A former relative of Sulejman Talovic says the Trolley Square shooter's intellectual capacity was so low that he probably didn't realize he would be killed during his murderous rampage.
Nasir Omerovic was in close contact with Talovic from the 1990s until Omerovic left Utah around 2000. He kept in touch with friends in Salt Lake City and knew about the boy's actions here.
And his account of Talovic is sharply at odds with that of other relatives who described Talovic as a nice boy.
As long as he knew him and heard about him, Omerovic said during two telephone interviews Thursday, Talovic was a "bad kid." Omerovic also said he thought Talovic was "mentally ill."
Omerovic had been married to Talovic's aunt, Ajka Omerovic, the sister of Talovic's father, Suljo, and had lived in Salt Lake City. Today he is divorced and living out of state.
Talovic was 18 when he was killed by police after killing five and injuring four on Feb. 12. But Omerovic thinks Talovic's intellectual age was more like that of an 8-year-old than a teenager.
He also speculated that the teen may have thought he would be famous because of the shootings, not realizing he could be killed himself. He might have thought he was going to jail but probably didn't think that was any big thing, Omerovic added.
Talovic was about four years older than Omerovic's son, Safer. In one incident, he said, when Talovic was about 11, he packed a broken piece of glass in a snowball and hit Safer in the head. The younger boy bled and Talovic was afraid he would be punished. But Omerovic doesn't believe the child was punished.
Later, when Talovic was 12 or 13, "he was gagging my boy. He grabbed his neck and he squeezed his neck," he said.
In school, Talovic kept causing fights in schools and was shifted from school to school, Omerovic said.
Asked if the school incidents could have resulted from other students picking on Talovic, he said he doubted it because the same thing would not keep reoccurring in different schools.
When he left school for the last time, Talovic was happy, according to Omerovic. The teen spent a lot of time watching movies, and a violent video possibly gave him the idea that he could be somebody if he committed a mass killing, his uncle believes.
He is certain that Talovic was not a gang member. He is just as convinced that he was not acting out of religious motivation. Bosnian Muslims, as Talovic was, are not known to do such things for religion, he said. He also doubts that anyone put him up to the shootings.
Years ago, the young Talovic was taken to court for throwing a rock at a neighbor girl, he said. He was ordered to perform 30 hours of community service and he became quiet for a time after that incident, he said.
In the interviews Omerovic insisted Talovic caused trouble continually. "That was his style," he said, calling him a troublemaker.
Omerovic also heard that Talovic threatened a little girl with a knife.
However, the girl's mother, Hasija Cumurovic of Jacksonville, Fla., denied it vehemently, telling the Deseret Morning News that the incident was nothing serious.
"They were just kids, they were just playing. I don't even remember that," she said, as translated by Janet Komic. She said it was not harmful.
"I don't see the reason they called me because it's nothing, actually," Cumurovic said.
Omerovic said parents kept their children away from Talovic because they were afraid of what might happen.
But when he was asked if Talovic was vicious, he said he didn't know whether the boy realized his actions were painful to others.
The trouble he caused was "a game" to Talovic, Omerovic believes. He said he believes Talovic should been under psychiatric care.Comment on this story
Genocide against Bosnian Muslims during the war in that country, 1992-95, cannot be blamed for Talovic's violence, his uncle said. The boy was so young at the time that he doubts he remembered the war.
Monika, a 17-year-old resident of Amarillo, Texas, who was in frequent telephone contact with Talovic before his rampage, told the newspaper that he had undergone counseling and that he recalled war atrocities.The Talovic family escaped from Talovici, eastern Bosnia, as invading Serb forces laid siege to the area. They lived as refugees in Bosnia until about 1997 or 1998, when they made their way to America, settling in Salt Lake City.