Newswise, it won't be that difficult to bid farewell to 2007. It was a most disturbing year. Even in a business where grief sells, headlines were filled with way too much of it.
The focal point was Trolley Square. Not that there weren't senseless murders before the fateful night of Feb. 12, 2007, or after, but when 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic turned an innocent Salt Lake City shopping mall into his personal killer video game, the resultant feeling of despair was almost palpable.
As it turned out, the five people he killed, along with four more he wounded, all pure strangers, would pale, statistically, alongside the 32 people Seung-Hui Cho gunned down two months later on the campus of Virginia Tech, thus rendering Trolley Square and the later Omaha mall and Colorado church rampages to a supporting-cast role in the year of senseless slayings.
But here in Utah, in 2007, Trolley Square was as awful as it got.
And every time it seemed that its bad taste was beginning to go away, something else outrageously bad and violent would happen.
In June, a human tattoo named Curtis Allgier, 27, got the drop on prison guard Stephen Anderson, 60, and allegedly shot him twice, killing him almost instantly. Allgier then carjacked an SUV and led police on a valleywide chase that ended after a brief siege at a west-side Arby's.
In July, a 9-year-old boy named Josue Contreras-Velasco was forced to stand naked in a trash can full of ice water as punishment for misbehaving. When he died of hypothermia, his two punishers, Pedro Gaucin-Canales, 36, and the victim's sister, Rebecca Hernandez-Velasco, 19, were arrested and charged with murder.
In October, tragedy came to the Deseret Morning News doorstep when mild-mannered, good-hearted Ann Poulson, a 68-year-old grandmother who worked in our accounting department, was strangled to death by James William Tolbert, 41, a convicted murderer out on parole whom Poulson had befriended and tried to help get back on his feet.
And just this past week, as horrified fellow customers looked on at a Salt Lake truck stop, Roger Malcolm, 51, shot and killed security guard Verne Walter Jenkins, 31, who was attempting to usher Malcolm off the premises because he became belligerent after standing in line for a pack of gum.
That wasn't all, not by a long shot. Wives died at the hands of their husbands this year, a whole family died at the hands of a mother, a man was shot and killed in his car waiting to go into a restaurant, two men were found dead in southern Utah near the home of a man who owed them money. The list goes on and on.
It is not fair, of course, to color society as a whole with the black brush of this mayhem. For every pointless, needless, mindless murder committed in 2007, there were thousands, if not millions, of thoughtful, kind, compassionate life-affirming actions. The vast majority never made it into the newspaper and never will.
Two did, however.
One occurred during the Allgier chase when Eric Fullerton, 59 and all of 5-foot-6, interrupted what was supposed to be a quick stop for breakfast at Arby's by wrestling the gun away from the 6-foot-1 white supremacist less than half his age.
The other occurred just moments after Talovic started spraying bullets around Trolley Square when off-duty police officer Ken Hammond, 33, interrupted what was supposed to be a romantic dinner with his wife and started shooting back at the gunman. Hammond kept Talovic occupied until on-duty officers arrived and Talovic was killed.
Two men just having something to eat.
But they knew wrong when they saw it and did what they could to make it right and preserve lives.Maybe when putting the wraps to the news year of 2007, it would be best to dwell on them.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.