We had hoped never to revisit such tragedy in our communities — not to mention so soon after the March 22 rampage that claimed 10 lives at a Boulder supermarket. And yet our state was blindsided by its second mass shooting in as many months early last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, this time in Colorado Springs.
Police say a man fatally shot six people at a birthday party before killing himself — because he was not invited to the gathering thrown by his girlfriend's family. Sandra Ibarra-Perez, Jose Ibarra, Mayra Ibarra De Perez, Melvin Perez, Jose Gutierrez and Joana Cruz lost their lives.
The circumstances of the two calamities were different, of course, and yet in some key respects very much the same.
Following the devastating events in Boulder, the suspect taken into custody by police, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, of Arvada, was described by his older brother in one news report at the time as “very anti-social” and paranoid. The brother, Ali Aliwi Alissa, said that in high school, his younger brother would tell of “being chased, someone is behind him, someone is looking for him.” Ali Aliwi Alissa said he believes his brother is mentally ill — to many of us, a given for anyone capable of carrying out the callous and indiscriminate acts of which Alissa is accused.
In last Sunday’s Colorado Springs shooting, the perpetrator, Teodoro Macias, had been in a relationship with one of the victims, Sandra Ibarra, for about a year, and Colorado Springs police say he had a history of controlling and jealous behavior. Springs Police Chief Vince Niski told the media Macias had "displayed power and control issues" in the relationship. Evidently, he had had a prior conflict with the extended family.
Observed the chief, “At the core of this horrific act is domestic violence.”
It certainly was that, but questions about the mental and emotional health of the shooter are in order in this case, too. Differences arise in all families and all romantic relationships, but we don’t expect them to take such a tragic turn.
There are ticking time bombs among us, sometimes very close to us. And we have a responsibility to our fellow human beings to engage and extend a helping hand when something seems amiss. We must do so before it is too late.
As we observed just weeks ago after the Boulder shooting, the best hope for heading off the next such tragedy could be timely intervention by those nearest to someone who appears to be in mental or emotional distress. Neighbors, friends, co-workers and especially family members and others who share a household must speak up if they perceive something is wrong.
It means accounting for family, friends or others who appear to be in need. It also means advising them to seek help, and if they resist — yet the need appears urgent enough — seeking help on their behalf.
It might start with something as simple as contacting a health care provider to explore options. There are also crisis hotlines that can make a real difference. The state government’s Colorado Crisis Services (coloradocrisisservices.org) offers once such hotline: 1-844-493-8255. Text “TALK” to 38255.
The program’s website cites a number of reasons the public can dial in for help, including concern for family, friends or others:
“Being on the outside when someone you love is struggling is one of the hardest things in the world. While you can’t always be the person who solves their problem, there are things you can do to help. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out. You’re not alone. Support is just a call or text away. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, we’re here to help.”
To be sure, there are many times when no one reasonably could have been expected to see tragedy coming, and none of our reflections here are intended to second-guess anyone’s actions in this regard. However, if we all try to think more proactively, we might detect the need for help.
Lucia Guillen, of Centro de La Familia, which provides counseling and advocacy for crime victims in the Latino community, told The Gazette later last week, “I just wish that this family could have reached out for services before this tragedy happened.”
Let’s all resolve to do our best not to let the next tragedy happen.