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Famed singer and proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron chanted to the world that “the revolution will not be televised.” That doesn’t mean that it won’t be telegraphed, though — and an extremely disturbing spree killing in Las Vegas today has sent an eerie message that some driven people are trying to instigate it.
Las Vegas Police Officers Alyn Beck, 42, and Igor Soldo, 32, were killed over lunch today, each one by a different assailant. The assailants then took their officers weapons and prepared to left the restaurant. And that is when things went from tragic to something beyond mere tragedy.
They didn’t shoot anyone else in the pizzeria. But according to a report by Las Vegas’s Channel 8 news:
Police say witnesses told them the suspects took the police officers’ guns and ammunition and, as they were walking out of the restaurant after the shooting, they said, ” tell the police the revolution has begun.”
The two suspects then left the restaurant and went into the Wal-Mart store across the street where they shot a citizen. The female suspect then shot the male suspect and then shot herself, police said. Both suspects are dead.
Pauline Pacheco, a shopper in Wal-Mart, saw the armed man and grabbed her father so they could escape.
“We saw when the man was walking, he was shouting, yelling bad words, and suddenly he had a gun,” she said. “It was terrible, it was terrible. That man was crazy.”
Both officers and the citizen shot at the Walmart, a woman, also died.
Very few crimes seem designed to invite copycats, but it’s hard to interpret this one any other way. I’m going to trust that OJB readers can handle this news without flipping out and either following suit or taking crazed preemptive action — and so I’m not hesitating to publish it. I think this raises questions worth noting, in areas from gun control to policing to — well, who knows that this “revolution” is supposed to be about?
(Is anyone else reading this wondering whether these killers were ethnic minorities, religious minorities — or even cultists, white supremacists, etc.? It’s weird to ask that question — and weirder yet that as of now it hasn’t been reported. It shouldn’t really matter — this act is wrong, period — but one wonders what more is in store — and from whom.)
To figure out what’s going on, let’s start at the end: either the male assailant knew that this was to be a murder-suicide or he didn’t. If he did, we have to wonder what they both were thinking; if not, we only have to wonder about the female assailant. In some ways, the “suicide” part of this is the only one that doesn’t readily fit into a precedent.
For people to kill cops is horrible — but not beyond belief. For them to proclaim themselves as part of a revolution is odd — but not beyond belief. But one would expect that, afterwards, shooters would do one of two things:
- try to escape
- kill as many more people as possible
They “escaped” only as far as a Walmart — chosen for what reason? — which was presumably full of potential targets if the point was mass murder. But they shot only one person — a security guard? someone who rushed them? someone chosen randomly just to make the point that the spree wasn’t over yet? — and then killed themselves. No hostage taking, no massive spray of bullets — just “one more and (forever) done.”
That’s the point in the story a friend of mine, an excellent social analyst, said that his jaw dropped. Dying in a shoot-out, being gunned down in an escape, suicide after a broader massacre — all of those make a kind of sense by the twisted logic of spree killings. But for the murderous revolutionaries to just decide that they were done now and could go ahead and kill themselves, that’s an attention getter — and it’s presumably supposed to be. The most likely implicit message is that they don’t need to kill anyone else just now, perhaps because more like them are on the way.
This feels to me like something new and disturbing. (Why take the officers’ guns and ammo if they intended to kill themselves a few minutes later? Just to show that they can?) While its death toll is magnitudes lower, it seems like a game changer like 9/11, where killers simply are not doing what we expect. As such, it will pose new sorts of problems for law enforcement — and it’s hard to imagine that both the absolutist position on the Second Amendment (broad guarantee of access to firearms), the Fourth Amendment (against warrantless searches) and the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection clauses (suspects have procedural rights — and both they and constitutional rights apply to everyone equally) will survive intact.
I’m not even sure how one addresses such a targeted, telegraphed, and “limited” revolution, but I suspect that we’re going to start talking about it. That’s why I have decided to go ahead and post the story today, like it matters as a cultural touchstone — because somehow I suspect that it will.
UPDATE, 12:30 a.m.:
And the mystery is (mostly) solved, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: a white nationalist couple in their 20s, new to the area (seemingly attracted by Cliven Bundy), hostile to police, who had draped the fallen officers with a Gadsden flag. (If that last detail had just been in the initial report it would have cleared up a lot.)
They did both commit suicide, but only after police showed up at the Walmart and exchanged gunfire with them. Other than an unlucky woman near the door, they didn’t shoot lots of people that they could have, although unconfirmed reports are that they did exchange fire with a “good guy with a gun” — to what at this point seems to have been no effect. They seem likely to have wanted to go out in a “blaze of glory,” a firefight with the cops — and perhaps figured out too late that in such a fight the odds were not in their favor.
The LVRJ piece has lots of other good details — including how radical and crazed they seemed to their neighbors with their conspiracy theories and such. So, Orange Countians — do you know people like this around your area? If so, what do you think that you should do? Because frankly, everything described about them prior to the shooting doesn’t seem so far out of ordinary to me — but then again, I grew up here.
So, again — what are we going to do? Can you solve this without courting a police state?