Bishop decries shootings in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Expressing shock and sadness, Kalamazoo Bishop Paul J. Bradley offered prayers for the six people who were killed and two others who were injured by a gunman in the western Michigan city.

The bishop also called for an end to all forms of violence in a statement released Feb. 21, the day following the shootings.

At a special Mass for the victims Feb. 22 at St. Augustine Cathedral, Bishop Bradley acknowledged the collective shock rippling through the community during his homily.

"We come together to place all our worries, sorrows, fears and all our questions in God's hands. He is the one who knows the answers to all our questions. He is the one who will give us the comfort and consolation for which we all long," Bishop Bradley said.

The names of the six victims who died were recited as the congregation collectively prayed.

Bishop Bradley concluded his remarks by assuring the faithful that the tragedy will not define the community.

"This tragedy will not have the final word," he said. The final word is Jesus - and Jesus is the victor - and those of us who follow Jesus share in that victory."

Jason Dalton, 45, of Kalamazoo was identified as the suspect in the shooting spree that kept the city on edge for several hours. Dalton was arrested early Feb. 21 in downtown Kalamazoo without incident and was being held in jail. He was arraigned the afternoon of Feb. 22 on more than a dozen charges, including murder and attempted murder.

Police said the shootings appeared to be random. The first incident occurred about 6 p.m. outside an apartment complex in eastern Kalamazoo County, where a woman was seriously wounded after being shot multiple times. Four hours later and 15 miles away, police said, a man and his son were fatally shot while looking at vehicles at a car dealership. The last incident occurred 15 minutes later when five women were shot outside of a restaurant, police said. Four of the women died while a 14-year-old girl was hospitalized in serious condition.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the six innocent people whose lives in this world were so mercilessly ended," Bishop Bradley said in his Feb. 21 statement. "May they live forever with God in the life of the world to come."

The bishop also offered a prayer for the suspect, asking that God "show him mercy and change his heart."

The statement also commended first responders for their work to keep Kalamazoo safe.

"May this Lenten season be a time for all of us to turn away from sin and be freed from the strong hold of evil's influence so that we can live together in security and peace," the bishop said.

Contributing to this report was Victoria Cessna, editor of The Good News, newspaper of the Diocese of Kalamazoo.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016