Bosnia relatives of gunman shocked by Utah shooting deaths
associated press writer
TALOVICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina ” Relatives of the Bosnian-born teen who killed five people and wounded four others in a shooting spree at a U.S. shopping mall said Thursday they were shocked by the news.
Utah police shot the gunman, Sulejman Talovic, 18, to death after Monday’s rampage in Salt Lake City.
“I saw it on TV and I heard a brave policeman killed the shooter. Not in my wildest dreams could I have presumed Sulejman killed those people. When I heard his name, I fell from the sofa,” said Redzo Talovic, 59, a cousin of the gunman.
“What got into him? This is what we are all asking ourselves. We are all in shock,” he said.
Relatives recounted the difficulties the family went through when the war broke out in Bosnia in 1992 ” and remembered the smiling little boy who was just 3 when the fighting began.
Relatives said their village, Talovici in northeast Bosnia, fell to Serb forces soon after the war began. “For a whole year, we were besieged and bombed day and night. We couldn’t stick our noses out of the house,” Redzo Talovic recalled.
In 1993, Sulejman and his mother fled to the nearby northeastern enclave of Srebrenica, living there briefly before being evacuated by the U.N., relatives said. The boy’s father joined them in Tuzla in 1995 before they moved to Zagreb, Croatia, eventually becoming Croatian citizens.
The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1998, U.S. immigration officials said.
In 1995, Serb forces loyal to late ex-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic slaughtered some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica ” Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II.
Up to 200,000 people were killed and 1.8 million others lost their homes during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
Few villagers return to Talovici after the war ended, and most of the homes remain in ruins. Among them is the house where Sulejman Talovic spent his early years. His father, Suljo, built it a year before the war began, relatives said.
“Those were really nice people, never argued with anybody about anything. During the war, they shared the little food they had with others,” said Sefko Talovic, 59, a distant relative.
“His father helped other injured people flee when the village fell although he himself was injured too,” he said. “What happened was a big tragedy, first here and now in America.”
Relatives say the family called from time to time saying they had settled in Salt Lake City, secured jobs and were happy. They were making plans to return to Bosnia for the first time, relatives said.
“When I heard his name on TV, I fainted. I still can’t believe what he did,” said a cousin, Mina Talovic, 54. “I remember him as a happy little boy sitting in my lap.”
“I’m so sorry for those poor people,” she said. “I feel sorry for him and his family.”
The relatives in Talovici said they had not been in contact with the Talovic family in U.S. since the shooting. No one answered the door at their Salt Lake City home Wednesday.
“We are all dismayed. We have a hard time connecting that horrible act with the little smiling boy we remember,” Redzo Talovic said.
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