Tragedy struck Salt Lake City when a lone gunman opened fire in a crowded mall.

The winding hallways of Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square became a shooting gallery for an 18-year-old gunman in a trench coat who fired a shotgun randomly at customers, killing five and wounding four before being killed by police, authorities and witnesses said.

The shooter also was armed with a handgun and had several rounds of ammunition, Salt Lake City police Detective Robin Snyder said early Tuesday. It was not clear if he fired the handgun, nor had a motive been determined, she said.

When I heard the news last night, I commented to my wife that a rampage like this is solved by the use of firearms in the hands of responsible citizens. Normally the responsible hands belong to police officers, but killing sprees have been stopped by regular citizens with a firearm. I found out today that it was an off-duty police officer who killed the gunman.

Earlier today, Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner confirmed that an off-duty police officer from Ogden killed Talovic. The Ogden off-duty officer has been identified as Ken Hammond, a six-year veteran of the department.

Yes, the end result of a dead gunman would have been the same if Officer Hammond hadn’t been there, but his presence stopped the gunman sooner. At this point we could play games of “what if” and wonder what would have happened if more of the bystanders at Trolley Square had been armed. There is the real possibility that the death count would have been lower, but five deaths is pretty low — though I’m certain that’s no consolation for the families of the victims. Now consider what might have happened if Hammond hadn’t been there, and Trolley Square had declared itself a “gun-free zone.” How long could the gunman have run around unopposed in that situation?

And now that the name of the gunman has been released, I have to wonder about something else. With the name of Sulejman Talovic, what are the odds that he is Muslim? The name Sulejman, as well as variant spellings like Suleiman, Sulayman, Sulaiman, Süleyman, or Solyman, are all derived from an Arabic name meaning “Man of Peace.”

Ironic, no?

UPDATE (2/14/2007 3:12:18 PM): The Deseret News confirms that Sulejman Talovic was indeed a Muslim. But there is nothing yet that shows religion was the motivation of the killing.

Ajka Omerovic, who said she was Talovic’s aunt, visited the home Tuesday afternoon. She told the Deseret Morning News that Talovic had been “a good boy.” She said the family are Muslims from Bosnia who had lived in the vicinity of Sarajevo.

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