Certain life events have minimal or no explanation. The shooting deaths of four Marines at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga Thursday morning are one of those occurrences.
What I find most disconcerting is the unexpectedness of any violence by this latest gunman. His near-lifelong residency in the quiet, tree-lined suburb of Hixson, seemed to be idyllic. He graduated from Red Bank High School, and wrestled on the varsity school’s team.
The shooter took college classes during his senior year, and was an excellent student. This military murderer graduated from Chattanooga State Community College with a degree in electrical engineering. He did not fit the profile of someone with violent tendencies.
Unlike many other prior mass shooters, as examined in my June 24 column, the Chattanooga killer was not an isolated, parental-enabled, underachieving individual. (All previous entries that have examined these repetitive and tragic mass shootings do not identify the gunman by name, to avoid further publicity for each killer.)
Except for an April 2015 DUI arrest, with a scheduled court appearance later this month, this Chattanooga shooter seemed to have no criminal past, or obvious mental health issues, excluding the potential of alcohol abuse. One of many unanswered details, as this tragedy unfolds, is how the shooter was able to rent a Ford Mustang for his deadly rampage if his license had been confiscated from the recent DUI arrest? The rental car company, which as of yet remains unnamed, will be undoubtedly be examined.
Closer to home, considering the first of the two Chattanooga crime scenes eerily resembles the same shopping center military recruitment center as the Wal-Mart Columbus Pike location, increased security at those offices is inevitable. Thankfully no one was killed at the Chattanooga recruitment center, but the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center was the deadly venue where four Marines died. A Navy sailor, another Marine and a police officer were all injured, with the sailor being the most seriously hurt.
My concerns with the most recent mass shooting begins with the unexpectedness of the occurrence. Besides the recent DUI arrest, a trip back to Kuwait, growing a beard, and becoming more religiously devout, the shooter was not an obvious threat.
The potential of “homegrown terrorism” is frighteningly obvious in this most recent event. Can military personnel safely wear their uniforms in public — without hesitation — in fear of potential “copycat” crimes?
How heartbreaking that our military men and women serve in faraway foreign lands of strife, survive their deployments, only to be killed on American soil. A collective fear by military personnel of being stationed stateside should not be a greater fear than being based overseas. Somehow this evolution of “fear at home” is becoming too much the reality of military life.
After Thursday’s massacre, who can we trust? This killer was a “hometown boy.” It is beyond my comprehension how someone can kill his fellow citizens just miles from his suburban childhood home. The legacy of another mass shooting in America has been forever added to a history of tragedies in too many of our cities, with Chattanooga being the latest to receive this unwanted designation.
Churches, movie theaters, schools, the Boston Marathon, political “meet and greets,” restaurants and shopping centers are no longer venues for public enjoyment. These venues have now become areas of vigilance where Americans now will be surveying their surroundings — as another act of terrorism further erodes our collective security in public spaces — in addition to what military personnel encounter at their designated bases.
According to various statistical sites viewed by this columnist, there have been 70 mass public shootings since 1982, killing four or more victims, in a total of 30 states. Thirty-three of these deadly events have occurred since 2006. 2012 remains the deadliest year for mass killings with the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Sikh Temple and a Minnesota factory shooting all occurring within a few months. With these recent summer tragedies and others during this year, it seems that 2015 might eclipse that grim 2012 statistic.
Mariann Main is a Delaware native and journalism graduate of The Ohio State University. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia State University, and is licensed as a counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. She can be reached with commentary or questions at MariannMain@gmail.com.