Many in Utah's Bosnian community expressed shock and disbelief after learning the 18-year-old gunman in Monday night's Trolley Square shooting was Bosnian. There was also a sense of fear of retaliation, with some declining to give their names to reporters.
"Nobody believes," said Elvis Hadzialijagic, owner of the cafe Bosna, and a resident of Utah for seven years.
Hadzialijagic suspected that fear played a role in fewer patrons than normal at his cafe on Tuesday. There's fear, he said, of retaliation against the Bosnian community, similar to an attempt to burn down a Pakistani restaurant after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"Everybody is so tense," he said. "We came here as refugees, running from a war. Nobody can believe this. Definitely that person was disturbed .... It's not good."
Some 4,000 to 5,000 Bosnian refugees were located to Utah during the 1990s and in 2000 by Catholic Community Services and International Refugee Committee.
"This is very surprising," said Amer Giel, 30, of Salt Lake. "For younger people to do such things. We have so many young people, young teenagers with access to guns."
At a press conference Tuesday, Buba Roth, spokeswoman for the Utah Consortium of Minority Groups, said the Bosnian refugee community is fearful of reprisal. She said tragedies such as the shooting could be prevented if refugees had the support network they need.
"Most refugees feel uprooted, upset, they feel foreign," Roth said. "People are still afraid."
Roth challenged the state to make better use of its $8 million annual budget to help refugees.
"Refugees feel left out," said Toang Buom, president of the Sudanese Association of Utah. He said refugees come here to find a safe haven, to find help dealing with the trauma they faced in their homelands.Comment on this story
"We face too many problems here," he said, problems like being turned down for jobs because they don't speak English, or having to work late jobs leaving children at home with "no one to read them books, no one to tell them 'don't do these bad things."'
Roth criticized specifically Valley Mental Health, which treats refugees, blaming the mental health service for two prior shootings involving refugees as the gunmen.
Valley spokeswoman Connie Hines said she could not find anything in her records that indicated Sulejman Talovic was treated there."We do a lot with refugees," she said. "We go way out of our way to provide languages and interpreters. ... To be honest, I feel we really extend ourselves."