Saturday, February 25, 2006 · Last updated 4:32 p.m. PT
Tacoma Mall gunman says he wanted police to kill him
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TACOMA, Wash. -- The 20-year-old man who wounded several shoppers after opening fire at the Tacoma Mall last year says he hoped police would kill him.
In an interview with The News Tribune of Tacoma, Dominick Sergio Maldonado said talks with a jailhouse psychologist made him realize he had grown tired of suppressing pain from traumatic childhood experiences.
"I wanted to go there to die by the cops," Maldonado said in his first interview since the Nov. 20 shooting spree. "I wanted them to shoot me."
Maldonado's father died when he was 10. His mother briefly put him in foster care afterward. He said he was harassed and beaten at a police youth camp when he was almost 12 - a claim law enforcement officials have denied - and that he once was beaten and thrown in the woods naked.
The most seriously injured of seven people hit by gunshots said a troubled childhood is no excuse. "I had a rough upbringing in areas, too," said Brendan "Dan" McKown. "I didn't shoot up a mall."
McKown was shot five times and suffered severe spinal injuries.
Maldonado faces 15 criminal charges, including one count of attempted murder. He's being held on $2 million bail.
His lawyer, Sverre Staurset, acknowledged that Maldonado's childhood isn't an excuse, and that Maldonado doesn't consider it one either.
Staurset said he thought a psychologist would pinpoint a cause of Maldonado's actions, but after many hours of discussions with the young man, there were no indications of mental illness.
Maldonado described his early childhood as happy. His father was a former Army engineer who drove a bus. His mother worked hard at cleaning jobs. They had four boys; Dominick was the second-youngest.
His father, a diabetic, died after getting sick in 1996. Maldonado's mother had a nervous breakdown and sent the kids to foster care for a couple months.
"Right after my father died, I kind of shut down. I just felt like I got abandoned," he said.
He started getting into trouble after moving back with his mom. His mother home-schooled him for three years after he was kicked out of the sixth grade. After one semester at Lincoln High School, he dropped out and worked in landscaping and later at a Subway sandwich shop.
By 2003, he had juvenile convictions for trafficking stolen property, theft and burglary.
Days before the shootings, Maldonado decided to leave the state. He dropped off a box of favorite belongings with a teenage girlfriend. Thinking he was going to commit suicide, the girl and her mother persuaded him to come back.
The date of the shootings, Maldonado sent a text message to an ex-girlfriend's cell phone saying, "Today is the day the world will know my anger. Today the world will feel my pain. Today is the day I will be heard." He said he doesn't remember it.
He also said doesn't remember most of what he said to 911 dispatchers that day. In the first call, he told a dispatcher he had a Chinese-made assault rifle and a Tec-9 handgun, and he was going to start shooting.
Despite the screams and the gunfire, Maldonado said he remembers only quiet: "I pointed my gun to the ceiling and said, 'Everybody down.'"
As he made his way down the mall, he encountered McKown. "I heard him behind me and he says something like, 'Drop your gun or I'll shoot you,'" Maldonado said.
Maldonado turned around, said he saw McKown pointing a gun at him, then raised his rifle. Maldonado said he thought McKown had shot him when he ran into a Sam Goody store at the mall, where he held several hostages for more than three hours.
He said he tried to make sure none of his hostages got hurt. He released a 10-year-old boy who was in the store. He felt terrible that one man was crying and clearly terrified. He decided that he didn't want to die, either.
By the time he surrendered, he was tearful and afraid. Tacoma police took him into custody without a fight.
"For maybe two seconds, the plan seemed like it was the right idea," Maldonado said, his chin quivering and tears pooling in his eyes.
He said he finds it inspiring that his most-wounded victim recently began walking again, and that he sometimes wishes that something bad had happened to him, like a car crash, before he went to the mall.
"There's no words to say how sorry I am," Maldonado said.
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com