Springfield Mall shooter Sylvia Seegrist, NY Daily News

The more things change …

Only the guns get ‘better’

Sunday, the NYT expanded on what we already knew of Texas church shooter Devin Kelley, adding the concerns of his Air Force colleague, Jessika Edwards,— his raging temper, obsession with Charleston church shooter Dylann S. Roof and claims of using dogs for target practice — to his history of domestic violence and mental health issues.

Jessika Edward’s description of Kelley’s behavior reminded me of an incident with an eerily similar backstory.

The day before Halloween,1985, my sister was working as the manager of a Gap in the Springfield (PA) Mall when shooting broke out. There was panic. My sister herded customers into a storeroom and locked herself in with them. They crouched on the floor till the gunfire ceased.

They escaped without injury, but three people, including a two-year-old child, were dead and seven others were wounded. Compared to recent mass shootings, this sounds like small potatoes. The shooter was armed with a Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic. Only a 10-round magazine. Oh for the good old days.

Vintage Ruger 10/22

The shooting was ended by an unarmed 24-year-old, John Laufer, who tackled the killer thinking he was stopping an unfunny Halloween prank.

In the days afterward, it was revealed the 25-year-old shooter, Sylvia Seegrist, had a 10-year history of mental illness which included hospitalizations, was discharged from the Army after two months for behavioral problems, had stabbed a counselor with a paring knife, choked her mother and frightened her neighbors. She talked of shooting people, spoke with admiration about spree killings (especially the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre of 1984), and was known for harassing shoppers at the mall.

Prior to the shooting, Sylvia’s mother and professionals struggled to to protect Sylvia from herself and the community from Sylvia, but to no avail. She refused to take the medication prescribed for her because of its adverse side effects.

When Seegrist purchased her weapon, applicants were required to sign an affidavit attesting they had not been hospitalized for mental illness. Seegrist submitted a false application. Despite her misrepresentation, her behavior was so disturbing employees at a K-Mart lied to avoid selling her a rifle. She simply took her business elsewhere.

What can the US do to prevent what appear to be preventable tragedies? I don’t claim to have an answer, but I don’t think its good enough to shrug and say we can’t stop this because #freedom.


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