This past Friday, as I was serving coffee at my part-time job, a text message came through.
“Hey, did you know there was a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport? Just wanted you to know in case you were going to be in the area.”
In the area? The coffee shop where I work is exactly two miles north of the airport and only one block away from the local hospital. Within minutes I started to notice the sirens. Police cars were flying by, traffic started to back up, and ambulances from far and wide pushed their way through the cars. Soon there were helicopters hovering overhead and each car that came through our line wanted to know if we heard what had happened.
By the time my shift was over, I was virtually stuck in Fort Lauderdale on my bike. I pedaled down to the next intersection on my regular route home. It requires I pass the airport. Not today. Roadblocks were in place and it was unknown if a second or third shooter was roaming our streets. Cars were in gridlock and people stood on all the street corners, some with their luggage in tow. They had been on their way to the airport, or had just arrived and were working their way to their lodging for the night.
All we knew was that the death toll was rising, there may be a killer on the loose, and one guy was in custody. A man who checked his weapon legally and loaded it in a bathroom before opening fire in baggage claim. The news trickled in. He carried military ID. He told the FBI he heard voices and was forced to watch ISIS videos. He was not stable.
What no one mentioned? He was an abuser. In the year leading up to the killing, he had had several police visits to his home due to domestic violence complaints. He had beat and strangled his girlfriend. The prosecution had deferred prosecution for anger management classes and good behavior. He even broke his no-contact, but he was charged with misdemeanors…not the felony his crime was deserving of.
So, he was not in jail. He was not a felon and he did not have his weapon taken away. Instead, he, like so many before him, escalated to a mass murderer taking 5 lives and injuring several others.
But we don’t want to talk about that. Domestic violence is a personal matter. The news story must involve a broken individual, a terrorist threat, or something about gun control. But an abuser? No. That problem doesn’t involve us, right?
In 2016, 43% of mass murders were committed by men who had abused those they claimed to love. Between 2009 and 2015, 57% of shooters in mass shooting incidents had killed a current or former spouse or intimate partner. 21 or those 133 incidents had a domestic violence charge on their record.
Perhaps it is time we start talking more about domestic violence. Even if we, as a society, are not concerned about those who are being abused and brutalized in their own home, perhaps we can get angry about it happening in our community.
It’s time to speak up. It’s time to say NO MORE. It is time to see domestic violence for what it is…an issue that involves and affects us all.