Monika

The day before he killed five people and wounded four at Trolley Square, Sulejman Talovic told the girl who loved him that the next day would be the happiest of his life.

Monika, a 17-year-old fellow refugee from Bosnia who now lives in Amarillo, Texas, did not know what he meant. (At her request, the Deseret Morning News is not using her last name.)

"His exact words were, 'You're going to be mad at me, but ... tomorrow's supposed to be the happiest day of my life."'

She asked him about that statement and he replied, "Oh, no, you should be happy."

"And I was like, 'So what does it involve?' He goes, 'It involves everything but you."'

She could not imagine he was talking about his last day. His shotgun-and-pistol rampage ended when police officers killed him.

"I thought he was going to have a child or something like that," she said.

Talovic had courted a girlfriend almost a year before, she said, and she thought the girl might be having his child, although he never said so. Actually, that wasn't the case, Monika added.

Monika was interviewed by telephone on Tuesday and Wednesday. She is home-schooled and works during the day.

Monika and the 18-year-old Talovic "met" long distance on Jan. 28, introduced through a relative of his and a relative of hers who happened to know each other.

They began talking incessantly on the telephone, day and night. They talked every day, always for hours. She said the shortest conversation they had was on Feb. 11, the day before the shooting — and that discussion went on for five hours.

"He was a funny person. He liked to joke a lot," Monika said.

Often he would call her about 6 p.m. and they would talk until 3, 4 or 5 a.m.

He was going to make plans to visit her in Amarillo, she said. That was supposed to happen on March 12. Meanwhile, they had exchanged photographs via cell phone and had discussed marriage.

"I didn't know when or where or anything like that, though we did talk about it," she said. Both felt serious about marriage, she believes.

Talovic had "two or three" friends, according to Monika. She did not know their names. "He talked about friends, but he never mentioned names."

He had friends at work and had had friends at the first school he attended in Utah, Monika said.

Talovic also knew one man through his mosque in Utah.

"I don't know if he was his friend, but he liked to talk to him," she said. They only saw each other during services at the mosque. "They only saw each other like three or four times."

Asked if that person could have influenced Talovic to carry out the shootings, she said, "I don't really think so, no."

She did not believe anyone had pushed him to carry out the shootings. Nobody had wanted him to do anything wrong, she believes.

Was Talovic thinking that he would become a martyr for his Muslim religion? "I don't think so," she said. He never mentioned he had guns and never seemed violent. "He was actually a happy, nice person."

During that last talk, "he was actually pretty happy," Monika said. Besides his expected happiness the next day, he talked about a sister he dearly loved, who was his best friend. He did not seem angry or filled with concern.

Their conversations were in English, as both spoke the language well.

"He was real happy that he came to the United States, he told me, because it wasn't like over there."

The Talovic family and Monika's family were refugees from Serb aggression during the war in Bosnia, 1992-95, and she believes the young man was deeply affected by the violence.

"After a while he had to take some counseling and get stuff out of his head," she said.

Although the war ended when Talovic was only 7, he recalled large open graves where victims were thrown in and shot. He did not see that happen, she said, but "he saw dead people around them in those holes" while the family was hiding in the forest.

Also, he told her about seeing a horrific murder: He saw a woman with her child, "and there was a soldier just coming up behind her, and, like, shooting her in the head." The soldier threw the child "and he started to shoot it."

While the Talovic family hid in the forest, he told Monika, they lived on wild food, mushrooms, and drank dew from the ground.

Speaking of Talovic's grandfather, she said, "He told me that he was killed in the war," but did not say how. He also lost a brother and a sister.

Ajka Omerovic, an aunt of Sulejman Talovic who lives in Salt Lake City, said the little girl died before the war and the boy died during the war. The boy's death apparently resulted from a lack of medical care caused by the conflict.

Today, the parents — father Suljo and mother Sabira Talovic — live in Salt Lake City with three daughters.

"He remembers when his little brother and sister died from the war and how tragic it was," Monika said. He also recalled "how they didn't have anything to eat, when they were in the forest."

Asked if the boy was afraid at that time, she replied, "Yeah, he was really afraid."

Monika and Sulejman Talovic talked about the war in Bosnia only twice, she said. Most of the time they covered ordinary teen topics, "what we liked, what was our favorite music, colors, whatever."

Talovic only listened to one CD, she said. She did not know its name, but the band was Korn, whose music is somewhere between a heavy metal and an industrial sound. He had bought the CD a long time ago "and that's all he listened to."

Some of Korn's lyrics are nihilistic. According to the "Lyrics on Demand" Web site, among its albums are songs with lines about being eaten up inside and wanting to die, voices in one's head, enjoying playing with lots of pain, rottenness, and the loss of something inside.

Talovic's favorite movie was the 1992 film "Malcolm X" about the late black nationalist leader who was the spokesman for the Nation of Islam movement involving black Americans.

Talovic's favorite color was turquoise. "He said (it was a) calming and soothing color."

He was pretty happy with his family and never discussed fights or troubles with his neighbors or at work. However, others have told the Deseret Morning News about conflicts in one Salt Lake neighborhood where the family lived.

He never discussed playing video games or talked about weapons, Monika said. He did not tell her why he had dropped out of school.

"He said like there was drugs and violence going on, he didn't want to be part of that in his first school. I don't know what happened in the second school after he moved, I don't know what happened there."

She advised him, "if he can't get a high school (diploma) he should go get his GED, and that's what he was planning on doing." A General Equivalency Diploma could open the way to a career, they both felt.

"He was talking about going into business," she said. "He wanted to become a business manager."

The young man did not talk about mental problems or hallucinations. He told her he never took drugs. He never acted crazy or seemed upset. "He never told me about hurting nothing. I mean, he was nice to everybody."

Sometimes he would smoke cigarettes, "but not all the time," she said. "And I asked him, 'Are your parents OK with it (smoking)?' He said, 'Yeah."'

Their conversations ended on Feb. 11. On Feb. 13, after not hearing from Talovic for two days, Monika tried to call him.

"I called his cell phone and an FBI agent answered it," she said. The agent asked for her name and identified himself as with the FBI in Salt Lake City.

She complied, so he told her Talovic had been in a shooting and had died.

"I asked who was the shooter and he goes, 'He was.' ... I guess he tried to talk to me. I was on the floor after that ... I was in so many tears.

"One point, my mom actually put me in a car, took me to the hospital."

Her heart was broken, she said. "It's pretty sad."

Monika may have been the closest person to Talovic in the days immediately before his murderous attack. Asked about the possible cause of the shootings, she said:

"There's countless number of people right now suffering the same stuff with the past war." Her father had six brothers, for example, "and only two survived the war, and they weren't even like soldiers in the war."

Because of the war, she said, one relative "went totally crazy. He's been in a mental institute."

Talovic's rampage in Salt Lake City, she believes, had some connection to the bloodshed in Bosnia.


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