Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Small Town Tragedy

Tuesday morning amid clashes of loud thunder and downpours, my home town is reeling from a violent murder-suicide in the local grocery store Monday evening about 5:00 p.m.

A male perpetrator entered the grocery store, asked to speak with the store manager, shot the manager with a handgun and turned the gun on himself. Although the details of the encounter are sketchy at this point, it is reported that the meeting took place in the manager's office.

The local police department is located at City Hall, the block immediately behind the store. Customers probably were first aware of the tragedy upon arrival of the police. It is unlikely there were eyewitnesses to the tragedy, although some reports say shots were heard in the store.

This story lead sounds like the makings of a movie thriller, but when it is close and personal, it casts a shadow of disbelief and grief over a small community of 2000+ citizens. This is life and death tragedy for two families, a group of employees and a small community, NOT a movie.

The grocery store is 2.5 blocks from my home. I was taken by surprise as Husband and I were away from the scanner, eating supper, when the calls began.

When an event of this magnitude breaks in a small community, city officials' phones ring constantly. Our community has no local communications, but relies on cable TV stations, radio stations and newspapers in nearby communities.

I am no exception as alderman for the ward in which the tragedy happened. Phone calls and e-mails flooded in. I was busy squelching rumors and dispensing what information I knew. No, there was no one loose on foot.....but you should lock all your doors regardless, every day. Yes, two persons are dead...the store manager and one other person (later I learned the identity of the other person).

While investigation of the incident is still ongoing, a few facts are established. The store manager is dead as is the perpetrator, a husband of a former employee.

What provoked such violence is speculative at this point. There appears to have been managerial differences between the store manager, and the assistant manager, wife of the perpetrator. Her status appears to be former assistant manager, having left her position recently, if preliminary information is accurate.
Reader comments to the local article in The Baxter Bulletin cast some light on an ongoing personnel conflict in the store, but other comments are crude and cruel.

The unemployed assistant manager is now a widow and head of household with two dependents all in grief and shock. She is a member of a large family native to the area.

The store manager was a widower close to retirement. Details of surviving family are not known yet.

How could such a tragedy have been avoided? Does the small grocery chain upper management bear any responsibility? It is rumored the assistant manager allegedly requested transfer to a different area store, but upper management seemingly ignored the request, letting the differences continue to simmer.

Employees carry home their work-related difficulties, discussing their point of view of situations with their spouses and others. Usually, the situations correct themselves in numerous peaceful ways, acceptance, other employment, transfers.

Something went terribly, tragically wrong on Monday at 5:00 p.m.

Below are some additional news links.
The Ozarks
Springfield (MO) News Leader


Arkansas Patti said...

Good Heavenly Days. What a terrible tragedy. We somehow think we are immune when you living in a small town. Guess irrational anger can find a home regardless of surrounding population.
Appreciate your concern for the families of both. People often ignore the families of the one who has done the killing. They too suffer greatly both from the loss and the guilt.
Hope your area heals soon.

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

What a tragedy! This world is full of so much misery and strife and it seems people are choosing violence more and more, as a means to handle their frustrations. So sad for both of these families and this town!

Anonymous said...

It certainly is a tragic event and one wonders how such a final step can be taken by anybody. It is a disaster for the families involved and I wonder if the shooter thought of that.

jinksy said...

Stopping manufacture of guns would be a good place to start, followed by making it illegal for anyone to own one.

NitWit1 said...

There are so many rumors flying in this small town where most of us know something about people who serve us and live among us.

I've heard an indeterminable number of stories as to whether the female associate manager quit, was fired, walked off the job in anger, stayed on the phone instead of doing her job, etc. etc.

And the Manager, who to me was so mild-mannered, I barely heard him when he greeted me, which he always did. He allegedly yelled and dressed her down in front of employees, yada yada yada. That one is hard for me to swallow.

Also, she supposedly returned and asked for her job back; the manager refused because upper management told him NO.

Another rumor is former assistant manager had been in the store the day of the shooting; was there during the shooting; was called to the store after the shooting.

One rumor is the perpetrator was on some antidepressive, antipychotic meds. Some of these meds have unexpected results of inducing the exact opposite of the desired effect. If this rumor is so, it is doubly tragic.

Of course, the hard truth will never be known as the two persons directly involved are dead.

A gun ban might have prevented this, but it seems even in areas where there is such bans, a person can find a gun if they want to.
Anyway a gun ban in this state is highly unlikely as hunting is part of its tourism dollars. Looks to me like that could continue with rigid controls of some kind. Too complex an issue for me.

Sandi McBride said...

Being from a small town and a (retired) Deputy I can tell you that this is something that will be affecting your lovely town for a long time. Don't let the paranoia move into your head and thus into the community. One of my dearest friends who was an investigator had to seek help for nightmares and depression which he suffered from after working the scene of one such happening in our county. It is devastating to every one, even if they didn't know either of the prayers go out to your community and that everyone there has the common sense that you do! Rumor squelching will be a full time job for a while. My prayers are with you.

Amber Star said...

I was so surprised when you told me about this in an email about the time it happened yesterday. My prayers are with everyone in the town. Several years ago a gunman entered an evening service of youth group and started shooting. It was a terrible thing. Many of the parishoners and many of the responding police officers had to speak with a professional afterwards. The first officer to enter the church is a friend and he still has problems about it from time to time. The person who posted right before me has given you very good advice. Take good care of yourself and all your friends and family...and don't forget Luckie. She will be a good stress reliever for you in the days to come. *hugs*

Renie Burghardt said...

What a terrible tragedy, Carol. I live ten miles out of a small town of just under 2,000, and shop at a Harps here. You never think somethig like this happens in a small rural town, but it does, obviously. Everyone around here owns a gun as well, hunting is a big business, and someone going beserk has easy access to one.

Tragic story, to be sure. My prayers go out to everyone affected by this senseless crime.
Take care!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Oh, I am so terribly sorry. What a horrible tragedy!!! You all will be in my prayers! May God give you wisdom as you comfort, and encourage others even as you try to make sense of this for yourself! My heart is with you today especially!!! ~Janine XO

betty said...

You always think, "It can't happen here". I'm sorry for both families, and for the community.

Lorna said...

That is a tragedy, but a situation becoming more and more common unfortunately. You wrote about it with fairness and compassion, and a great deal of feeling. I don't think I'd realized the extent of the impact on you because of your municipal responsibilities. Even at this ditance, I can feel the shock your town must be undergoing.