Arizona Shootings Elicit The Best, And The Worst, Of People

by ANNEMARIE MCAVOY January 12, 2011
The daughters of 76-year old Dorwin Stoddard, who gave his life while protecting their mother.
The shooting in Arizona has brought out the best, and the worst, in people. It is an unbelievable heart-wrenching story that illustrates how people can rise to the occasion while others use a tragedy for their own selfish purposes.
Some of the stories of heroism and love are incredibly moving and inspirational. For instance, an elderly couple were in the line of fire. Dorwin Stoddard, the husband, threw himself on his wife Mavy to protect her, sacrificing his life for her. The wife remains hospitalized, but would likely not be alive had it not been for the actions of her husband, who had been her boyfriend in 6th grade.

Then there is Suzie Hileman, the woman who brought Christina Taylor Green, the little 9 year old girl, born on the horrific day of 9/11, to the event. They were shot. Christina did not make it, but the woman survived and is hospitalized. The husband spoke about what transpired. His wife was holding Christina's hand when it happened. When his wife was awoken she screamed "Christina, let's get out of here." Her first thoughts were not for her own safety, they were for that little girl whose father called "princess." The husband of this woman thanked Christina's parents for the support they're giving him and his wife. Instead of wallowing in their own misery, which they have every right to do, they are worrying about others.

Then of course there is the 20 year old intern who ran to the Congresswoman as soon as he heard shots. He did not give a thought to his own safety. Then he held her in his arms to not only comfort her, but to keep her from choking to death on her own blood.

No decent person can hear these stories and not get choked up. To think a madman could kill 6 people, including a federal judge and a beautiful 9 year old girl who was born on a day of infamy - 9/11 - is unfathomable. 

Despite how awful this tragedy is, there are those who have used it for their own purposes. To do so is beyond shameless. There are many in the media and in political circles who immediately tried to blame this deranged killer’s actions on conservatives, on Republicans, and on statements made by Sarah Palin. Despite their claims, there is not a shred of evidence that there is anything but severe mental illness motivated this madman.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is perhaps the most despicable example of someone using this situation for his own purposes. He immediately jumped to conclusions publicly, blaming politics for this slaughter, despite the fact that there was no evidence to support that view. He has a responsibility to act responsibly as a representative of law enforcement involved in the criminal case against the shooter.
It appears that even worse is the fact that the sheriff may have done this to create a smokescreen to keep people from focusing on his own mistakes in the handling of this psychotic killer. He had the opportunity to take action, and did nothing. Apparently he had numerous people come to him complaining that the shooter had made death threats against them. Instead of having them press charges the sheriff dissuaded them from doing so.  His actions may have helped to enable this crazed killer.

No one should be jumping to any conclusions at this point. This investigation has a long way to go.  However, we should learn from this. Actions need to be taken so that a disaster like this does not happen again, which include properly treating and handling people suffering from mental illness. Contributor Annemarie McAvoy is a former federal prosecutor. She currently is a consultant and teaches Counter-Terrorism, Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing at Fordham Law School in New York City.

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