This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
The landscape of America is littered with bodies.
Total body count for these incidents: 19 dead, 26 wounded.
Not much, you might say, when taken in the context of about 30,000 gun-related deaths annually nationwide. As it happens, though, these murders over the past couple of years have some common threads. All involved white gunmen with ties to racist or right-wing groups or who harbored deep suspicions of “the government.” Many involved the killing of police officers.
In Pittsburgh, three police officers were shot and killed, while two were wounded in an April 2009 gun battle with Richard Poplawski, a white supremacist fearful that President Obama planned to curtail his gun rights. In Okaloosa County, Florida, two officers were slain in April 2009 in an altercation with Joshua Cartwright, whose abused wife told the police that her husband “believed that the U.S. Government was conspiring against him” and that he was “severely disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected President.”
At the Pentagon, an anti-government conspiracy theorist, John Patrick Bedell, wounded two police officers in March of last year before being shot to death. At the Holocaust Museum in 2009, James W. Von Brunn, a white supremacist, gunned down a security guard before being wounded and subdued by two other security guards.
Government officials, of course, have also been targets of the gunmen, as demonstrated so vividly by the recent shootings in Tucson, where Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others were wounded, and one of Giffords’s staff members and a federal judge were among the six dead.
Churches Are No Sanctuary from Christian Extremists
Two of these shootings took place within the sanctuary of churches. In Wichita in 2009, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder. Tiller was serving as an usher during a Sunday morning service at Reformation Lutheran Church when he was shot. The attack in Knoxville, which left two dead and six injured in July 2008, occurred at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church while 25 children were performing Annie Jr. Killer Jim David Adkisson said he hated Democrats and deemed the church part of the “liberal movement.” Adkisson opened fire with a shotgun on an audience of about 200. In Brockton, Massachusetts, in January 2009, neo-Nazi Keith Luke sought to storm a synagogue, but never made it, authorities claim. According to a prosecutor, Luke wanted to “kill as many Jews, blacks, and Hispanics as humanly possible.” In his rampage, he reportedly murdered two Hispanics and raped and wounded a third before, near the synagogue, he was wrestled to the ground by ordinary citizens.