UT: ANTI-BOSNIAN BACKLASH IS FEARED IN UTAH
Most of the thousands of Bosnians living in the Salt Lake City area are refugees of war, and all of them are toughened by the experience of making new lives in a new country.
Now, state and local officials say that the rage and grief after the multiple killings here in a shopping mall Monday by an 18-year-old Bosnian immigrant threaten a backlash, and they announced plans on Wednesday for outreach meetings and candlelight vigils to head off trouble and help the city heal.
”We’re concerned, and we’re trying to take proactive steps to keep this from becoming an issue,” said Patrick Thronson, a spokesman for Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Ljubica Roth, the president of the Utah Consortium of Multicultural Groups, an organization that works with refugees and immigrants, said, ”We are all stressed.”
Ms. Roth said she received six reports on Wednesday of Bosnians in Salt Lake City being accosted verbally, mostly about how they got into the country, she said, or whether they intended to commit violence.
”Many people didn’t go to work today because they were worried about it,” Ms. Roth said.
The number of Bosnian refugees in the Salt Lake City area has been estimated to be 3,000 to 7,000, most of them Muslims fleeing violence by Serbs in the early 1990s.
Police investigators said they still did not know what made the killer, Sulejmen Talovic, drive to the Trolley Square mall just before 7 p.m. and open fire. Mr. Talovic worked a regular day’s shift until 5 p.m. at a company that supplies uniforms to businesses, his boss said. Then he drove to the mall, strapped on a bandoleer of shotgun shells and a backpack full of handgun ammunition and killed five people before being shot dead by police officers. Four people were seriously wounded and remain hospitalized.
In a state where the mainstream culture is white, politically conservative and Mormon, the mystery of Mr. Talovic’s motive has been compounded by questions of ethnicity, assimilation and psychology. His traumatic experiences as a child in Europe — his family arrived in the United States from Croatia in 1998 when he was 9 or 10, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said — might have had much to do with what happened at the mall, or nothing at all. And with no apparent motive for the rampage, tensions are running high.