Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
|Deseret Morning News graphic Bosnia and Herzegovina|
As a little boy in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sulejman Talovic hid in fear from the Serb military forces who were slaughtering Muslim men and boys as war and genocide ravaged his country.
Years later, the 18-year-old slaughtered five people in Salt Lake City's Trolley Square mall before dying in a shootout with police officers.
A world away, those who knew him say he was an "ordinary kid" with dreams of America, and they are unable to comprehend that he could have committed such a crime.
"I know all Talovic family," said Omer Johic, who was a neighbor of the Talovic family in the Bosnian village of Cerska, near Srebrenica. "Everybody are nice, quiet and fine people, and I just cannot believe that Sulejman has been able to kill those people."
But neighbors also acknowledged that the war in Bosnia likely left its mark on the boy. During the war, the family lived for five years as refugees in Bosnia and spent almost a year in the mountains hiding from the Serb military forces, neighbors said.
Up to 200,000 people were killed and 1.8 million others lost their homes in Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
"I don't know what happened in USA," Johic said. "Maybe he started to use the drugs."
Outside Talovic's home in the working-class Fairpark neighborhood of Salt Lake City, his family struggled to provide answers.
"What happened to Sulejman, we have no idea," said his aunt, Ajka Omerovic. "He was nice boy."
Speaking to reporters in broken English, Omerovic offered condolences to the families of the people who Talovic killed.
"The reason why I am talking to you is to let know, all the other families, to let know we are so sorry and our hearts is with them," she said Wednesday. "I hope they can understand that we are sorry, too. We wish that something like that never, ever happen."
'We are good people'
Armed with a shotgun, a .38-caliber handgun with a backpack full of ammunition and a bandolier of shotgun shells around his waist, police said Talovic began shooting as soon as he got out of his car at Trolley Square. By the time the gunfire stopped, six people were dead, including Talovic, who died in a shootout with police. Four people were wounded.
"There is still no known motive," Salt Lake City police detective Robin Snyder said Wednesday.
Addressing concerns from some that Talovic's Muslim beliefs may have played a role, Snyder said there was no evidence that was the case. The FBI said Wednesday that it had determined terrorism did not play a role in the shooting rampage.
Omerovic said Talovic was not a terrorist.
"I want to make sure that people don't think about us that we are terrorists or something like that," she said. "We are good people, just like everybody, and we want to be nice to everybody."
Detectives were allowed by Talovic's mother to search their home without a warrant early Tuesday, Snyder said. Salt Lake City police would not say what if anything was seized from the house.
Investigators had also not found any type of suicide note as of Wednesday, Snyder said.
The case is technically considered "closed" from a police investigation standpoint, because the gunman is dead. However, Snyder said, homicide detectives will continue looking for a motive.
Talovic's family wants to know where he got the guns, suggesting he did not have them at home.
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