Showing posts with label tragedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tragedy. Show all posts

Thursday, January 28, 2016

30 years

Three decades ago today, my wife and I were on the road somewhere on U.S. 60 in south-central Missouri, on our way to Washington, D.C., from Springfield, Mo.

We turned on the radio. There was network special coverage on. The space shuttle? What happened?

Then the punch in the gut. It's a cliché because it's true.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cops crewman shot to death
as Omaha joins deadly meme

Bad boys, bad boys whatcha want
Whatcha gonna do when sheriff John Brown come for you tell me whatcha gonna do.
-- 'Cops' theme

Welcome to the worst day of Todd Schmaderer's life -- or at least a lead-pipe cinch for one of the top five.

The Omaha police chief welcomed the crew of the Cops reality-TV show to River City with open arms, seeking to showcase his officers' professionalism and, he hoped, improve relations with the community. Now a crew member of the show is dead -- fatally wounded by shots fired by one of Omaha's finest at the scene of a robbery in progress at a local Wendy's.

Officials know the sound man had to have been killed by police bullets. The fast-food robber was armed with a BB gun.

Clark Griswold doesn't know how lucky he was.

Welcome to the national narrative, Omaha. Welcome to the eye of the storm over police weapons, police tactics and police training. Welcome to the national conversation over shoot-first mentalities.

Welcome to public-relations hell. Welcome to our national never-ending tragedy.

A stupid robber with a fake gun is dead. That's tragedy enough. But when an innocent TV-show crew member gets killed in the process of a cop turning a perp into Swiss cheese, we're firmly into words-fail territory.

From today's Omaha World-Herald:
A crew member with the “Cops” television show was fatally struck by police gunfire as Omaha officers confronted a robber — who also was fatally wounded — at a midtown restaurant, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The World-Herald has learned that at least 30 shots were fired at the Wendy’s near 43rd and Dodge Streets.

Officials said it appears the only shots fired came from police.

The robbery suspect apparently had an air gun, a type of BB gun that looks like an actual firearm. He apparently was a prison parolee from Kansas, law enforcement sources said.

The names of the two dead had not been released at midday Wednesday. Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer has scheduled a press conference for 2:30 p.m.
I KNOW it's difficult being a police officer. God help me if I were forced to make a split-second, life-or-death decision in the dark of the night. God help me if I screwed it up, which I probably would.

Still, it's becoming apparent that what we're dealing with here is a nationwide, systemic problem of deadly proportions. Back to the newspaper account:
The TV crew member who died was a sound engineer, who holds the microphone during taping. The camera operator was not injured, nor were any police officers.

According to the show’s website, “Cops” crew members wear bullet-proof vests on the job.

The crew has been working in Omaha for much of the summer.

David Brown, president of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, called the shootings a tragedy.

“We are deeply saddened that this happened and offer condolences to all of the family members involved,” he said.

The shootings occurred after an officer discovered a man, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and white bandanna, robbing the restaurant, Deputy Police Chief Dave Baker said late Tuesday.

The first officer at the scene called for backup about 9:20 p.m.
The east-facing windows of the Wendy’s restaurant were riddled with bullet holes, and Dodge Street was closed for several hours.
The two shooting victims were taken to the Nebraska Medical Center in critical condition. They later died.
Officers honor TV 
crewman via Facebook

"AT LEAST 30 shots were fired. . . ."

"The east-facing windows of the Wendy’s were riddled with bullet holes. . . ."

The robbery suspect apparently had an air gun, a type of BB gun that looks like an actual firearm. . . ."

Something is very wrong here, and not just because an idiot felon and an innocent man are dead.

We have to be careful about saying too much that's too specific because, after all, we don't know what we don't know. We have to be careful because, in a split second . . . at night, you can't tell a BB gun from the real thing.

But we do know enough that we must admit that something's horribly wrong with the Big Picture here. Ferguson. St. Louis. A guy shot dead by Ohio cops because a scared Person of Walmart saw a black man with a BB gun (which he had just picked up in the toy department) and called police, who shot first and asked questions later.

SOMETHING is wrong, this we can say. The specifics, we're still grappling with.

But something tells me it has something to do with a nation amid a societal and cultural meltdown that, coincidentally, also happens to be armed to the frickin' teeth.

Last night, it was a stupid criminal and a TV guy trying to do his job. Two dead and an officer's life perhaps ruined. Nobody asked for that, I wouldn't think.

Tomorrow, it could be you. Or me. Or anybody.

Be afraid. Be very afraid here in Firearm Nation.

UPDATE: The police chief's press conference just ended. Here's what he said:
An Airsoft replica Taurus PT92
Three officers were involved, a detective and two patrol officers. The suspect, Cortez Washington, 32, fired at the officers with an Airsoft pistol inside the Wendy's restaurant. Schmaderer said that, judging from  footage by the Cops crew, that the Airsoft gun not only looked like a real handgun, but sounded like one. Airsoft guns fire plastic pellets, and Washington's was a replica Taurus PT92.

The chief said the cameraman entered behind the two officers the crew was riding with and was able to take cover, but that the sound engineer, Bryce Dion, got caught in the vestibule. After being hit by officer's gunfire, he said, the robber tried to escape through that vestibule as the cops continued to fire.

Dion was hit by a round which entered under his arm through a gap in his bulletproof vest. Schmaderer said he didn't think Dion was visible to the officers at the time.

The chief, in response to a reporter's question, said he hadn't slept since the incident.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


This picture pretty much sums up who we Nebraskans are.

The photo, by Omaha World-Herald photographer Kent Sievers, ran on the front of today's Midlands section with this story.

To summarize, I think a catchphrase of Nebraska native Larry the Cable Guy will work pretty well -- "Git 'r done."  I don't care who you are, what Nebraskans have done in the wake of a swirling monster's rampage through a small town is inspiring.

Particularly this guy in the wheelchair.

Git 'r done, indeed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

This is a tornado

The Associated Press

Tornadoes are not "awesome" vortexes.

They are not meteorological Cialis for thrill-seekers and storm chasers.

Tornadoes are not a cost-effective source of the "Holy shit!" reality TV usually seen on The Weather Channel instead of, you know . . . the weather.

God did not invent them so that you might be amused and awed on Facebook . . . by viral videos shot by storm chasers "ready anytime the moment's right."

No, this is a tornado. Look at it hard.

You might have heard about this tornado. Before its arrival, there was a little town in northeast Nebraska by the name of Pilger, pronounced PIL-gur. After its departure Monday afternoon, there pretty much wasn't anymore. People say it "looks like a war zone."

Antebellum Pilger, Neb., was the home to a little girl, Cali. Her proper name was Calista, but she insisted that everyone call her "Doctor Cali," because that's what she wanted to be one day. She was 5, and "one day" will never come.

Because of a tornado. Writes Erin Grace in the Omaha World-Herald:
The Murphree family was new to Pilger. Kandi, who was raised in Kansas, had spent much of her adult life in Alabama. Then Kay said she could use some help. Les, who is 74, has a muscular problem that makes walking difficult. Kay had to have back and shoulder surgery.

In February, Kandi and the girls moved from Alabama to Pilger, into the Labenz home at 200 S. Main St., to help out.
A couple of months later, Kandi got her own place, a three-bedroom trailer about a block away, at 100 N. Main St.
Having everyone so close was a blessing. Kay and Les got to spend time with the kids. Kandi got help with child care.

On Monday, Kandi finished her shift at Prime Stop in Wayne and drove home to Pilger. Around 3 p.m., she picked up her girls from her mother’s home and took them to their place down the street.

An hour later, Les’ son called Kay and Les with a warning. Storm’s headed your way. Get to the basement.

Kay, who had poked her head out the door, thought the sky didn’t look too bad and scoffed.

Les said let’s go anyway.

It seemed to take forever to get to that basement, and they barely made it in time.

As the sirens screamed, Kay pushed Les up against the corner of the wall, stretching herself to cover him.
She remembers the roar. Then the dust. Then how, in seconds, it was all over.
The tornado just came and went so fast that it hardly seemed real.

When Kay opened her eyes, she saw they were OK. Then she saw their basement filled with other people’s stuff.

Then Kay saw sky and the tornado, moving farther away. The funnel was huge.

All Kay could think about was her daughter and the little girls. She tried to climb out, but Les told her no, she might fall.

An hour later, a relative got there with a ladder, and the two emerged to find their world erased.

Their house was gone. A neighbor’s house was turned kitty-corner and sitting on top of the hedgerow. The co-op grain bins were torn and scattered.

Kay began heading toward her daughter’s place, but the mobile home had just disappeared.

Someone turned her around and wouldn’t let her go any farther.

That scared her to death, and Kay tried to find out what happened. The news, like all the debris, swirled around them in bits and pieces.

Kandi and the girls had been found on Main Street. Kandi was found lying there. Cali was found lying there. Robin was found running, running for help.
PLEASE, go read the whole column in today's paper. You'll have a better idea of what a tornado is than if you had watched a million hours of weather porn on cable TV.

The Associated Press news photo atop this post -- may the copyright gods forgive me -- that's Cali being tended to by rescuers. That's a tornado. And that family, that's what a tornado destroys.

In Pilger, Neb., they can't change the channel. Remember that when you eventually do.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A speech ungiven in a language unlearned

Here's some of the beginning and then the conclusion of the speech John F. Kennedy never lived long enough to give at the Dallas Trade Mart that horrible day in November 1963.

It was written in a language little understood and, sadly, no longer spoken in the United States:
This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason -- or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land -- voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will "talk sense to the American people." But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.

It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income and output -- by surging ahead of most of Western Europe in the rate of business expansion and the margin of corporate profits, by maintaining a more stable level of prices than almost any of our overseas competitors, and by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by some $11 billion, as I have proposed, to assure this Nation of the longest and strongest expansion in our peacetime economic history.

This Nation's total output -which 3 years ago was at the $500 billion mark -- will soon pass $600 billion, for a record rise of over $100 billion in 3 years. For the first time in history we have 70 million men and women at work. For the first time in history average factory earnings have exceeded $100 a week. For the first time in history corporation profits after taxes -- which have risen 43 percent in less than 3 years -- have an annual level of $27.4 billion.

My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

The strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions -- it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations -- it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain."

5 Decades & the Truth

A funny thing happened on the way to this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

About half past noon this afternoon, I turned on the CBS News web stream of its coverage from Nov. 22, 1963 -- that day. Uncut, real time, starting at the moment of the first bulletin that shots had been fired at the president's motorcade in Dallas.

Within an hour -- live on TV -- America was forever changed. Over the next three days, television news grew up, making up how to cover the unthinkable, live and non-stop . . . as it covered the unthinkable, live and non-stop.

It did so, by today's technical standards, primitively and without formatic bells or whistles. Television also did so powerfully and occasionally artistically -- and without a surfeit of hairspray.

OF COURSE, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a powerful blow to a country -- to a people. The death of our young president and the images of his grief-stricken widow -- as well as television's reflection of our own grief -- hardly could fail to affect. Powerfully.

Let me put it this way. When President Kennedy fell victim to Lee Harvey Oswald's deadly aim, I was four months shy of my third birthday. I have memories of that day.

The sense of overwhelming sadness and loss endure after five decades. It comes storming out of the mists of time, as raw and fresh as yesterday. And it wasn't just the loss of what was; it was the loss of what might have been.
Too, maybe it was the loss of what might not have been. We are a greatly changed people from what we were Nov. 21, 1963. In some ways, that is a good thing. In more ways, I fear, that has been a bad thing.

We are a more cynical people since that day.

Great tragedy, should you survive it, can make you stronger. The aphorism to that effect did not come from nowhere.

Great tragedy, however, is just as likely to break you, too. That is a proven fact. Fifty years ago, I think, we were broken -- at least partly. I am 52, and I have lived my life watching the wheels come off a society. Not uniformly, but enough.

I've unfortunately done my part to make that so, Lord knows.

THAT'S WHAT is washing over my mind and through my soul as I find myself unable to pull myself away from CBS-TV, circa 1963. When Walter Cronkite once again -- through the time machine of videotape -- read the flash from Dallas confirming the death of the 35th president of the United States, I reflexively crossed myself.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In retrospect, that's not a bad reaction, even half a century hence. In that spirit, this sad anniversary isn't the time for jazz, rock 'n' roll or even blues in the night. That's what happened today on the way to the Big Show -- there won't be one. It just didn't feel right.

Stay tuned for a few days for a pre-Thanksgiving edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hell, televised

Even hours after the fact and hundreds of miles distant, this footage from KFOR television's live coverage of Monday's tornado catastrophe is likely to induce self-soiling. 

Lord, have mercy. God help Oklahoma.

What hath nature wrought?

 Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, 1945

What is an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado like? Basically, it's like the blast wave from a Hiroshima bomb, just without the fireball.

Only man would seek to harness -- and now, with the hydrogen bomb, top -- the sheer destructive power of weather at its worst. You would think that dealing with the terrible wrath of nature would be enough of a burden without worrying about the terrible wrath of nuclear physics coupled with itchy trigger fingers.

That, however, is not how fallen humanity rolls. We can always make things worse.

I SUPPOSE this is why I am Catholic. Catholicism understands that the natural state of mankind is tragedy, and that we all inhabit a valley of tears. Thus, this prayer -- the Hail, Holy Queen -- usually recited at the end of the rosary:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

℣ Pray for us O holy Mother of God,
℟ that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
EVE ATE the apple. Adam did, too, and everything went to hell. This is what we'll deal with until kingdom come, and whatever we do to bring light amid the darkness is not only lagniappe, but victory.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gerry Rafferty's dead-end street

Without the darkness, we cannot perceive the light.

Without grief, we cannot cherish joy.

Without pain, where is the blessedness of relief?

And without darkness, grief and pain, can we truly produce the art that brings light to our souls? Joy to our hearts? Relief from the pain of every day?

With the passing of Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty --
found dead today somewhere at the bottom of a bottle -- I'm thinking of all the souls who took their pain and gave us joy despite never managing to, ultimately, embrace it themselves. I'm thinking of Janis. Of Jimi. Of Jim. Of Judy. Of Donny. Of Kurt. Of Sid and Syd. Of Elvis.

I'm thinking of the light that pierces the darkness of our world, only to be consumed by it.

TODAY, I'm thinking of Gerry. Of Stealers Wheel and "Stuck in the Middle With You."

I'm thinking about "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right."

And I'm thinking about "Baker Street," which I believe never actually left the airwaves for even a moment my junior year of high school -- that and "a lad in his place."
He's got this dream about buyin' some land
He's gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he'll settle down there's a quiet little town
And forget about everything

But you know he'll always keep movin'
You know he's never gonna stop movin
Cus he's rollin'
He's the rollin' stone

And when you wake up it's a new mornin'
The sun is shinin' it's a new morning
You're goin'
You're goin' home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Because the Packers lost. . . .

This is so messed up, I don't know where to start.

But an Omaha television station is reporting, citing multiple sources, that a 21-year-old college student died . . . was murdered . . . because the Green Bay Packers lost to the New York Giants.

YOU READ correctly: KMTV, citing its sources and police reports, says 19-year-old Kyle Bormann had been watching the ball game, getting liquored up and getting madder by the minute. And then, say the station's sources, he decided that because the Packers sucked, someone in Omaha was going to die:

Why would anyone gun down a random women in a drive-thru? Until now, few knew. Multiple sources shed light on the shocking evidence. Evidence, that the Green Bay Packers losing playoff performance, could be one of many things that motivated Kyle Bormann to allegedly kill Brittany Williams.

Picking up dinner for her father, Brittany Williams dies in a drive-thru. Eight-thirty on January 20th, a bullet rips through her car, killing her instantly. Police say Kyle Bormann pulled the trigger on a high-powered rifle one hundred yards up 30th Street from the Florence fast-food restaurant.

According to police booking sheets, Bormann had been drinking before the murder. Multiple sources tell Action 3 News the drinking coincided with watching the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants football game. At some point during the game, Action 3 News sources confirm Bormann became enraged with the Packers' poor play. His anger mixed with alcohol, they say, led him to leave home, go to the Florence neighborhood and randomly kill Brittany Williams.
GREEN BAY, we have a problem.

I can understand getting mad and killing the TV. Stupid . . . but understandable. But drunkenly deciding that a young woman, an honor student, must die because the Packers lost?

I have no words for that.

If all this is true, here's to a 19-year-old loser's new favorite football team . . . the Mean Machine.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Teen-age mutant ninja whack jobs

If you took the reports trickling over the news wires about criminally disturbed teen-agers and replaced "arrested in the death of" or "massacred" with "infected by avian influenza," you could start a national panic.

As far as we know, however, there has not been one reported case of bird flu among American teens. All we have here are reported cases of sporadic atrocities -- ranging from school massacres to mall rampages to suicide pacts to the random unexplainable murder -- carried out by our children.

Ho hum.

Now let's get back to our plasma TVs, which hang in our McMansions, which we're trying to figure out how to pay for, while Junior shifts for himself because Mom and Dad (or Mom and Stepdad . . . or Dad and Stepmom, or . . . ?) are otherwise occupied.

"Say, what's on TCM, hon?"

"'Lord of the Flies'"

BUT FIRST, this special report from Nashville, Tenn. Here's
The Associated Press with breaking news:
A teenage passenger from California was arrested in Nashville for plotting to hijack a plane from Los Angeles to Nashville, the FBI said Friday.

FBI spokesman George Bolds told The Associated Press the 16-year-old boy was removed from Southwest Airlines Flight 284 Tuesday night by authorities at Nashville International Airport and found with "suspicious" items.

Bolds said the teen had handcuffs, rope and duct tape in his bag and was believed to be traveling alone. The juvenile's name has not been released.

"His plan had a low probability of success," Bolds said.


FBI's Bolds dismissed earlier broadcast reports that the teen was planning to crash the plane into a "Hannah Montana" concert in Lafayette, La.

Bolds said it has not been determined if the boy was trying to crash the plane. He said authorities searched the teen's home in California and found a mock cockpit.

The teen is believed to be suicidal, Bolds said. Bolds said he could not comment further on the teen's mental condition because he is a minor.

Bolds said the teen was calm throughout the flight and never made an attempt to hijack the plane but told the FBI after he was apprehended about his original plans to commandeer the aircraft.
TWO QUESTIONS: Does this child have parents? If so, where the hell were they?

Just asking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Explains a lot

And all it takes is a poorly socialized moron to sling around outraged F-bombs because a blogger was insufficiently sympathetic toward what procsecutors say is a confessed cold-blooded murderer.

Wednesday's Omaha World-Herald:

Kyle Bormann has admitted firing the shot that killed 21-year-old Brittany
Williams, a prosecutor said Wednesday in Douglas County Court.

The 19-year-old Omaha man was denied bail by Judge Jeffrey Marcuzzo. Marcuzzo cited the seriousness of the crime in his decision.

Bormann, who lived with his father in the Ponca Hills area, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. He is accused of firing a rifle at Williams on Sunday evening as she sat in her car in the drive-through lane at the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver's restaurant at 7601 N. 30th St. Police said he was about 100 yards away.

The restaurant is a little over two miles down 30th Street from the Bormann house.


During an interview at the police station, Smith said, Bormann admitted firing his rifle at Williams' car while she waited in the drive-through lane.

Authorities have said Bormann shot Williams with a Winchester .243-caliber bolt-action rifle that had a Bushnell scope.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Wednesday afternoon that Bormann was wearing camouflage and that he had been drinking alcohol prior to the shooting.

About a dozen of Williams' friends and relatives attended Wednesday's hearing.

After the hearing, Jerard Christian, a cousin of Williams who serves in the U.S. Army, said, "This is ridiculous. Something needs to be done about all this gun violence in Omaha. I am trained in the military, and to take somebody's life because he's upset about something, he has no idea how many lives he's hurt by this."

SORRY, ANONYMOUS, all my sympathy has been used up on the poor girl your pal with the high-powered blew away at the KFC. Allegedly.

But your artful missive has explained a lot. I think it's explained that my generation has raised a bunch of foul-mouthed, unsocialized, violent butt-wipes who we may well have reason to fear.

Or at least disarm.

Thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Death is a 19-year-old, dope-smoking
child of divorce with a gun . . .

All it takes is a loser with a gun to shoot out our brightest lights.

Leaving us with the loser.
And his gun.

OMAHA POLICE SAY it was 19-year-old Kyle Bormann who, dressed in camouflage and carrying a hunting rifle with a telescopic sight, went hunting Sunday night on North 30th Street. This is who he allegedly bagged -- his prey -- the young woman shot in the head as she waited in the drive-through line at Kentucky Fried Chicken:
Brittany Williams was going somewhere in life. She knew it. And she wanted other people to know it, too.

"She knew she wanted to go places and do things," said Mel Clancy, who knew her well through the Project Achieve program he directs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "She was always meticulously dressed. She projected the part of a polished college student. And she worked her tail off."

The future Williams was building for herself was ripped away from her Sunday night. Williams, 21, was killed about 8:40 p.m. Sunday as she sat in her car outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver's restaurant at 7601 N. 30th St. Omaha police say Kyle J. Bormann, 19, used a high-powered rifle to shoot Williams from about 100 yards away.

Williams, a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, died at the scene.

Bormann was charged today in Douglas County Court with first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony in connection with the shooting.

"It appears to be a premeditated event, and the evidence reflects that," said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, who filed the charges. "But it appears to be random in nature, even though it was an intentional killing. We don't know the motive or motivation behind it."


Williams made the dean's list several times while studying pre-nursing at UNO, Clancy said. She volunteered for several community projects, including UNO's seven days of service during spring break. Herself a participant in Project Achieve, a program for first-generation, low-income students, she was giving back by advising younger students in the program.

"This young lady had success written all over her," Clancy said.

Whatever she decided to do, Williams would have done it with style and a smile, a sorority sister said.

"She was a great person, a sweet person who would do anything for you," said Tia Robinson, a fellow member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. "Bubbly. Energetic. She was always smiling. Anytime you saw her, she'd give you a hug."

Monday afternoon, Robinson and four fellow sorority sisters held hands, prayed, cried and hugged each other on the snowy southeast corner of 30th and Craig Streets. They stood a few yards from where Williams' life had been coldly and apparently randomly stolen Sunday night in the drive-through lane of a fast-food restaurant.

The women toiled to push a wooden stake into a frozen flowerbed. On the stake was a placard signed by sorority sisters in squiggly letters with bright-colored markers. On the placard was an enlarged photo of a long-haired young woman in a white dress with a bright smile: Brittany.

Williams, who graduated from North High School after attending Northwest High through 11th grade, was a Goodrich Program scholar at UNO.

Mike Carroll, an associate professor with the Goodrich Program, said he remembered her well.

"She was a talented student and a good writer," he said. "I had her in English composition, where she wrote some autobiographical essays that showed a broad understanding of the local community. . . . She talked about nursing and wanting to make a difference."
MEANWHILE, as we find out more and more about the Kyle Bormann, we also find more commonality between the alleged gunman and Westroads Mall shooter Robert Hawkins.

Now it's not only that both were children of divorce. It seems that Bormann had a few convictions in South Dakota for both drugs and minor in possession of alcohol. KETV television in Omaha reports:
Kleine said the possibility that this was a hate crime is still being considered by investigators.

"We'll see where that leads, as far as motivation -- what motive he had," the prosecutor said.

Police said Bormann was 100 to 200 yards away from Williams' car northwest of the restaurant on 30th Street when he fired the gun.

Kleine said Bormann used something like a Winchester model 670a with a .243 cartridge. Considered a pure sportsman's rifle by some, it is a bolt-operated rifle that takes some time to reload.

Kleine said the gun had a scope, and that the weapon belongs to Bormann.

"Apparently he had some history of hunting -- lived in South Dakota. That's where he was from, and was a hunter," Kleine said.

When he was arrested on Sunday night, police said they found Bormann dressed as a hunter.

"He was dressed in camouflage gear, camouflage jacket, camouflage pants," Kleine said.

Kleine said he will ask a judge on Wednesday to assign no bond for Bormann.

South Dakota criminal records show that Bormann has been charged with crimes in at least three counties. The charges range from traffic violations to drug possession -- a charge that was later reduced.

Bormann was sentenced in Brookings County in July after he pleaded guilty to ingesting intoxicants. Brookings police said an officer saw Bormann acting suspiciously near a motel, and when the officer tried to find out what he was doing, Bormann took off running.

"The officer was able to locate him again and through his investigation, there was the smell of alcohol, as well as marijuana," Lt. Jeff Miller of the Brookings Police Department told television station KSFY.

Police said an ingesting charge is most common when a suspect is under the influence, but the officer doesn't find the person carrying a substance.

One of the conditions of Bormann's sentencing was that he had to stay out of trouble with the law until next July, records show.
OMAHA'S WOWT television says Bormann had "two minor drug arrests," two MIPs and a speeding charge on his South Dakota rap sheet.

Now all we need is to find out race hatred was the motivation. The prosecutor isn't saying -- yet -- but another Omaha TV station, KMTV, reported Tuesday that one of Bormann's friends was afraid that it was.

Lord, have mercy.

Another day, another atrocity

White kid from small-town South Dakota moves to the big city, comes across African-American college student -- a young woman, a 21-year-old sorority sister and scholarship recipient, the daughter of an Omaha public-works employee.

Their fateful encounter came in the drive-through lane of a KFC in the Florence section of north Omaha.

CHECK THAT. Brittany Williams was sitting in her car in the KFC drive-through. Kyle Bormann, say police, was in his car 100 yards away -- with a high-powered rifle. And officers say he aimed that rifle at Brittany Williams' head and pulled the trigger.

Brittany Williams died where she sat.

In her car.

At the KFC.

The Omaha World-Herald picks up the story:

Kyle Bormann was an above-average high school student growing up in South Dakota, earning mostly A's and B's. He excelled in chemistry and precalculus. He had no discipline problems in school. He held a part-time job at the small-town grocery store.

As of Sunday evening, however, the portrait had changed.

That's when Bormann, 19, is accused of fatally shooting a 21-year-old Omaha woman who had stopped in a fast-food restaurant's drive-through lane.

Police say the shooting was random, and the shot was fired from about 100 yards away.

Omaha police say Bormann used a high-powered rifle to shoot Brittany Williams about 8:40 p.m. as she sat in her car outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver's restaurant at 7601 N. 30th St.

Williams, who had attained junior status at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, died at the scene.

Bormann's alleged role in the shooting has floored Bormann's friends, school officials and relatives in his native South Dakota.

"I can't believe that he would do something like that. It sounds kind of crazy," said 21-year-old Jim Jensen, one of Bormann's close friends from Wessington Springs, S.D.

Bormann graduated from Wessington Springs High School in 2006, a year after Jensen. He attended Dell Rapids High School in South Dakota for the first three years of high school before changing schools his senior year.

Bormann's parents are divorced. His father, Greg, lives in the Ponca Hills neighborhood in Omaha. His mother still lives in South Dakota.

Bormann's family declined to comment. A handwritten sign posted Monday outside his house on Canyon Road read, "No media. No trespassing." A woman who answered the phone at the house declined to comment.

At Dell Rapids, a high school 15 miles from Sioux Falls, Bormann earned mostly A's and B's, said his former high school guidance counselor, George Henry.

"He never got any bad grades," Henry said. "I never recalled any discipline, no anger from him, no fighting. Just a nice kid. A little on the quiet side."

Wessington Springs Principal/ Superintendent Darold Rounds said Bormann adjusted well despite transferring into the tiny school for his senior year. One of Bormann's older sisters now teaches at Wessington Springs and serves as an assistant athletic coach, Rounds said.

"Kyle was popular among students, just an ideal student, and new people don't usually fit right in," said Rounds, who recalled attending Bormann's summer graduation party in 2006 and meeting several of Bormann's relatives.

Friends and school officials say they have a hard time understanding that Bormann is accused of shooting a woman he didn't know.

"This floors me. I am really shocked," said Rounds. "It's hard to comprehend."

About 20 minutes after the shooting, Omaha police said, a man later identified as Bormann drove a white 1996 Chrysler Sebring through the crime-scene tape that officers had put up around the restaurant. He ignored police officers' commands to stop and drove off.

Police chased the car, and it stopped at 29th and Bondesson Streets, where the driver jumped out and ran away. Police said the man threw a high-powered rifle to the ground.

After a short foot chase, officers arrested Bormann on suspicion of criminal homicide and use of a weapon to commit a felony.

Omaha police allege that Bormann was inside his vehicle when he fired the rifle. Police said there were no indications that Williams and Bormann knew each other.

"It's not a whole lot different than the Von Maur situation in that it's just completely random," Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said. "You're just shopping at a store or waiting in a drive-through and this happens? It's unimaginable."
THAT MAKES TWO random acts of horror pinned on 19-year-old white males in Omaha in a month and a half. Apart from that, the only thing anyone can find in common is that the young men were children of divorce. And that the shootings were utterly random.

Are we raising up a generation of monsters, or is this a pure fluke? Along with Virginia Tech and Columbine and Von Maur and all the other horrors committed by young men in the past decade.

Can't really say.

Can say for a fact, though, that this is what we've lost:

Beautiful, bubbly Brittany Williams was a young collegian preparing for a future in nursing.

Or maybe the fashion business.

But whatever she decided to do, Williams would have done it with style and a smile, a sorority sister said Monday.

"She was a great person, a sweet person who would do anything for you," said Tia Robinson, a fellow member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. "Bubbly. Energetic. She was always smiling. Anytime you saw her, she'd give you a hug."

Monday afternoon, Robinson and four fellow sorority sisters held hands, prayed, cried and hugged each other on the snowy southeast corner of 30th and Craig Streets. They stood a few yards from where Williams' life had been coldly and apparently randomly stolen Sunday night in the drive-through lane of a fast-food restaurant.

The women toiled to push a wooden stake into a frozen flowerbed. On the stake was a placard signed by sorority sisters in squiggly letters with bright-colored markers. On the placard was an enlarged photo of a long-haired young woman in a white dress with a bright smile: Brittany.

Williams, 21, was a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. A Goodrich Program scholar from Omaha, she was in pre-nursing studies.

Mike Carroll, an associate professor with the Goodrich Program, said he remembered her well.

"She was a talented student and a good writer," he said. "I had her in English composition, where she wrote some autobiographical essays that showed a broad understanding of the local community. . . . She talked about nursing and wanting to make a difference."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Oh, the music you'll hear!

In order, here's the musical lineup from the Big Show for Christmas 2006, which we're repeating this week as an extra, added yuletide program for 2007. Because we're ornery that way:

Blind Boys of Alabama
In the Bleak Midwinter (w/ Chrissie Hynde & Richard Thompson)

Bing Crosby
White Christmas

Elvis Presley
Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)

Elvis Presley

Santa Claus Is Back in Town

Bing Crosby
I'll Be Home for Christmas

Bing Crosby
Adeste Fideles

Bing Crosby and David Bowie
Peace On Earth; The Little Drummer Boy

Heidi Joy
Do You Hear What I Hear?

Carla Thomas
Gee Whiz, It's Christmas

Otis Redding
Merry Christmas Baby

Ray Charles
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
(w/ Stefanie Minatee and the Voices of Jubilation)

Ray Charles
Silent Night

Nat "King" Cole
The Christmas Song

Harry Connick, Jr.
When My Heart Finds Christmas

Brian Wilson
Joy to the World

Bruce Springsteen
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

(Live at Winterland 1978)

Jackson 5
Someday at Christmas

Aaron Neville
Please Come Home for Christmas

Leroy Anderson
Sleigh Ride

Winter Wonderland

Santo & Johnny
Twistin' Bells

Elvis Presley
I'll Be Home for Christmas