Sunday, February 17, 2008

NIU Tragedy: The more we look for answers, the fewer we find

Last week's campus shooting spree by a deranged young man at Northern Illinois University understandably -- and predictably -- raised a lot of questions and, also quite understandably and predictably, there are few answers.

History is all too often littered with the stories of deranged people who arm themselves and kill others. In major urban areas, such as Milwaukee, that history repeats itself every few days in the local newspapers.

Despite the best risk assessment tools available, the truth is that there is no solid way to predict if or when some nut job is going to go off the deep end and take the lives of innocent people. Understandably we'd like to change that but it's doubtful that we can.

That doesn't mean that there aren't any truisms in this which, under the right circumstances, could avoid or minimize a tragedy.

For example, the campus police were on the scene in two minutes -- a very good response time (in Chicago ten minutes is considered an "acceptable" response time to a "shots fired" call which is utterly bizarre). But two minutes was enough for the crazed gunman to kill and wound a multitude of people before turning the gun on himself.

Yet, had an armed campus police officer been fortunate enough to encounter this nut job earlier, perhaps the tables would have been turned. We'll never know.

What we do know is that three decades ago then University of Wisconsin-Parkside chancellor Alan Guskin disarmed the campus police here, a moronic move by a left-wing goofball. That stayed in place for more than two decades until Jack Keating, the son of a Seattle policeman, became chancellor.

Last year when Deputy Sheriff Frank Fabiano encountered a suspected drunken driver who wouldn't pull over, Parkside Officer Jimmy Spino, who happened to see this, pulled his patrol car behind the deputy's.

When the motorist finally stopped and Deputy Fabiano got out of his patrol car, there was gunfire that mortally wounded Fabiano. Officer Spino returned fire and, while unable to bring down the gunman, at least he was able to return fire.

The community owes a debt of gratitude to Officer Spino -- and Jack Keating.

No comments: