The teenager who killed five people in a Utah shopping mall and died in a police shootout was buried Saturday in his native village in eastern Bosnia.
The father of Sulejman Talovic said his son “wounded the hearts of all our family” when he opened fire on Feb. 12 at the mall in Salt Lake City, killing five people and wounding four.
“I feel sorry for my child, but I also feel sorry for all the innocent people he has killed,” the 18-year-old’s father, Suljo Talovic, told The Associated Press.
Suljo Talovic spoke while standing where his family’s house once stood in Talovici, an eastern Bosnian hamlet that still bears the scars of the 1992-95 war, including houses pocked with machine-gun fire or, like Talovic’s, reduced to rubble by shelling.
Moments later, several hundred people gathered at the nearby cemetery for Sulejman’s open-casket funeral. His crying mother, Sabira, collapsed after touching her son’s face and was carried away.
Suljo Talovic said he would not make excuses for his son, but did not understand how a teenager could buy a gun in the United States.
“The authorities are guilty for not alerting us that he bought a gun. In the U.S., you cannot buy cigarettes if you are underaged, but you can buy a gun,” he said.
The Talovic family had left for the United States in 1998 following years of violence and upheaval, after fighting broke out in 1992. Serb troops laid siege to the eastern hamlet of Talovici, bombing it for a year before invading in March 1993.
Sulejman was just 4 when he, his three siblings, his mother Sabira and his grandfather fled on foot to Srebrenica, while his father Suljo hid in the mountains with other men from the village, relatives said.
Srebrenica was besieged, bombed and crowded with hungry Muslim families like the Talovics. One bomb killed Sulejman’s grandfather. Sabira Talovic and the four children — rescued by the United Nations along with other displaced families — made their way to the government-controlled town of Tuzla, impoverished but safe.
Sulejman’s father, meanwhile still in Srebrenica, narrowly survived the 1995 killing of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys there by Serb forces loyal to then-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. The Srebrenica massacre was Europe’s worst since World War II.
The family reunited in Tuzla later that year when a peace agreement brought an end to the war. They later obtained obtained Croatian citizenship and in 1998 joined relatives already living in Utah.