Yesterday, Omar Thornton of Connecticut responded to being fired from Hartford Distributors by gunning down at least ten co-workers, killing eight and then murdering himself.

In the AP story, two words are worthy of closer examination.

First, the vice president of the family-owned beer distributorship, Steve Hollander, (who was wounded by Thornton while standing near two of the fatal victims) said “He shot at me twice and hit me a couple times…by just the grace of God, I don’t know how he missed me.”

Second, Hollander added that (Thornton killed) “many good people today for absolutely no reason at all, people who’ve never said an unkind word to him. … He was just shooting at anyone that was near him and just cruelty beyond cruelty.”

It is good to contrast grace with cruelty when we consider such awful tragedies.  Hollander saw both.  The cruelty was demonstrated in that Thornton killed people who had not deserved such treatment. Though Thornton apparently claimed five of the victims had made racist comments towards him, at least one of the people Thornton killed was union steward Bryan Cirigliano who had represented him at a hearing to discuss the reason he was being fired. (He was accused of stealing beer from the distributorship.)  Even so, racist comments would not have justified these murders

One commentator is already shifting the blame for Thornton’s actions to somewhere else, blaming the racial angle.  Another tempting tack is to suggest mental illness caused this, (i.e, the perpetrator had to be “sick” to do such a thing), or that he “snapped”.   But Hollander’s initial reaction was correct; the slaughter was an act of evil cruelty.  And because the gun was in his possession prior to Thornton being fired from his job, it was almost certainly premeditated.

When people survive a tragedy in which others are killed, they may hesitate to give thinks to God publicly for sparing them. But as long as one doesn’t say something like “I must have been living right” (which would be self-righteous), it is quite proper to give be grateful that God in his grace, kept you safe from the actions of cruel men.

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