Reservation incident is a tragedy for us all
I was in disbelief when I first heard of the terrible tragedy on the Tule Indian Reservation on Saturday night. As Mayor Virginia Gurrola told us on Monday, it is something you read about in the newspapers, but never in your own back yard.
For some reason we may never fully understand why a 31-year-old man fatally shot his mother and two of her brothers. He gravely wounded his 6-year-old son and then fled with his two young daughters, ages 8 and 5. When confronted by law enforcement five hours later, he would shoot his two daughters, mortally wounding one and seriously wounding the other. He was then killed in gunfire.
The tragedy is a shock for all, both in Porterville and the reservation. The two are intertwined more than at any time in their history. Children from the reservation attend schools in Porterville. Residents of the reservation shop and work in town. Residents in Porterville visit the casino and restaurants and support many events on the reservation.
Tribal leaders attend civic events and city council meetings and the tribe has been a huge supporter of many civic endeavors here in town.
This is not the type of story you want to cover, especially two weeks before Christmas. There is no other word to describe it but as a tragedy. You can only feel for the relatives of the victims, the friends of the victims. My guess is almost everyone on the reservation knew at least one of the victims, probably most knew all of them.
Knowing the privacy that the reservation often seeks, I knew it would not be an easy story to cover. I also realize that people are suffering and the last thing they want right now is to have a microphone put in front of their face, or a reporter asking questions.
However, I also know there is a reading public seeking information. Some people criticized The Recorder for not posting the story on its Facebook Page on Sunday. Yet, it was posted on our website so I have to wonder, is it that hard to look there? Still, we have an obligation to cover the story and continue to follow it.
We have tried to be respectful and do our job at the same time. It is not always a perfect balance. I am sure there are some that would just like the story to go away, but there are also many who want more information. Sometimes the details are difficult to see in the paper, but that is one of the least favorite things about this job — reporting bad news.
The tragedy is possibly the largest mass killing in the history of the county. I recall several other multi-killings, but this is the most since I’ve been editor of The Recorder. I do think, however, there have been killings when there were more than four or five victims. The shooting at a bar in Tulare comes to mind.
It is, unfortunately, a huge story that will be in the news for several days ahead, but we also grieve for the victims and their survivors. The entire community — Reservation and Porterville — is in shock and disbelief and our condolences go out to all.
Rick Elkins is editor of the Porterville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1040, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter.