Rampage: ‘Never, Never’ Dreams

March 11, 2009

Last graph in Al-Jazeera‘s report on Tuesday’s shooting in south Alabama: “The right to own guns has been fiercely defended in the US since the country’s civil war in the 19th century, and they are widely available for purchase for reasons of self-defence and hunting.”

(Residents of Samson, Ala. Illustration found here).

Samson, Ala., Mayor Clay King on the aftermath: “…never, never dreamed of this happening…”

‘This’ being “this:”

  • A gunman shot and killed at least 10 people, including several members of his family, on Tuesday afternoon in what officials said was the worst shooting in Alabama.

    Witnesses of the shootings and their aftermath described a man with multiple weapons who engaged in heavy gunfire, leaving behind blood-soaked porches and bodies.
    “It is truly one of the most horrific things that anyone in law enforcement can remember in Alabama,” said Col. J. Christopher Murphy, the director of the state’s Public Safety Department. “We’re still getting victims coming in.”

Robert Preachers, the coroner:

  • Mr. Preachers said the man burned down the house of his mother, Lisa McLendon, in Kinston.
    Officials found the woman’s body inside the house, The AP said.
    “He started in his mother’s house,” Mr. Preachers said. “Then he went to Samson and he killed his granny and granddaddy and aunt and uncle. He cleaned his family out.”

The gunman, Michael McLendon, was reportedly armed with at least two assault rifles, one an AK-47, and a 38-caliber pistol.
He also shot and killed four dogs at his mother’s house.
And then continued onward, apparently killing random folks along the way — one at a Samson hardware store, another at a nearby gas station, two people on their porches — creating a real-life shooting/police-car chase across a small patch of south Alabama, finally ending up at a metal fabricator warehouse about 15 miles away, where after popping off about 30 rounds at police, shot and killed himself.

And Mayor King this morning on CNN: “Well, the whole community is still in shock. Like I said, we know, I personally know everyone that is involved, both the shooter and the victims. And that makes it more difficult to have to deal with.”

A most tragic and bizarre episode.
And a personal one, in an ancestral way.
I was born in Brundidge, Ala., about 35-40 miles northeast of Samson, and most of my still-living relatives still reside in what’s called the “wire-grass” section of southeast Alabama, tiny towns with names like Elba, New Brockton, Ozark, and the big city in the area, Dothan (from the Bible).
And although I actually grew up on the Florida panhandle — a small town on Choctawhatchee Bay named Shalimar — during so, so many visits to my relatives back in Alabama, the journey carried our family car right down West Main Street of Samson to a left turn on State Road 87 and north towards Ariton.
I haven’t been back to Alabama in more than 20 years, and certainly haven’t been down West Main Street in Samson in probably 40 — the town seemed caught in the 1940s, as I recollect, even when I passed through it in the 1960s, with old cars, old people and a lot of old, big southern homes with all the big porches and screens.
In fact, on a lot of those trips we stopped in Samson, to get soft drinks or whatnot, and a few times for me to get a haircut — after all these years I can’t recall why a freakin’ haircut was needed so badly, the clipping was done there.

Everyone is from somewhere.
Alabama for me is just where I’m from — I tell people, please, don’t hold that against me.

Now the people of Samson, where in reality everybody-knows-everybody, have to deal with an incident seemingly right out of Stephen King.
And add to the strange, this morning in Germany:

  • German police say a 17-year-old gunman has been killed following a shooting spree that began at a school near Stuttgart and left 15 other people dead.
    Police say nine students and three teachers at the Albertville technical high school in the town of Winnenden are among the dead.
    A resident near the school and two others also were killed.

In this case, too, the gunman carried on a shooting/police-car chase, ending up near a car dealership (where two bystanders were killed), and shot by police.

Also this morning in Las Vegas:

  • The unidentified man entered the hospital at 3100 St. Rose Parkway just before 1 a.m. threatening to commit suicide, Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul said.
    Officers arrived within minutes of a nurse’s phone call, and patients and hospital staff were evacuated while police attempted to speak with the man, Paul said.
    The man raised the handgun at officers, who then shot him.
    The man was taken to another part of the hospital for treatment, but died a short time later, Paul said.

    It is unclear how many people were inside the emergency room at the time of the incident and Paul was unsure how many officers were involved.

And another hospital shooting this morning, this one in Spain:

  • A female doctor died and an ambulanceman was injured after a retired taxi driver who was unhappy about his treatment started shooting wildly in a Spanish clinic.
    The 34-year-old doctor died after she was hit in the head and chest. She has not yet been named.
    An ambulance driver was also shot but was in a stable condition.

    Random shootings in public areas such as schools and hospitals, which are more common in countries such as the US, are almost unknown in Spain.
    The Spanish healthcare service enjoys a generally good reputation.

And last weekend in of all places, the southern Caribbean:

  • A shooting spree by a St Ann’s Hospital outpatient on Friday night in the Covigne Road, Diego Martin, area was thought to have claimed the life of one man identified as Toby Charles.
    Not so. This man is now believed to have killed two people.
    The alleged killer — during his spree — injured four other people who, up to press time last night, were listed as stable at the Port of Spain General Hospital.

While Googling “shootings,” I came up with another weird rampage from last month, this one near another long-time-ago childhood stomping ground in Florida, the resort town of Miramar Beach, just east of Destin — about 60-70 miles east of Pensacola on the Gulf coast.

  • It began a little before 2:00 Thursday morning at these units of the Summer Lake Townhomes.
    Walton County sheriff’s deputies arrived to find two people shot to death, 3 others critically injured.
    Investigators say the suspect, 60-year-old Dannie Baker, left his townhouse, armed with a rifle, walked across the complex to the victims’ unit, and opened fire.

    Neighbor Crystal Lynn says “he did come up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrant in my house to get them out.”
    The victims were foreign nationals who appear to have been working in the U.S. legally.

As John Lennon pointed out: “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”

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