Denial of terrorism in Utah mall shooting rampage by Muslim teen ? Mayor blasts "terror rumors" - police have "no motive "
February 16, 2007
Sulejman Talovic, 18, was fatally shot by police.
Utah mall reopens as police try to unravel fatal rampage
By PAUL FOY
SALT LAKE CITY — A shopping mall where five people were gunned down this week reopened Wednesday as authorities tried to figure out why a Bosnian immigrant committed the rampage and how he got his hands on a pistol.
FBI agent Patrick Kiernan in Salt Lake City said the bureau had no reason to believe Sulejman Talovic, who was killed by police, was motivated by religious extremism.
"It's just unexplainable," Kiernan said Wednesday.
Armed with a .38-caliber pistol, a shotgun and a backpack full of ammunition, Talovic shot nine people, five fatally, at the Trolley Square shopping center Monday before he was stopped by police, including an off-duty officer from Ogden.
"We are Muslims, but we are not terrorists," the boy's aunt, Ajka Omerovic, said Wednesday at the family's house.
She rejected any religious motive and said the family can't explain the shooting. The Talovic family fled Bosnia for Utah in 1998 "to be free," she said.
Talovic lived with his parents and three younger sisters in a tiny ranch house. His parents, Suljo and Sabira Talovic, do not speak English well and have refused to answer the door.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 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, in charge of the local ATF office.
Less than 48 hours after the shootings, police tape was removed from the parking lot as the mall reopened, although some of the stores inside the mall remained closed.
Outside the mall, candles and flowers were left as memorials to those killed, who were identified as Jeffrey Walker, 52; Vanessa Quinn, 29; Kirsten Hinckley, 15; Teresa Ellis, 29; and Brad Frantz, 24.
Four people who were wounded remained hospitalized Wednesday, two in critical condition, two in serious.
Talovic had worked for two months as a general laborer at Aramark Uniform Services, an industrial launderer and uniform-rental company, manager Trent Thorn said.
Talovic's mother took him out of high school at age 16 to work, Salt Lake City school district spokesman Jason Olsen said.
Talovic and his family moved to the U.S. after living as refugees in Bosnia for five years, people close to the family still living in Bosnia said. Talovic was only 4 when he and his mother fled their village of Talovici on foot after Serbian forces overran it in 1993, they said.
"Many left the village, but only a few made it," said Murat Avdic, a friend of the family.
Up to 200,000 people were killed and 1.8 million others lost their homes in Bosnia's 1992-95 war.