Teen Gunman Identified in Salt Lake City Shootings

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Police say Salt Lake City, Utah, teenager Sulejmen Talovic killed five people and wounded four others at the Trolley Square Mall before he was confronted by an off-duty officer. Tolovich was shot to death by police.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Police in Salt Lake City have identified the young man who opened fire in a shopping mall last night, but they still haven't identified a motive for the crime. Six people died, including the shooter. He was shot by police. Four people are in the hospital with serious injuries. The shooting echoes similar tragedies that have socked other American communities in the last two decades. Now Salt Lake City is reeling.

NPR's Howard Berkes has lived in Salt Lake City for 25 years and he has our report.

HOWARD BERKES: When I sent my 14-year-old daughter to bed last night, she had one question - why did that man do that? She heard about the shooting in a text message from a friend at Trolley Square, a place where they and their friends and their families have slurped pasta, watched movies, chuckled at goofy greeting cards and shopped for all kinds of things.

It's an old trolley barn built with brick and stone and steel, a place that seems like a fortress. Steel yourself for what store manager Marie Smith saw as a young man in a long trench coat made eye contact with her and then raised a shotgun.

Ms. MARIE SMITH: And then a young girl, probably about my age, mid-20s she was walking from her store. I heard her scream because he turned, looked at her and he shot her. So I saw her fall and then I ducked behind the counter.

BERKES: Smith hid in a bathroom with a customer as the gun shots continued. Matt Lund heard the gunfire from inside his store.

Mr. MATT LUND: Slowly heard the shotgun fire getting closer and closer. It eventually sounded like it was near the back of our store right by the room we were in. We then heard the police identify themselves. They said, Police. Drop your weapon.

At that point, we heard the shotgun again and then a barrage of fire.

BERKES: And then the shooting stopped. Six people lay dead, including the gunman, who was killed by police. Four more people lay wounded. The oldest victim was 52, the youngest, 15. Police identify the shooter as 18-year-old Sulejmen Talovic, who had a bandoleer strapped to his waist and a pack on his back, both crammed with ammunition.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank.

Chief CHRIS BURBANK (Salt Lake City Police): Quite frankly, the police department is still looking for the motive in this. What drove a young man to take this position? What can we do as a community to make sure it doesn't happen again?

BERKES: Burbank said an off duty police officer saved many more lives by leaving the dinner table at a restaurant and then cornering the shooter until reinforcements arrived.

Little is known about Talovic. He's Bosnian, perhaps part of a small community of Bosnian refugees here. He lived with his mother. That's all police have to say.

Outside Trolley Square today, someone strapped a bouquet of followers to a tree with yellow crime scene tape. And people showed up to claim cars and belongings. They were shaken but philosophical.

Todd Gordon is a food broker in Salt Lake City.

Mr. TODD GORDON: I guess I'm not shocked that it's happened here. You know, I think that Salt Lake's become very cosmopolitan. In the 22 years I've lived here, I've seen it change, and not a lot for the good. But these are things that are societal, not geographical, in my opinion.

BERKES: This was a random act, says Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Henderson, and this is still a safe place.

Crisis counselors are fielding hundreds of calls from witnesses and people struggling with grief. Some ask what others have asked outside Columbine High School in Colorado or Luby's Cafeteria Restaurant in Killeen, Texas. Why us? Why here? Why now?

Howard Berkes, NPR News. Salt Lake City.

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