma Police put a substation in the mall. Apparently the gunman told people ‘The world will feel my pain.’ If he was looking to do lasting impact on a community, he picked the wrong place. Tacoma’s a city where even the chief of police was accused of rape, and killed his estranged wife and himself in front of their children. In 1992 we had more drive by shootings than Los Angeles. This is the home of Charles Yates, the Beltway Sniper, and Ted Bundy. I’ve personally been shot at three times. If you want to make a mark in Tacoma shooting up a mall doesn’t even rate. The Tacoma Mall is opening at noon today and it’ll be as if nothing ever happened.

I used to work in police records in Tacoma. I know what goes on here on a daily basis and barely any of it ever makes the papers. The most shocking thing about this area has nothing to do with gangs or drugs or serial killers. What I found in transcribing police records every day is that this area has an astonishingly high suicide rate. On average I’d end up writing up a suicide report every other day. The suicide rate here is about ten times what the murder rate is here. If you’re here and looking for who is most likely to kill you, look in the mirror.

The guy who shot up the mall yesterday has a lot in common with your average suicide victim. He’s just another desperate man doing a desperate thing. The only difference is that he took his desperation out on other people rather than himself. And maybe one of the reasons for that is the fact that if he just killed himself no one outside of his friends and family would have noticed. It wouldn’t even make the papers.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of the shooting victims, but my heart also goes out to the guy who felt he needed to do this. I don’t condone what he did and I definitely think he needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. It’s important to understand that sympathy is not the same as mercy. Like suicide, this was the choice of one man. He made a bad choice and bad choices should have bad consequences.

To tell you the truth there’s been times I’ve thought of suicide and there’s been times I’ve thought of homicide. When I was seventeen I even wrote a poem called “Sniper in the Mall”. That sort of thing would get you expelled nowadays. But the reason I’ve managed not to kill anyone even myself is that the day before the best day of my life really sucked. I had no idea what was coming and I still don’t. No matter how bad today might be, there’s always tomorrow and your actions today are what determines tomorrow’s potential.


4 responses to “Forgotten Already

  1. yup, saw that in the news and thought of you. well, your area. know what i mean. cyn

  2. Well said, John. This is astonishingly lucid writing. You should submit this to the Seattle Times. Betcha they\’ll print it. Manda

  3. This is awesome JC. Seriously, you need to submit this to …. well, somewhere 🙂 I\’d print it if I were in a position to do so. ;-P

  4. Your article has significant meaning for me as a good friend of mine, Justin Johnson, took his own life the night before the mall shooting in 2005. He lived at Commencement Terrace (could be operating under a different name now) apartments in downtown Tacoma and leapt through the window of his 16th floor unit. Justin lived with my younger sister, who was not home at the time, and decided to experiment with drugs by himself that night. Coincidentally, he was scheduled to work at the Sam Goody store the next day but did not make it. Justin was only 18 years young and to everyone’s knowledge wasn’t suicidal. I believe he only suffered from being naive, as we all were at that age, and felt a false sense of invincibility. It always bothered me that his death was never reported as it seemed as though the world just forgot about him in a way. So thanks again for writing about suicide awareness and providing some input from “the other side”.

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