Almost. Almost a massacre. Almost a college campus horror. But last week’s thwarted killing spree had no discernible effect on Tallahassee’s gun fetish. Almost mattered almost not at all.
James Oliver Seevakumaran amassed 1,000 rounds of ammunition. He smuggled two firearms into his University of Central Florida dorm room, a High Point .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and what police described as an American Tech 22-magnum tactical rifle, which has the look, if not quite the lethality of a higher caliber assault weapon. But it would be plenty efficient for slaughtering unarmed kids. Police said Seevakumaran packed two 28-round magazines for his rifle. Almost as an afterthought, he stuffed a backpack with four homemade bombs.
And he had a plan. A checklist for killing. Last on his list, the would-be gunman had scrawled, “Give them hell."
UCF campus police chief Richard Beary told reporters that early Monday morning the 30-year-old Seevakumaran had pulled the fire alarm, knowing that fellow residents of Tower 1, a seven-story dormitory, would spill out into the hallways and down to the common areas, where they would be clumped together for easy targeting. “Anybody armed with this type of weapon and ammunition could have hurt a lot of people here, particularly in a crowded area as people were evacuating,” the chief told reporters.
But his roommate, Air Force veteran Arabo Babakhani, emerged from his bedroom and was confronted with Seevakumaran wielding the gun. Babakhani slammed the door in the gunman’s face and called 911. Police arrived quickly. “We think the rapid response of law enforcement may have changed his ability to think quickly on his feet,” Beary said. Instead, he shot himself in the head.
“It could have been a very bad day for everyone here.” Chief Berry added, in something of an understatement.
Instead of another school massacre, the incident would be categorized with the 20,000 firearm suicides reported in the U.S. in a typical year. That might be an epidemic in some countries, but in the U.S. gun suicides are hardly in the national conversation.
“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not an unspeakable tragedy,” said UCF President John Hitt. Indeed, Florida’s legislative leadership had nothing to say about UCF’s near miss with mass murder.
Later that same day, just 10.5 miles west of the UCF campus, a school resource officer at Orlando’s Glenridge Middle School acted on a tip and looked inside a seventh grader’s backpack. What he discovered was yet more evidence of Florida’s pervasive gun culture.
The 12-year-old had brought a 9 mm MAC-10 pistol to school, though the word “pistol” hardly describes this particular firearm. It was a semi-automatic version of those artless black metal machine gun pistols, the grease guns so popular with American gangsters. Killers love the compact MAC-10s because so much firepower can be concealed under a coat. Or in a child’s backpack.
Orlando police said the MAC-10’s 30-cartridge magazine was fully loaded. Police later tested the gun at the firing range and found it was fully functional, ready to kill. The child also brought a conventional .380-caliber pistol, though, small blessing, the second weapon was not in working order.