CARSON CITY, Nev. — Northern Nevadans expressed horror and sorrow in the wake of a mass shooting that left eight people injured and four dead, including the gunman, Tuesday morning at the IHOP restaurant in Carson City.
“It's horrible,” said Jason Bentsen of South Lake Tahoe. “This kind of thing shouldn't happen, but once in awhile it does. Maybe they should check in on people with mental health issues more often, but I know every place has limited resources, and they can only do so much.”
Nothing like Tuesday's shootings has ever occurred in the capital city's history, dating back to its founding in 1858, said Guy Rocha, former Nevada state archivist.
“Certainly there have been homicides, executions, even lynchings,” Rocha said, “but for the standard FBI definition of mass killings, this is unprecedented.”
In Northern Nevada as a whole, however, it's a different story, he said. On Thanksgiving Day in 1980, six people were killed and dozens were injured when Priscilla Ford drove her vehicle down a Reno sidewalk, mowing down pedestrians. Ford, who was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to die, succumbed to cancer in 2005 while on Death Row, Rocha said.
Amanda McIntosh of Dayton, interviewed Tuesday afternoon outside the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Carson City, said her family experienced a sense of panic when they learned of the IHOP shootings.
“My dad called me to check if my mom had already left for work, because she works at Greater Nevada Credit Union around the corner from the shooting,” McIntosh said. “That was pretty scary, and I thought, ‘What's going on?' He was worried and wanting to make sure she was OK. My mom said someone she worked with was eating with their family in IHOP at time, but they weren't hurt.”
Diana Johnson said she heard about the shooting on her police scanner.
“Then, there were all the police and helicopters. I did think a little bit about 9/11,” Johnson said.
Barbara Graski from Gardnerville, a DMV employee, was on a break with co-worker Tina Holder.
“It's really scary,” Graski said. “We were locked down here for about five minutes and we didn't know why. You can't go anywhere and feel safe. They were all just at a nice little restaurant and never thought something like this could happen, and now they're gone. That's why I always say to say, ‘I love you,' whenever you hang up the phone from talking to people you love.”
Holder, of Dayton, reflected on the seeming randomness of the attack.
“I just thought that some mother didn't get up this morning thinking this kind of thing would happen, but it randomly happens everywhere, like what happened to that congresswoman in Arizona (Gabrielle Giffords),” Holder said.
Joanna Slivkoff of Minden, also a DMV employee, said she was alarmed when she heard about the shooting around 9 a.m.
“We've had an ‘active shooter' class, but I still don't know if I'd be prepared if something happened here,” Slivkoff said. “I was talking to everyone earlier, and it's just something you don't think would happen here. It freaks you out a little bit because it really could happen anytime, anywhere. It's kind of terrifying.”
Kurt Johnson of Carson City shared his thoughts while eating lunch downtown, outside Comma Coffee.
“I'm a meditator, and I know everyone has different concepts of death, but I've been trying to extend a cosmic blessing to all the people involved and the extended people in their lives,” Johnson said.
He recalled his time in the military.
“Seeing people killed is horrifying and extremely traumatic, so I know some of what they're all going through. And here's a peaceful little town, the state capital, so it just doesn't make sense. So many lives are broken up,” he said.
Inside the coffee house, employee Elizabeth Peebles of Carson City said she was just pulling out of the Greater Nevada Credit Union parking lot when she heard what sounded like shots.
“I thought, ‘Wow! That was loud!' I usually take Carson Street, but then I thought, ‘No, I'll take Koontz around to Fairview.' Then all the sirens were blaring and emergency vehicles went flying by,” Peebles said.
Another Comma Coffee server, Janna Colaizzi of Carson City, said she heard of one lucky man.
“One man ... usually goes to IHOP but decided to walk instead, and came here,” Colaizzi said.
Margo Hassler, who spoke by telephone, told the Nevada Appeal that she had also been heading to the credit union when she was directed away from the driveway.
When a man who had left his vehicle near hers to help direct traffic came back, Hassler asked him what was going on.
“He said there was a sniper loose and he was shooting, so I'd better get out of there,” Hassler said.
Outside Raley's supermarket, Saul Reyes of Carson City said he was in class at Western Nevada College when he heard about the killings.
“This is such a nice, quiet city, but you never know. People were just in there having breakfast, and some psycho comes in and starts shooting. It makes you want to get a concealed-weapon permit,” Reyes said.
Bill Groman of Genoa just wanted to know why it happened.
“I don't know whether he had a vendetta against the military because he shot members of the National Guard, or what. It probably happens too much in this country. You could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up on the floor,” Groman said.
Teens Nate Varela and Nicolas Harris of Gardnerville were both near the scene with their binoculars, watching the investigation as it continued Tuesday afternoon.
“We've been up here for two hours. We're just news junkies,” Varela said. “We can see everything, and right now, they're searching a car with dogs.”
Harris was in disbelief.
“This is insane; this is a small little town,” he said. “I still can't believe it. It's like a movie to me.”