Authorities Seek Motive for Bosnian Immigrant Teen's Shooting Rampage at Salt Lake City Mall

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A shopping mall where five people were gunned down this week reopened, as authorities tried to figure out why a teenage Bosnian immigrant committed the rampage and how he got his hands on a gun.

FBI agent Patrick Kiernan in Salt Lake City said the bureau had no reason to believe Sulejman Talovic, 18, who was killed by police, was motivated by religious extremism or an act of terrorism.

"It's just unexplainable," Kiernan said Wednesday. "He was just walking around and shooting everybody he saw."

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Armed with a .38-caliber pistol, a shotgun and a backpack full of ammunition, Talovic shot nine people, five fatally, at the Trolley Square shopping center Monday before he was stopped by police, including an off-duty officer from Ogden.

"We are Muslims, but we are not terrorists," the boy's aunt, Ajka Omerovic, said Wednesday at the family's house.

She rejected any religious motive and said the family cannot explain the shooting. The Talovic family fled Bosnia for Utah in 1998 "to be free," she said.

Bosnia's U.S. ambassador, Bisera Turkovic, planned to visit Salt Lake City on Thursday. Turkovic was scheduled to have lunch with other Bosnians at the Bosna Restaurant and attend an evening memorial at the downtown library.

Talovic lived with his parents and three younger sisters in a tiny ranch house. His parents, Suljo and Sabira Tolavic, do not speak English well and have refused to answer the door.

Neighbors described the lanky boy as a loner who dressed in black.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating how the 18-year-old got the pistol.

"You can buy long guns at 18. That's not a problem. The handgun he shouldn't have had, so obviously we're going to look at where he got that gun," said Lori Dyer, in charge of the local ATF office.

Omerovic said Talovic never displayed any guns. "We want to know who sold these guns to him," she said.

Less than 48 hours after the shootings, police tape was removed from the parking lot as the mall reopened, although 25 of the mall's 36 stores remained closed, said 1/4mall spokeswoman Alicia Bremer. Plywood covered shattered windows.

Cabin Fever, a card shop where many of the shootings took place, was to stay closed until Feb. 21. "We really needed a little bit more time for ourselves and to show our condolences," co-owner David Dean said.

Outside the shop Wednesday there were free Valentine's Day cards and a sign that read: "Don't forget to tell someone you love them today." A worker was repairing pillars damaged by shotgun blast outside the shop and a Pottery Barn Kids store.

Outside the mall, candles and flowers were left as memorials to those killed, who were identified as Jeffrey Walker, 52, Vanessa Quinn, 29, Kirsten Hinckley, 15, Teresa Ellis, 29, and Brad Frantz, 24.

Four people who were wounded remained hospitalized Wednesday, two in critical condition, two in serious.

Talovic worked for two months as a general laborer at Aramark Uniform Services, an industrial launderer and uniform-rental company, manager Trent Thorn said. He appeared for his regular shift on the day of the shooting, he said.

Talovic's mother took him out of high school at age 16 to work, Salt Lake City school district spokesman Jason Olsen said.

Talovic and his family moved to the U.S. after living as refugees in Bosnia for five years, people close to the family still living in Bosnia told The Associated Press. Talovic was only 4 when he and his mother fled their village of Talovici on foot after Serbian forces overran it in 1993, they said.

"Many left the village, but only a few made it," said Murat Avdic, a friend of the family.

Up to 200,000 people were killed and 1.8 million others lost their homes in Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Avdic said he was convinced the war in Talovic's homeland somehow contributed to the Utah rampage, especially the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serb forces in the northeastern enclave of Srebrenica.

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