Despite our highly provincial tendencies, Rhode Islanders know that no corner of our state is too far from any other – and that in many cases we can easily find common links with other residents, either through family members, friends or shared acquaintances.
Last week’s tragic shooting incident at a Westerly housing facility made those connections painfully clear. A single mother who worked as a manager at Babcock Village, 47-year-old Julie Lynn Cardinal was killed, while two other women – 38-year-old Robin Moss of Cranston, another manager at the facility, and 66-year-old Donna Thornley, one of its residents – were hospitalized after being shot.
As condolences and messages of support poured in through social media and other channels, police revealed a fuller picture of the circumstances that led to the tragedy.
The suspected shooter, a 66-year-old resident of Babcock Village, had previous contacts with police and had been hospitalized in 2002 after talking about plans to purchase a gun and kill his wife and himself. His wife was granted a divorce and a three-year protective order the next year, with a Family Court judge finding the man had behaved in a violent and abusive manner toward his spouse.
The alleged gunman also died at the scene, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot. What precisely spurred the rampage remains unclear.
We were struck, in the wake of the shooting, to a statement issued by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In addition to sharing its condolences, the organization reiterated a vitally important message – one that Cranston-area residents sadly heard earlier this year after the killing of 29-year-old Lauren Ise, allegedly at the hands of an estranged boyfriend.
“We know a history of domestic violence is an important red flag, and most mass shootings are linked and rooted in domestic abuse or family violence,” the coalition’s statement reads.
The statement highlights the 2017 passage and signing into law of the Protect Rhode Island Families Act, which it spearheaded along with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The act closed loopholes allowing people convicted of domestic violence crimes to purchase or possess firearms.
“It is critical the court system and law enforcement implement this legislation to its full extent, and that gun dealers never sell to individuals with a history of domestic violence,” the coalition’s statement reads. “Disarming domestic abusers will save lives.”
We wholly agree. As we remember and lend support to the most vulnerable among us during this holiday season, let us not forget those who suffer – all too often silently – in abusive relationships and situations. We urge law enforcement, policymakers and all residents of our Rhode Island community to remain vigilant on this vitally important issue.