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Revolting

The right to bear arms and to die from them, too (sites.psu.edu)

It looks like the latest recipient of a senseless shooting tragedy is none other than “Sin City” itself: Las Vegas, Nevada.

Yesterday around lunchtime, a couple walked into CiCi’s Pizza and for no apparent reason, gunned down two police officers in cold blood: 41-year-old Alyn Beck and 31-year-old Igor Soldo.

“I just sat down to have lunch. The officers were sitting in front of me, at the table right next to me, and this man came in out of nowhere,” eyewitness Sheree Burns recounted. “I thought he was going to get a drink, the way he walked up and walked past them. And then he turned around, pulled a gun on his right and shot the bald officer in front of me.”

After grabbing the officers’ guns and ammunition, the as-yet-unidentified couple said something like “This is a revolution” and left CiCi’s. They then walked across the street to Walmart, killed a woman as she was walking through the front door and exchanged gunfire with police before disappearing into the back of the store. Once there, the woman fatally shot her husband before turning the gun on herself in what some have described as a “suicide pact.”

Soldo and Beck (AP)

Details are still rather sketchy at this time, but some disturbing information has been released in the last few hours. For one, police searching the couple’s apartment discovered a written manifesto that included “extremist views toward law enforcement.” Officers also learned some strange things from Krista Koch, one of the couple’s neighbors. She claimed the couple often dressed up as Batman villains Harley Quinn and the Joker—the man sometimes dressed as Slenderman, too (the online meme who inspired two young girls to stab their friend on his behalf recently)—and even told police they planned to carry out an attack soon. When they first mentioned this to her, she dismissed it because they seemed so “crazy.”

Actually, craziness might be reason enough to take them seriously, especially in retrospect. Too bad that never happened.

No one knows what prompted this crazy couple to murder three innocent people before killing themselves, but it could be almost anything in our violent, gun-riddled society. Senseless violence is, unfortunately, becoming the norm, and I don’t expect things to improve anytime soon.

After all, if shootings in Aurora and Newtown didn’t illustrate the need for more gun control, why should this?

Safe Carry, Very Scary

Guns in bars? Great idea… not! (Washington Post)

Last month, Georgia’s Republican governor Nathan Deal signed the state’s Safe Carry Protection Act—otherwise known as the “guns everywhere bill”—into law. In essence, this gives Georgia gun owners with concealed weapons permits the right to be “strapped” in bars, schools, churches… basically everywhere you hope not to see firearms.

I mean, have we learned nothing from Columbine, Newtown and every other gun-related tragedy in recent years?

The new law goes into effect on July 1, but that hasn’t stopped gun lovers from carrying their gats everywhere NOW. Three days after the ill-advised bill was signed, a Forsythe County man was seen walking through a public park—filled with children and their parents—showing his gun to passersby, waving it in the air and screaming things like “I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

What’s next, Georgia? Armed children? (EIGA SEISAKU IINKAI)

Within minutes, police received dozens of 911 calls and dispatched officers to the scene. Fortunately for this gun-crazed maniac, he had a legal permit to carry his weapon and since he made no verbal threats or gestures, he couldn’t be arrested. Police couldn’t even ask him to leave, for goodness sake.

The same couldn’t be said for some of the parents, though, who immediately grabbed their kids and hauled ass.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but how can a law like this be a good thing? Am I supposed to believe that armed customers getting hammered in some pub should be trusted not to discharge their firearms if a fight breaks out? I used to be a bartender and—believe me—even the most well-mannered, seemingly stable people can become impulsive and volatile under the influence of alcohol. Hell, I’ve seen customers come to blows over the stupidest things. Thankfully, none of them were armed or things could have been much, much worse… kind of like they’re likely to get in Georgia as time passes.

I guess I won’t be visiting that state anytime soon, at least not without a Kevlar body suit!

Tit for Twat

Guys, please leave the body cavity gun smuggling to the ladies (Friends of NRA)

Guys, please leave the body cavity gun smuggling to the ladies (Friends of NRA)

At first glance, you may think my title refers to the English saying about retaliation, as in “he refused to get into a tit-for-tat battle of pranks with his jackass friends.” You may even think the word twat is a typo, but I assure you this is not the case.

Instead, my title refers to Dallas Archer, a 19-year-old woman arrested last Monday for driving with a suspended license in Tennessee. And when you hear her story, all your doubts in my spelling abilities should be laid to rest.

Following her arrest, Archer was transported to Kingsport jail, where a female officer conducted a standard search—if you consider a body cavity search standard, I mean. During her search, the officer noticed something strange in Archer’s crotch and called another female officer over to take a look. That’s when they discovered what the “unknown object” really was: a gun!

Yes, lodged in Archer’s vagina—business end out, I hope—was a loaded, .22-caliber mini-revolver. It turns out the gun had been stolen from the automobile of 70-year-old John Souther, a retired car salesman who promised to give his “little fellow a bath in bleach” upon hearing of its recovery.

Dallas Archer "p-bug" is licensed to kill (Pin It)

Dallas Archer’s “p-bug” is licensed to kill (Pin It)

That sounds like a great idea to me, John.

In addition to the suspended license thing, Archer now faces charges of gun possession and smuggling contraband into a correctional facility—she was released on $6000 bond and will be in court sometime soon.

Of course, things could have been much worse for Archer. A similar thing happened to Oklahoma’s Christie Harris last year, only she not only had a loaded revolver in her hoochie—she had two bags of crystal meth up her butt, as well!

Strapped in Georgia

Yeah, this looks like a good idea (GOP USA)

Yeah, this looks like a good idea (GOP USA)

I just heard that Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia signed House Bill 60—or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014—into law earlier today. Known as the “guns everywhere bill” by its opponents, HB60 specifies where residents can carry firearms and includes provisions that could allow people with concealed weapons permits to bring guns into churches, bars, government buildings, schools and even airports!

The parking lots, shops and other areas in front of security checkpoints, I mean. As far as I know, carrying guns into the airline terminals is still a no-no.

Heavily promoted by the pro-gun group GeorgiaCarry—and opposed by organizations like Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), which called the bill “extremism in action”—HB60 will go into effect on July 1st whether people like it or not. And while it doesn’t allow guns everywhere—business owners can choose whether or not to allow them in their establishments—the bill does have some people worried.

“Among its many extreme provisions, it allows guns in TSA lines at the country’s busiest airport, forces community school boards into bitter, divisive debates about whether they should allow guns in their children’s classrooms, and broadens the conceal carry eligibility to people who have previously committed crimes with guns,” Pia Carusone of ARS said recently. She also mentioned that this legislation was “opposed by Georgia law enforcement, county commissioners, municipal leaders, and the Transportation Security Administration for its potentially harmful impact on Georgians’ safety.”

Of course, the folks at the National Rifle Association could not be happier—especially since they endorsed Deal for governor and gave him an “A rating” during his 17 years in Congress. He returned the favor, so to speak, when he addressed attendees at the picnic where he first announced the bill’s passing: “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should be at the forefront of our minds.”

Celebrate more guns, come on! Rep. Rick Jasperse throws high fives to congratulate his pals on passing HB60 (Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Celebrate more guns, come on! Rep. Rick Jasperse throws high fives to congratulate his pals on passing HB60 (Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

While I agree that Americans’ constitutional rights are important, I still have trouble understanding how more guns in public places will make things better. One argument I always hear in support of guns is that if criminals have them, then so should their potential victims—to even the playing field, you know? I also hear people mention how concealed weapons permits are only issued to citizens who first pass background checks and psychological exams, implying that they are stable and well-adjusted enough to handle this potentially deadly responsibility.

This may be true for some, but how many times have we heard post-tragedy interviews where people say things like “he was always so quiet and friendly” or “I never suspected she was capable of hurting others”? ALL THE TIME!

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up with guns, enjoy shooting them and keep several in my home for protection. Does this mean I’m incapable of losing it, arming myself to the teeth and popping caps in everyone I see? I consider myself to be a fairly sane person—aside from a handful of psychoses, which we all possess to some degree—but even I can’t say with absolute certainty that I would never snap and do something horrible… with or without a gun. We all have a dark side. And no matter how hard we try, it will make the occasional appearance during the course of our lives. Of that you can be sure.

So kudos, Georgia, for ensuring more of your residents will be strapped in public places—especially in bars and other so-called watering holes. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 43 years, it’s that few things mix better than alcohol and firearms!

Deadly New Year

How much is enough? (Washington Post)

How much is enough? (Washington Post)

On December 14, 2012, a disturbed 20-year-old named Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother in their Newtown, Connecticut home, traveled to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School and proceeded to gun down 20 children and 6 staff members before taking his own life. This tragic event ushered in a new year that many hoped would be less violent than the last, but sadly, this was not the case.

By the time 2013 reached its halfway point—somewhere around May 31st—the number of people killed by guns in the United States had already surpassed the number of American troops killed during the entire Iraq War, according to ThinkProgress. In March, a college student in Florida pulled a dorm fire alarm and tried to slaughter his classmates as they poured into the hallways. In September, a defense contract employee marched into the Washington Navy Yard and gunned down 12 people. And these are only a few examples of what became an extremely violent year.

Reeves and his victim Chad Oulson (Reuters)

Reeves and his victim Chad Oulson (Reuters)

I was hoping things would improve in 2014, but that obviously isn’t going to happen given some of the shootings we’ve seen in only a few weeks’ time. And this week has been especially deadly thanks to guns and the people who use them for evil.

First it was Curtis Reeves, a 71-year-old retired police officer who shot and killed a 43-year-old man on Monday for sending text messages to his 3-year-old daughter in a Florida movie theater last Monday. That day also saw 48-year-old Jennifer Berman of Florida murder her children—16-year-old Alex and 15-year-old Jacqueline, both promising musicians—before turning the gun on herself.

Mason Campbell used a shotgun in Roswell (KRQE)

Mason Campbell used a shotgun in Roswell (KRQE)

Tuesday morning came and it was a 12-year-old who decided to inflict more gun violence, this time with a sawed-off shotgun. He walked into Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico with three shells, fired them all and injured two students before being detained and arrested. Now a child too young to see a PG-13 movie faces three counts of aggravated battery.

On Wednesday evening, a man walked into a grocery store in Elkhart, Indiana with an automatic handgun and murdered two women before police shot him to death a short time later. Police still have no idea what prompted his attack.

No matter how bad things get in this country and how many people die as a result of gun-related violence, it still seems as if very little is being done to prevent future shootings. Universal background checks for all gun purchases got shot down—pun intended—yet we still face mass shootings every year. And from the look of it, 2014 will be just as deadly as the last few years.

When will it ever end?

Escaped Con Killed by Hostage

Police at the scene in Bedford (Des Moines Register)

Last Friday, convicted burglar Rodney Long escaped from the Clarinda Correctional Facility, a minimum security prison just southwest of Des Moines, Iowa.

Minimum security is right since this guy just walked away without so much as an alarm sounding.

On Sunday, the escaped convict was seen walking along a rural highway. A deputy stopped to confront him, at which time Long pulled a gun, shot the officer twice and then sped off in his patrol car.

I’m not quite sure where he found a weapon, but chalk that up as another benefit of minimum security. Hell, he could have had the gun in the prison, for all I know.

Following the shooting, a second deputy chased Long for roughly 40 minutes, but the pursuit ended abruptly when the fugitive crashed the car and escaped yet again. He eventually made his way to the home of Jerome and Carolyn Mauderly, a retired couple in rural Bedford whose house is very secluded—it’s surrounded by cornfields and the closest neighbor lives more than a mile away.

Long broke into the Mauderlys home around 10 p.m. while they were sleeping. Jerome Mauderly, a former prison guard and farmer, even had a loaded shotgun on the floor beside his bed—everyone in the area heard about the prison break and prepared accordingly, which means they loaded and readied their weapons. Unfortunately for Mauderly, though, he didn’t have a chance to use his… at least not at first.

The couple awoke to find Long standing there, loaded shotgun in hand. He immediately disabled the landline phone and left only the phone in their bedroom operational, most likely so he could speak with negotiators if his presence was discovered by the authorities.

For the next four hours, Long held the couple hostage while he rummaged through their home for supplies, all the time using their cell phones—who he may have been calling, I have no idea. Fortunately for the Mauderlys, though, the escaped convict soon made a fatal mistake.

Rodney Long picked the wrong home to invade! (Des Moines Register)

Close to 2 a.m., Long went upstairs to continue his search for supplies, only this time he left the shotgun in the downstairs kitchen. Jerome Mauderly saw his chance, snuck into the kitchen and recovered the weapon while his wife phoned the police—on the only phone Long left working no less!

By the time Long came downstairs, Jerome had the shotgun pointed at him.  And since he knew the convict also had a handgun, he wasn’t taking any chances. He fired one shot, which struck Long in the torso and immediately sent him to the floor bleeding. The police arrived a short time later—with the deputy who pursued Long searching for him less than 200 yards from the home—and found Long lying on the kitchen floor dead.

Since the Mauderlys acted in self-defense during a home invasion with a clear threat to their lives, no charges have been filed against them. And if Long were still alive to reflect on his decisions, I know one he would love to have back: the choice to invade the home of someone fully prepared to deal with his bullshit.

Nice work, Jerome! And I hope the other prisoners at Clarinda Correctional Facility take notice and go a different route if they ever escape!

More Sandy Hook Facts Emerge

Adam Lanza in better days (courtesy of Vibe)

After Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and gunned down 20 young children and 6 staff members last year, our nation finally focused on gun legislation and ways to prevent future shootings from occurring.

Unfortunately, the more than 50% of Americans who supported stricter gun laws at that time has dwindled to almost 40%. And instead of banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the national conversation now seems centered on universal background checks for anyone who tries to purchase a firearm.

I suppose this is a start, but it certainly isn’t a solution.

In cases like the one involving Adam Lanza, background checks would serve no purpose because he did not use weapons that he purchased himself. The guns were bought legally by his mother, who then gave him access to them. Sure, parents are supposed to keep firearms locked up and out of reach of their children, but this obviously didn’t happen with Adam. Instead, his mother encouraged his interest in shooting, gave him access to her weapons and was eventually killed with one of them.

And since Adam also had some psychological issues, her actions are even more difficult to understand. But that’s not all.

According to documents recently released by police, Adam had a gun safe in his room—which I can only assume held weapons (since that is its intended purpose)—and more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition were found in his home. Authorities also discovered a holiday card that included a check Adam could use to purchase his own firearm, a C183. And here’s the kicker: the card and check came from Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother.

Couple this with the fact that Adam loved Call of Dutya war-based video game, and red flags start popping up all over the place.

I once felt that Nancy Lanza was a victim—and part of me still does—but I can’t help but feel that she was also a major contributor to this horrible crime. After all, she taught her disturbed son to shoot, made weapons accessible to him, allowed him to keep a gun safe in his room and even gave him money to buy his own gun later.

The guns used by Lanza (courtesy of the NY Daily News)

Would Sandy Hook have happened if none of these things had occurred? I for one have my doubts.

Universal background checks will definitely help us rein in some of this gun violence—especially if the same rules apply to gun shows, where people can normally buy weapons as long as they have the cash—but much more will need to be done. The sad fact is that if someone wants a gun, there are plenty of ways for them to acquire one that don’t involve retailers, background checks and such.

The black market gun trade continues to thrive, of course. And if people don’t lock up their weapons, then criminals could easily break in and steal them. And not just criminals, at least in Adam Lanza’s case. Family and friends are just as likely to snap and do the same.

I hope we as a nation get much more serious about gun legislation and also work on extending our collective memory. It is completely unacceptable for us to forget about incidents like Sandy Hook and Aurora just because time has passed and the media have stopped focusing on them so much. All this does is open the door for more shootings.

And you better believe there’s someone out there planning for a future attack. I just hope we can take action before any more innocent people die.

Danger in Higher Education

This should not be among students’ school supplies (courtesy of Jupiter Images)

When most people think of colleges and universities, the same images normally come to mind: classes, professors, athletic events, clubs, organizations, social gatherings, graduation, diplomas… the usual.

These days, however, there are some other images creeping into this picture: guns and violent behavior. And yesterday, these images were reinforced even further.

As sad as I am to report on my home, the Carolinas, I’m afraid we made national news recently because of a shooting on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

According to the latest reports, an unidentified suspect shot and killed a student in one of the residence halls on Tuesday. The victim was Anthony Darnell Liddell, a 19-year-old from Bennettsville. Following the shooting, the suspect fled and police are still searching for him now. As a result, the school remains on lock down.

Since I work on a small college campus, stories like this always attract my attention because honestly, the same thing could happen here almost any time. No matter how much security you have in place, how well you treat the people around you or how safe you think you are, the fact is that a disgruntled or unstable individual could snap at any time and start “popping caps” into everyone he sees.

I use the pronoun “he” because in most cases, school shooters are male. Heaven forbid that women start reacting violently because life in higher education could be much, much worse.

Just for the record, here are some of the most notable examples of gun violence on college campuses in recent years. They are all cause for concern and taken together, it seems as if a destructive pattern is forming that could jeopardize everything for which higher education stands.

OCTOBER 2002: Robert Flores Jr., a 41-year-old student at the University of Arizona’s nursing school, shot and killed three female professors, followed by himself.

SEPTEMBER 2006: Kimveer Gill, a 25-year-old student at Dawson College, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, killing one students and injuring a dozen others, faculty included. Obviously, Gill then turned the gun on himself, which is par-for-the-course in most of these incidents.

The Virginia Tech shooter (courtesy of Reuters)

APRIL 2007: This is the shooting that brought national attention to the issue of gun violence on college and university campuses. I am of course referring to the massacre at Virginia Tech University. 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui murdered two people in his dorm and then went on a killing spree that ended with 33 dead and 15 wounded. The final fatality was, of course, Seung-Hui himself.

SEPTEMBER 2007: Loyer Brandon, a freshman at Delaware State University, shot and wounded several of his fellow freshmen but fortunately, no one was killed. Brandon was charged with attempted murder, assault, a gun violation and reckless endangerment. And this is one of the happy endings.

FEBRUARY 2008: Nursing programs must be stressful because in this example, a nursing student at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge shot and killed two women and then herself. Perhaps anger and stress management courses should be added to nursing curriculums.

FEBRUARY 2008: This was a bad month for college shootings. After the killings in Louisiana, 5 students perished and another 17 were wounded at Northern Illinois University when Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire in a classroom. Kazmierczak was a former graduate student at the university.

FEBRUARY 2010: Amy Bishop, a biology professor in Huntsville, Alabama, was denied tenure a year earlier and responded by shooting her colleagues. Three professors were killed and another three were injured in her attack. I guess denying her tenure was the right decision, huh?

MARCH 2010: An employee at Ohio State University received an unsatisfactory job evaluation and reacted by killing two fellow employees and wounding another. And yes, his weapon of choice was a handgun.

Amy Bishop from Alabama University (courtesy of ABC News)

MAY 2011: Three people were killed in a parking garage at San Jose State University, including two former students and the gunman, who died at the hospital later that day.

DECEMBER 2011: Poor Virginia Tech. During this incident, a 22-year-old student from Radford University shot and killed a police office on the VTU campus. Like the San Jose killing, this also occurred in a parking area on campus.

APRIL 2012: A 43-year-old former student at Oikos University in California, a Christian institution populated primarily by Koreans and Korean-Americans, opened fire on campus and killed seven people, wounding a handful of others.

When you consider these shootings in higher education and then include all the gun violence in elementary schools and such, one thing becomes very clear: even educational institutions are not safe from violent people and violent behavior.

In fact, I would argue that no one is ever safe in this country. Even innocent people trying to enjoy a new Batman film have been massacred by an unstable and violent individual.

You just never know.

I think what bothers me the most about all these shootings on college campuses is that I view institutions of higher learning the same way others view churches: as sacred places that provide opportunities for self-exploration, personal growth and development. People like me may be among the minority now, I’m sad to say. And we’re a dying breed.

Literally.

It’s time to stop the violence, people. And instead of picking up a gun every time you have a problem, I suggest taking a more mature and responsible approach: deal with it. We all have problems. The difference is that most of us tackle them without resorting to murder and suicide.

Feel free to join us.

Crime Comes Home

Scary when this tape is next door (courtesy of WWMT)

This past weekend, my wife was returning from her sister’s house and noticed an unusual amount of activity one block from our home. An unusual amount of police activity.

Basically, there were cops everywhere.

As she crept by in her Subaru, one of the officers flagged her down and checked her license and registration. She asked what the problem was and without being too informative—Heaven forbid—he told her there had been a shooting.

Moments later, she told me about it.

After locking the doors and turning out a number of lights—precautionary measures in case some maniac was still on the loose in our neighborhood—we moved like cat burglars from one window to another, keeping an eye out and looking for suspicious activity despite all the blue lights reflected on the surrounding houses. I was confident no criminal would be stupid enough to hide near the scene of his crime, but you can never be sure.

After all, crime seemed like a good idea and you see how well that worked out.

The next morning, I received a text message from my brother asking if we were alright. He didn’t have any details, but the grapevine in our small town ensured that he heard about the shooting. I told him everything was fine and that it was probably some jackass who accidentally discharged a weapon in his home. We live in a good neighborhood and the surrounding area is rural-suburban—to coin a phrase—so I was sure it couldn’t be serious.

I was wrong.

A buddy of mine has friends who live in my neighborhood and one of them was close to the action that night. In fact, he arrived on the scene just before the police and recounted the story to my friend shortly thereafter. To protect his anonymity, I’ll call him Sam.

Several houses down from Sam lived Jim, a relatively young man who just went through a nasty divorce. His ex-wife (Linda) and her daughter (Tina) had moved out long ago and without wasting any time, Jim had started dating again. Not only that, but he quickly found a girlfriend who looked exactly like Linda and welcomed her into his home instead.

For a while, Jim was happy and life seemed to be back to normal. Then came this past weekend and it all turned to shit.

Saturday evening, Jim received a call from his former stepdaughter, Tina. She was coming over to pick up the last of her mother’s things and wanted to make sure he was home, which he was. Jim and his girlfriend Mary were spending a quiet night at home and honestly, she wanted Linda’s stuff gone as much as Jim did, maybe even more.

Jim told Tina it would be fine and a half hour later, she arrived. While Jim and Mary sat in the living room and watched television, Tina collected her mother’s knick-knacks. Then for some unknown reason, an argument broke out.

Jim and Tina got into it—probably because she was planning to take something that really belonged to him, or that he and Linda had purchased together (at least that’s my theory)—and eventually, Jim wandered off towards his bedroom.

When Jim reappeared, he was holding his pistol and aiming it at Tina’s head.

BAM! BAM!

Two shots and Tina dropped to the floor dead.

BAM!

She was followed a moment later by Jim, who put the gun to his own head and exercised his constitutional second amendment right for the last time (as many spontaneous gunmen are apt to do).

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: a murder-suicide one street over from my own home.

Guns make yet another appearance (property of Somecovers.com)

What in the hell is this country coming to?

I suppose it could be worse. Poor Sam was walking home from a friend’s that night, passed Jim’s house and saw a woman vomiting in the bushes. As he approached her—actually Jim’s girlfriend, Mary—he glanced through the still-open front door and saw blood everywhere: on the walls, on the ceiling… everywhere. Then Sam realized who the woman was.

“Is everything okay, Mary?” he asked her with genuine concern in his voice. She struggled to respond through all the convulsing and dry heaving, but managed to speak.

“He killed her,” she told Sam. “He killed her.”

Sam immediately feared the crime may still be in progress and quickly asked for clarification.

“Who killed her, Mary? Was it Jim?”

Mary lowered her head, nodded and vomited again at the very thought of what she witnessed. Sam, on the other hand, was getting worried.

“Where is Jim now?” he asked the barfing woman, his eyes never leaving the door. “Does he still have the gun?”

Mary shook her head. “He’s dead, too. Jim shot himself.”

Around that time, the first responding officers arrived and quickly shuffled Sam away from the scene. He answered some questions, went home and called to tell my buddy. And today my buddy told me.

Although I am never surprised by violence—and have probably been desensitized to it in many ways—I must say it is shocking to have something so tragic and gruesome happen within 100 yards of my home, the same home where I live with my wife and child. These kinds of things are supposed to happen in bad neighborhoods, not good ones. At least that’s what we would all like to think, but it’s not the truth.

The truth is that crime and violence can happen anywhere. Even worse, it can be perpetrated by anyone, even people you know and trust. One minute you’re having a cookout with that nice older man from next door; the next minute, you’re calling the fire department because that same neighbor tried to burn your house down. And if you’re like most victims, you probably never saw it coming.

Jim, the murder-suicide guy, was like that. Sam could always sense that something wasn’t quite right with him—or so he said after the fact, which is easy to do since as they say, “retrospect is 20/20”—but the fact is that even Sam had no idea what Jim was capable of. He came and went each day, interacted with people from the block, did yard work on the weekends (weather permitting, of course) and basically seemed normal.

Now that I think about it, maybe that was the tip-off: he seemed normal. And in today’s society, normalcy just isn’t an option. These days it’s all about survival.

Be good to each other, dear readers. And for goodness sake, watch your backs. You never know where the next “Jim” will strike, so please don’t take any chances.

Horror in New Mexico

 Nehemiah Griego has been charged in connection with the shooting deaths of his family.

The face of the teenage killer (courtesy of CNN)

As much as I would love to write nothing but positive posts about the world we live in, there is simply too much negativity to ignore. And we all know how the media tends to flock to more shocking and disturbing stories.

Here’s another one for you.

Last weekend, 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego of New Mexico went on a killing rampage that added more fuel to the national conversations about gun control, violence and our troubled youth.

Let me preface this story by saying that for all intents and purposes, Nehemiah seemed like a normal, well-adjusted kid. He was active in his church youth group, attended mission trips with his father (a former pastor), enjoyed playing music and was a gifted athlete.

In other words, no one saw this coming.

Early last Saturday morning, and for no apparent reason (at least not yet), Nehemiah took a .22 rifle into his mother‘s bedroom, where she was sleeping with his 9-year-old brother Zephania, and fatally shot her. Zephania woke up at the sound of gunfire and Nehemiah told him their mother was dead, going so far as to pick up her head to show him her bloodied face.

Obviously, Zephania got upset at the sight of his dead mother, so Nehemiah shot him in the head and killed him, too. He later told police that this was the point-of-no-return because he “lost his sense of conscience.”

Nehemiah’s rampage continued and his next victims were his sisters, 2-year-old Angelina and 5-year-old Jael. Later, when his father returned from volunteering at a local homeless shelter, Nehemiah shot and killed him as well.

Fortunately, Nehemiah’s five older siblings no longer lived in his home or they would likely be dead, too.

After murdering most of his family, a few of them with an AR-15 assault rifle (like the one used by Adam Lanza in Connecticut), Nehemiah sent his girlfriend a picture of his mother’s lifeless body and then spent the remainder of his afternoon with her.

At one point, they visited his family’s church and it was a staff member there who eventually called the authorities. Griego was arrested and was scheduled to appear in court next week on charges of murder and child abuse resulting in death, but his preliminary hearing has been waived. Instead, Nehemiah will face a grand jury within the next few weeks.

Although the events of this case are disturbing enough, the plot thickened once police started to question Nehemiah. He told them he had been planning the killings for at least a week and even hoped to continue his shooting spree at a local Wal-Mart. His goal was to cause “mass destruction” and to die at the hands of the police after initiating a shootout.

The Griego home in Albuquerque, NM (courtesy of USA Today)

And we still have no idea why. Not completely, at least.

During his interrogation, Nehemiah was “stern” and “very unemotional.” He told police that he was frustrated with his mother and even thought about killing his girlfriend’s parents. Nehemiah also expressed an interest in playing violent video games and seemed excited to talk about them with investigators.

I’m sure someone will find a way to blame video games for Nehemiah’s violent behavior, even though I’m not aware of any research that truly connects the two.

So there you have it: another “normal” teenager who suddenly snaps and murders his family without feeling remorse, worrying about consequences or exercising any conscience whatsoever. I’m hoping that more details will come out to help us all understand how something like this could happen, but I’m certainly not holding my breath.

After all, there seem to be fewer and fewer things that make sense these days. And true understanding is more elusive than it has ever been.

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