Monday, May 21, 2007

Moscow Shooter Revealed; Another Victim Found

Jason Hamilton was 36 years old and worked as a janitor for American Building Maintenance.

Law enforcement officials revealed today Hamilton killed his 30-year old wife Crystal in their home before going on a shooting rampage downtown.

Hamilton fired 125 shots at the Latah County Sheriff's office, using 2 semi-automatic weapons. Two law enforcement officers and a University of Idaho student were shot. Hamilton then ran into the Presbyterian Church across the street. He knew that church - it was part of his janitorial assignment.

Hamilton also knew the 62-year old sexton, Paul Bauer, who lived in an apartment in the church.

Hamilton killed Bauer before turning the gun on himself.

At a somber press conference this morning, it was revealed Hamilton killed his wife, 30-year old Crystal, at their home with a single gunshot to the head.

The FBI is investigating the scene at the Hamilton home, about four miles east of town. It's just across the highway from my house. I never knew the couple. I drove right by the house after 5AM on Sunday, just hours before Crystal's body was found there.

Law enforcement officials revealed more about Hamilton at this morning's press conference in the Moscow City Hall.

Hamilton's family moved to Moscow in the late 90s from the Kuna, Idaho area. Police listed a rap sheet on him involving many acts of violence committed here over the last two years, including a strangulation incident against a girlfriend with whom he was living during a separation from his wife. He was in court as recently as last week on a probation violation. Being a little hard of hearing, I missed what police chief Dan Weaver said but it was about a suicide attempt and the St. Joe Hospital mental facility. UPDATE Assistant police chief David Duke said Hamilton had attempted suicide through an overdose of prescription drugs, but told the psychologist that “if he wanted to commit suicide he wouldn’t do it this way, but he would take a whole bunch of people with him, either by shooting or by a bomb.“vvvvvvv

Are we looking at another disturbed person in the mold of Cho Seung-hui, or in cases closer to Idaho, and Moscow in particular, John Delling?

Police still don't know the motive for Hamilton's ambush-style shooting. They said no note has been found.

County Commissioner Tom Stroschein said Crystal, who worked as a janitor in the courthouse, was very well liked by everyone there, but kept to herself, so any troubles she may have had with her husband were not known. UPDATE I just heard today that Crystal had just started work right here at Washington State University, in the Murrow building at WSU which houses the Northwest Public Radio studios and offices. She'd been working for just a couple of weeks, and hadn't even picked up her first paycheck.vvvvvvv

Almost everyone I've spoken to is shaken by this seemingly random violence. This is Moscow, for goodness' sake, where people slow down their cars to give a friendly honk or wave to a friend on the sidewalk, where people don't lock their doors, where hugs are generously shared, where citizens of all ages will happily dance at public music performances without a hint of self-soncsiousness, where strangers will come to your assistance in a heartbeat.

We're especially troubled because of a string of recent deaths, beginning with the disappearance of well-liked City Councilman John Dickinson last winter; the murder of University of Idaho student David Boss by John Delling, and the recent death of a U of I student in a mountain climing accident.

UPDATE From a newspaper commentary this morning:

"Moscow is a small town with a big wound. And it will take a long time to mend.

"It would be easy to pick at that sore and never let it heal. To be afraid and watchful and suspicious. To fear the person who might be hiding. Or the person who is hiding their potential for brutality."

I seriously doubt it. My sense is that if anything, citizens of this community will become even more caring, more close-knit than ever, and mindful of one another.vvvvvvv

The weekend shooting took the life of Sergeant Lee Newbill, the first Moscow police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

Officer Newbill was a well-liked member of the community, with a lifelong devotion to public service, from military to law enforcement. He's been part of the Moscow police force in 2001.
Yesterday afternoon, several bouquets of flowers were laid at the roadblock near the Presbyterian Church where the carnage occurred.

As for those semi-automatic weapons, it appears Hamilton obtained them legally over the last few years.

Sunday was a strange day for me. I was scheduled to work the 6AM shift. While I was in the shower, my friend Tina in Florida called and told my family what was happening. She saw it on CNN, so I switched it on first, then Spokane station KXLY. A Moscow woman called in to the live broadcast and said she heard the gunshots from her home, about 2 miles away from the scene. They were so loud, at the time she thought they were explosions.

I watched in disbelief.

At the time, the news was confusing. First it sounded as if 4 people has been shot, then they said 3, and the shooter was cornered in the church.

I had to go through Moscow to get to work, but drove around the donwtown area to avoid the roadblocks between 3rd and 6th, Howard and Washington, but still saw police all over - with cars from Pullman, Washington State University, Lewiston and Clarkston; all these forces lending a hand to Moscow. I made it to Pullman in a bit of a daze. At 6AM it sounded as if police were still trying to get the suspect, but now we know they went into the church 10 minutes before 6AM, and found Paul Bauer's body. Jason Hamilton was in the sanctuary, with single self-inflicted gunshot to the head, weapons beside him.

For more on this tragedy, Officer Newbill, the Moscow community and more, read Joan Opyr's excellent piece.

UPDATE A memorial service for Officer Newbill will be held on Friday at 1PM at Kibbie Dome. Thousands, including law enforcement officials from many cities in several states, are expected to attend. More


Amy said...

Oh, Gillian - How sad. When I heard the news I was shocked, and immediately thought of you and if you'd post about it on your blog. What a sad day for Moscow...The town still remains one of our most favorite places...Our thoughts are with you.


Anonymous said...

That's really sad. In a small community like yours I am sure everyone is grieving and in shock. Our prayers are for you and the community .