DA: Suspected mall gunman was fascinated with Columbine massacre
KINGSTON, N.Y. (AP) -- A man who opened fire in a crowded shopping mall with an assault weapon had a "lurid fascination" with the Columbine High School shooting and kept memorabilia related to the 1999 killings, a prosecutor said Monday.
Robert Bonelli, 24, is accused of wounding two people and sending shoppers scurrying for safety Sunday after shooting his way into the Hudson Valley Mall and then giving up when he ran out of ammunition.
Police searching the suspect's room in nearby Saugerties that night found a cache of "Columbine memorabilia," said Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams. The prosecutor would not detail what sort of items were found in the house Bonelli shares with his father, but said it included media accounts and other information about the Colorado shooting spree by two students that left 15 dead on April 20, 1999.
"We may never know specifically what his intentions were, or what his motivations were," Williams said. "However, we are deeply disturbed and troubled by the recovery of Columbine memorabilia from his property."
Bonelli, of nearby Saugerties, was being held without bail in the county jail after being arraigned overnight on first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment charges.
If convicted, Bonelli could face 25 years in prison for the most serious charge, first-degree assault.
A woman answering the phone at Bonelli's father's house declined comment. The public defender assigned to Bonelli did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
According to police, Bonelli opened fire walking into the Best Buy store in the mall, just outside Kingston, about 55 miles south of Albany. After firing several shots, he made his way into the mall corridor and continued shooting until running out of ammunition near the center court, witnesses said.
When he ran out of ammunition and dropped his assault-type rifle, Keith Lazarchik lunged for the gun and two of his co-workers tackled the gunman, holding him until police arrived.
"It was basically just a split-second decision," Lazarchik told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday. "I didn't approach him right away. I just followed him. I was creeping up behind him as he was walking down the mall shooting."
"People were walking by and yelling at him and, you know, asking him if he was crazy," Lazarchik said. "He was quiet. Very cool and calm like it was just another day at the office."
State police Capt. Wayne Olson said investigators did not know the exact number of shots fired but he said it was a "significant number of rounds."
Williams said investigators were still trying to determine whether the suspect possessed the high-powered gun legally, though it appears he might have.
The wounded included a National Guard recruiter who was in a recruiting booth inside the mall when he was shot. Olson said the 20-year-old recruiter might lose his leg. Hospital officials said Monday that his family asked that no information on his condition be released.
The second victim, a 56-year-old man, had superficial gunshot wounds to his left arm, thigh and leg, Olson said. Two other people had bullet holes in their pant legs, Olson said.
The mall was set to reopen at noon Monday with crisis counselors available for employees. Best Buy was expected to stay closed for a couple of days.
Michael Bovalino, chief executive officer of the mall's parent company, said security is constantly re-evaluated at the mall and will be again considering Sunday's shooting.