15 YEARS AGO: Stunned residents search to make sense of killing | TheUnion.com

15 YEARS AGO: Stunned residents search to make sense of killing

Editor’s note: This story was originally published Jan. 11, 2001 by The Union.

The violence of big-city suburbia came calling on Nevada County Wednesday when a man with a gun walked into the lobby of the Mental Health Department and started shooting. When the shooting was over, three people were dead and three more were injured.

At half past noon, one hour after the shooting started, the county’s locked-down Rood Administrative Center was deadly quiet.

Stunned county officials struggled to make sense of it all.

“Our heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones. Our community mourns with a broken heart. We pray for peace and comfort.” – Pastor Mike Dillman

This is the first time county employees have been targeted and killed by a gunman, said supervisor’s analyst Pat Ward.

Ward called the incident a reflection of the times and the violence that occurs across the country, in big cities and sprawling suburbs.

But not here in rural Nevada County.

“Suburbia meets the Foothills,” Ward said.

Later in the evening, as police surrounded the Penn Valley house of the suspected shooter, a group of faithful gathered at the Assembly of God in Grass Valley to take comfort in prayer after a day of tragic violence.

“We came here tonight to call on the Lord in our day of trouble,” Pastor Mike Dillman prayed. “God, we need your help tonight, our city needs your help.”

And then they sang.

“I feel Jesus in this place … He is our peace.”

And then they prayed some more, for the dead and wounded and their families.

Some in the congregation were hunched over on the chairs in front of them, their heads in their hands. Some sobbed.

“Our heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones,” Dillman prayed. “Our community mourns with a broken heart. We pray for peace and comfort.”

And in the spirit of Jesus, who preached love and forgiveness, they prayed for the man who is suspected of firing the shots that took the lives.

The 50 or so mourners then broke into groups of four or five and held hands and prayed together.

But all the prayer in the world couldn’t ease the shock that comes when tragedy visits a small town.

“I can’t believe something like this would bring us here tonight,” said church regular Linda Langley.

“Those people didn’t have a chance, and now they’re meeting their maker. It’s so sobering.”

Church director Leon Colas said. “This town’s shook up; it’s a real blow. These things don’t happen here, a nice quiet mountain community. It’s shocking.”

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