A Shooting in Utah Without Easy Explanations

Fatal shootings at a Utah mall prompt a reporter to go looking for answers to an obvious question: Why? But sometimes there simply are no easy explanations.

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NPR's Howard Berkes has spent much of the week reporting on the terrible shooting that took place in a shopping mall in Salt Lake City. But he found in his Reporter's Notebook a perspective he hadn't heard before.

HOWARD BERKES: These mass shootings seem all too familiar now, as do the makeshift memorials, the indescribable loss, and the billboards urging prayer. But there's a new twist in the genre: cultures unfamiliar to most of us. Think of the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, the Hmong hunter in Wisconsin, the Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, and now an 18-year-old Bosnian Muslim in Utah. Trying to fathom the unfathomable seems more difficult than ever.

Mr. NAROUFF AREFAVICH(ph): Probably he got some his own reason. He was maybe sick. This is hard to say, really.

BERKES: Narouff Arefavich struggled to understand as he stood in Bosna(ph), a cramped and dark restaurant. As many as 10,000 Bosnians live in Utah. Arefavich is a 53-year-old painter who fled violence in his homeland at roughly the same time as Sulejman Talovic, who shot nine people at the Trolley Square Mall before being killed by police.

Mr. AREFAVICH: I am deeply sorry what's happen, as a father, as a person, as a human being. All my sympathy for the people who got losses. And I believe they don't have nothing to do - any connection with the Bosnian people in here.

BERKES: Could it have been the war, I asked? Talovic saw his village destroyed and escapes Srebrenica before 8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed.

Mr. AREFAVICH: Can be anything. I don't know, but the right reason probably he take with him.

BERKES: Is it tough here for Bosnian kids?

Mr. AREFAVICH: The young people are just actually pretty much part of this society. They learn fast language. They are a part of this society. And I believe most of them, they don't have a problem.

BERKES: Arefavich has heard that some Bosnians have been harassed since the shooting and that some blame Bosnian Muslims. He has a simple response.

Mr. AREFAVICH: As a community, we don't have nothing to do with that what's happened. Everyone is responsible for his own action.

BERKES: Arefavich is as puzzled as anyone. Despite a shared culture and faith, and a shared experience with war and refuge, the shooting makes as little sense to him as it does to the rest of us.

SIMON: NPR's Howard Berkes in Salt Lake City.

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