Suspect Dead, Nine Injured in Houston Shopping Mall Shooting as Nationwide Murder Rate Surges 10.8%

A man on a shooting rampage that injured 9 people in Houston has been killed by police after a wild shootout. "He was a lawyer and there were issues concerning his law fim," Houston's Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo told reporters according to CNN, when asked for an explanation for his actions. The country's latest mass shooting occurred in a Petco parking lot near a Houston shopping mall and apartment complex, where residents told local television stations that they heard multiple gunshots around 6:29am Central time. Six of the victims were taken to local hospitals one in serious and one in critical condition. The suspect, whom police have so far declined to name, was pronounced dead. 

The Houston Office of Emergency Management tweeted an emergency alert at 8:17am, warning Houstonians to avoid the area. As of three hours later Houston OEM alerted residents of Southwest Houston to shelter in place until further notice from the authorities. The suspect's car was full of weapons, and the bomb squad was called in to secure the car and the area around it. 

Shootings and murder are on the rise in America in 2016. On the same day of the Houston rampage, and coming on the heels of the mall shooting in Washington State last week which killed 5, as well as deadly police shootings of black men in Oklahoma and North Carolina, the FBI released data confirming many of our worst fears. Murders, according to the data, were up 10.8% in 2015, and violent crime in general is up 3.9%.  That's the biggest one year percent jump since 1971.

The report pointed to multiple factors for the overall murder rise including a sharp increase in the number of gun murders, but despite claims to the contrary by the Obama administration, the murder rate increase was also due to an increase in the murders of black men. At least 900 more black men were murdered in 2015 than in 2014. 

While the numbers in the report force us to to contend with sobering overall realities for the U.S., the FBI takes pains in its press release to caution against applying the rankings to individual states, cities, towns. These rough rankings, the release cautions, "provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents."

It's unlikely however, especially in an election year, that politicians will heed this cautioun when it comes to fighting crime. Often, numbers like this come with calls for more arrests and more jail time, and more civil rights violations like "stop-and-frisk" which Trump gleefully invoked even before this report.  Far less common are calls for funding and programs to reduce the root causes of this violence, like poverty and the ready availability of guns, let alone better poilce training or consequences for officers who kill. 

As a Guardian article on the report notes of St. Louis, "Last year, 143 of the city’s murder victims were black men and boys killed with guns, according to data from the police department. Local residents were not optimistic that a debate over a national murder increase would make them safer," nor provide funding for the kind of social services that are essential to fighting the poverty that often breeds crime. Jeffrey Boyd, a St. Louis Alderman who has lost family to gun violence told the Guardian, "“I have no confidence in our federal government that they will provide an extra dime for anything.” 

The complete FBI report is available is here.


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