A time to grieve following horrific mall shootings

Several Church members counted among the victims

Church members are among the thousands mourning, supporting and praying for the victims and their families of a Feb. 12 shooting spree at a Salt Lake City mall that left six dead and four injured.

Police and witnesses say a heavily-armed Sulejman Talovic, 18, drove into Trolley Square's west parking terrace at 6:44 p.m. After exiting his vehicle, Talovic fired upon Church member Jeffery Walker, 52, and his 16-year-old son, Alan "AJ" Walker with a shotgun. Brother Walker was killed, while AJ was seriously injured. The father and son had reportedly been at the mall that evening shopping for family valentines.

Talovic then moved down the steps and shot and injured Shawn Munns, 34, before entering the west entrance of Trolley Square, according to police. Once inside the mall, Talovic continued his shooting rampage, slaying four and injuring two others.

Killed were Teresa Ellis, a 29-year member; member Brad Frantz, 24; Kirsten Hinckley, 15, an LDS high school student and a distant relative of President Gordon B. Hinckley; and Vanessa Quinn, a married, 29-year-old Ohio native. Kirsten Hinckley's mother, Carolyn Tuft, was also shot and critically injured. Stacy Hanson, 53, was also critically injured after he was shot.

Ken Hammond, an off-duty Ogden (Utah) police officer who had been dining at one of the mall restaurants with his wife, heard the gunfire and rushed to confront Talovic, according to police. The two men — along with four Salt Lake City Police officers responding to 911 calls — then exchanged gunfire. Talovic was shot and killed. The rampage ended six minutes after Talovic stepped from his car and encountered the Walkers.

The shootings shocked the community and devastated families and friends of the multiple victims.

Bishop Jack McDonald of the Brighton Point Ward, Salt Lake Butler Stake, spent the first hours following the shootings at the hospital where Sister Tuft was being cared for. With few answers emerging from a tragedy that involved two of his members, Bishop McDonald said he's turned to faith. He finds strength in Nephi, who once told an angel: "I know that (God) loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things" (1 Nephi 11:17).

Bishop McDonald said he has told the family he cannot know the pain they are experiencing, "but I know somebody who does." He called Sister Tuft a selfless woman and mother. "All she's ever done is serve others."

Kirsten, meanwhile, "was a best friend for so many people," he added. "Her smile would light up any room she walked in."

Jeffery Walker was a multi-talented man "whose biggest talent was to make others happy," said Bishop Roger Sorenson of the Country Park 4th Ward, South Jordan Utah Country Park Stake. Brother Walker was at his best in front of a classroom, whether it was teaching youth with his wife, Vicki, or with the elders quorum where he served as a counselor. News of his death "tears your heart out," Bishop Sorenson said.

The bishop enjoys a special connection with AJ, one of his dutiful priests. "There has never been an assignment that he's turned down."

During his hospital visits, Bishop Sorenson said he has witnessed AJ's concern for others, even as he is being cared for.

The Country Park 4th Ward gathered the night after the shooting to end a fast on the Walker family's behalf. Members of all ages shared their feelings. "We've started the healing process," Bishop Sorenson said.

Loved ones remembered Sister Ellis as a nonjudgemental person who always thought of others. Her estranged husband, Nathan Ellis, told the Deseret Morning News the Church convert "was loving and kind to everyone."

Brad Frentz is being remembered as a happy person who adored his 3-year-old daughter Dejah. "He's just a good spirit," his aunt, Julie Lunt, told the Deseret Morning News.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed