Last week, the Thornton Police Department in Colorado arrested Scott Ostrem for allegedly fatally shooting three people at a local Walmart. Police spokesman Victor Avila told reporters the 47-year-old suspect, whom they captured after an exhaustive manhunt, “nonchalantly” entered the store and opened fire.
Two men were killed in the shooting while an injured woman was taken to a hospital where she later died. No one else was wounded.
At the time, the police said they were trying to establish a motive for the rampage and that Ostrem had only “a minimal criminal history.”
“What we have determined is that it is random as of right now,” Avila told reporters. “As witnesses stated, the person came in and just shot towards a group.”
Well, it appears the victims may not have been shot randomly. In fact, as new details continue to emerge, it seems probable the suspect had actually planned the attack and chosen his victims beforehand.
Since the tragic incident claimed three lives, it could be classified as a mass killing. However, due to the deadly attack in New York City, where an Uzbek man plowed his truck into people and claimed eight lives and the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman murdered 26 people, the Colorado mass shooting got pretty much lost in the headlines once the suspect was arrested.
While authorities were quick to call the Manhattan attack an “act of terrorism” (since the assailant was Muslim) and refer to the Sutherland Springs mass shooting as a crime related to domestic violence (since the assailant was white and was previously convicted for assaulting his wife and infant step-son), the suspect in Colorado shooting was dubbed as a lone wolf suffering from mental illness — just like most white shooters.
The news of Ostrem’s alleged rampage did not draw as much attention as it should have, which was unfortunate, given his apparent motivations.
Firstly, all of the victims — Pam Marques, Victor Vasquez, and Carlos Moreno — were Hispanic.
Secondly, according to the local media, Ostrem “was very racist towards Hispanics.” In fact, his neighbors said he was downright abusive toward members of the minority community.
“Very quiet, but verbally abusive toward Hispanics,” a 49-year-old maintenance worker from Ostrem’s apartment building told NBC News. “Just real rude, he would use vulgar language with Hispanics and stuff like that.”
Other neighbors described the suspect as a loner “who would walk around carrying weapons” and “a bizarre, angry man who lived alone in an apartment with a stack of Bibles and virtually no furniture.”
“He didn't seem to have anybody,” said Teresa Muniz. “Being angry all the time. That's what he seemed like, always angry.”
That’s not it.
A man named Gerald Burnett told CBS4 Ostrem would tell him, “This is America. You shouldn’t be here.”
Another building employee said if Ostrem “saw a Hispanic person, he would tell them to get out of his way.”
Apart from his apparent hatred for Hispanics, what makes this crime look premeditated is the fact authorities retrieved a rifle, phones, a safe, a camera and other materials from Ostrem’s home. Moreover, the officials also found a number of handwritten notes with references to Norse and Celtic myths on his kitchen counter — something that points toward his possible white supremacist belief, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The rise of white nationalism across the country is incredibly alarming. It’s 2017, but neo-Nazis and KKK members are making headlines for staging demonstrations, causing riots, giving speeches on university campuses, addressing rallies and so on.
Ostrem’s alleged actions appear to be motivated by hate, yet authorities have been reluctant to say much about it.
Had he been a person of color or a Muslim, or had all the victims been white, the reaction would have been quite different.
“A person’s mental state should not factor into whether a criminal act is designated a hate crime or terrorist act,” wrote the SPLC on its website. “According to one study, more than 25% of al-Qaeda and Islamic State inspired terrorists suffer from mental health disorders. The study concluded that Muslim terrorists had been diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric disorders such as ADD, AD/HD, autism spectrum, narcissistic, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress and psychotic disorders. The prevalence of schizophrenia (2%) in the sample was higher than what would be expected in the general population. Another scientific study found as much as 40% of 153 lone-actor terrorists had a diagnosed mental disorder.”
Thumbnail/Banner: Thornton Police Department via Reuters