This news is a little old (from last week), but after discovering it in Feministing‘s daily roundup, it made my evening much sadder. A special education teacher was killed as she walked into the school where she taught, in Tacoma, Washington. The shooting happened just before the children began arriving for school. The suspect was killed in a shootout a few miles away, and police discovered that he seemed to have had a relationship with the victim – she had sought anti-harassment protection against him the week before.
“It sounds like he had an infatuation with her,” said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum. He added that they knew each other, but that their relationship was unclear. But the fact that the suspect was waiting for her outside the school where she taught with a gun, waiting to shoot her, might make that relationship dynamic a little more apparent. And it was probably a little more than an infatuation.
The article, from the Lakeland Ledger, a local paper, closes with the observation, “The shooting occurred three days after a 32-year-old man with a history of mental illness opened fire in a middle school parking lot in Colorado, wounding two students.” This sounds like a horrifying tragedy also, but the thing that bothered me about the way the article was written was that it made this sound like the teacher’s death was a random act of violence, which it clearly was not.
Whenever I hear about killings like this, I think of George Sodini, and the number of people who defended him. I think of the fact that he believed that he was justified in the murder of innocent women, just because he perceived that they had “rejected” him. And then I read about cases like this, which are treated like simple violent outbursts. This was not – it was premeditated. The fact that the suspect was killed in the aftermath may make it easier to forget that the police clearly did something wrong – they didn’t listen well enough to this woman’s plea for help.
I go back, when I read about horrifying news like this, to what Bob Herbert wrote in the aftermath of the Sodini incident. He said, “We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected. We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.”
And although it’s hard to think about, we need to accept that women are killed every day because they are women – in our own country, and in others. And when a woman is killed by someone who may have been harassing her, it’s not random violence. And it’s certainly not something that we should write off, or ignore.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.