On February 13th a twenty-four year old man walked into a
mall crowded with Sunday afternoon shoppers and began to open
fire with his Hesse model AK-47 Soviet assault rifle. About
sixty rounds were fired, said one roport.
miraculously, no one was killed. But
two men were shot. One
of them, a 20-year old National Guard private was seriously
Valley Mall where the shooting took place is in
or near the city of Kingston,
New York. This is not far from
where I am. So the local newspapers
were filled with stories
about the rampage. As expected,
in the days following the
shooting, the media began to look into the psyche of this
troubled man. He was obese, socially
awkward, lonely, and he
wore all black clothing to the mall that day, even down to his
With his rifle
in tow he must have looked like a Navy Seal
on a mission. The report said
he was also a high school
In one article,
Ulster County District Attorney Don
Williams was quoted as saying that Robert Bonelli Jr., had a
"lurid fascination" with the 1999 Columbine
massacre in Colorado. And the same article said that a "cache
of news reports and other materials" about Columbine were found
in Bonelli's home.**
report said that Robert Bonelli Jr. had two
friends, both in their early 20's, who had just been charged
with making and setting off pipe bombs, although this had no
apparent part in the mall shooting.***
in this case we have a troubled young man
who vents with a gun while his friends, although not
participants in the shooing, were obviously antisocial. They
more than likely reinforced Robert's violent behavior. After
all, these three made pipe bombs together for fun.
From all the
information that has been given thus far, I
could tell that this is clearly an unhappy man who probably
believes that he has no future. Yet
it appears that Robert has
a loving father. His dad, heartbroken,
was calling out to his
son in the courtroom during the Grand Jury proceedings.
however, a newspaper article for February 17th
ended with the standard often used response.
Police Chief Paul Watzka said that various law enforcement
agencies will be looking into this matter to see if there
is anything else "we can learn" about what happened.***
these senseless tragedies and the loss of
lives touches a nerve inside me.
and Robert Bonelli Jr. should have been living
lives filled with hope and promise.
Instead they ended up
destroying themselves and harming others.
Yet in the deepest
part of my being I believe that somehow, if I had only known
these young men, and if I could have befriended them, perhaps
these tragedies would not have occurred.
I also believe
that, hidden beneath their pent-up anger,
frustration, and feelings of powerlesssness, was a spark of
hope that, somehow, life would finally make sense. That their
plans for violence would not be necessary.
however, if there were periods of time when Jeff and Robert
felt this way, no one ever came to their rescue. They had no
one to fan those sparks of hope. And
their desperate cries for
help went unanswered.
they would both drift down the wrong road, and
each would make the terrible choice to use violence in order to
battle the real or imagined wrongs that they felt were done to
chose death. The community he tried to hurt
will continue to exist, while he will be written off as an
Jr. is alive, but he's facing his rampage.
Yet he will have many years, however, to think about what he
did. And his father, meanwhile,
will have to watch his son age
will be the various law enforcement
agencies, mental health professionals and social workers who
will spend countless hours trying to figure out what went wrong
with these two. But I do not believe there will be clearcut
in a person's life, anything can happen.
April 7, 2005
(c) 2005 David Berkowitz
*"The Invisible Kid" (front page headline from the Times
Herald-Record, Feb. 15, 2005, Middletown,
**Times Herald-Record, Feb 15, 2005, by Ben Montgomery and Paul
***Times Herald-Record, Feb. 17, 2005, by Paul Brooks
****Times Herald-Record, Feb. 17, 2005, by Paul Brooks,