UT: AUTHORITIES TRY TO HEAD OFF ANY BACKLASH AGAINST BOSNIANS
The mayor and police chief sought to head off any potential backlash against Bosnian immigrants Thursday, three days after a Bosnian teenager shot five people to death in a crowded shopping mall and then died in a shootout with police.
Mayor Rocky Anderson blasted vitriolic Internet postings and e-mails sent to newspapers that suggested the shooter was an Islamic terrorist, calling such criticism from "fact-free people" unjustified and outrageous.
Sulejman Talovic, 18, shot nine people, five fatally, at the Trolley Square mall Monday before he was stopped by police. He and his family emigrated to Utah as war refugees in 1998.
Investigators have not determined a motive but have no reason to believe Talovic was driven by religious extremism, Police Chief Chris Burbank said.
Several thousand people from the Balkans have settled in the Salt Lake City area, many of them after fleeing ethnic violence in their homeland.
The mayor and police chief assured dozens of Bosnian immigrants that authorities would not stand for any threats against their community.
Bosnia's ambassador to the United States, Bisera Turkovic, met with local leaders and said her country was shocked by the teenager's actions.
"Something bad like this was my main reason for coming," Turkovic said during a two-day visit from Washington. D.C., that included a stop at a Bosnian restaurant.
"We owe this country much for our freedom, our prosperity," she said. "So for this to happen to people who are welcoming to us is shocking."