On December 3, in the Cedar Pointe Condominiums, Stuart, FL, Hugh Hootman, 75, shot and killed his neighbors, Henry and Ginger Wallace, both 81. The cause? A petty neighbor-spat over laundry room etiquette that spiraled into absurdity. And a man with a gun who decided that killing was an appropriate form of dispute resolution.
Susan Hootman unknowingly sowed the seeds of this senseless tragedy when she propped open the community laundry room door. Her neighbor, Henry Wallace, was peeved. He went upstairs to the Hootman residence and yelled at Susan for her transgression. Susan was left shaken and upset by the encounter.
Some days later, Susan's husband Hugh encountered Henry Wallace at the condo’s mailboxes. Hugh sprang to his wife’s defense. He told Henry he had been out of line for browbeating Susan. Hootman demanded Wallace apologize. Wallace ignored Hootman and attempted to push past him.
An angered Hugh pulled out the 9mm pistol he kept in his pocket for self-defense and shot Henry dead. Hearing the shots, Henry’s wife Ginger ran out of her apartment, yelling in distress, and ran to where her husband lay. Hootman shot her twice, killing her.
Neighbor Kathy Barger said she was outside getting her Christmas wreath when she heard Ginger Wallace scream as she opened her door and realized her husband had been shot. "I heard her yell, 'Oh, no, no.' And then she screamed, and then she was silent. That’ll stay with me all my days," Berger said.
The Wallaces' neighbor Raymond Boze heard the shots and opened the door to see a shocked mailman calling 911. "His body [Henry’s] was lying right here, and she [Ginger] was lying there like a baby, curled up, and he [the mailman] was standing there, and I said, 'Are you calling 911?' and he said, 'Yeah,'" Boze said.
After killing his neighbors, Hootman walked back to his apartment and said to his wife Susan "call the police, I just shot Henry and Ginger". She called 911 and told the dispatcher, “My husband just shot two people. I believe he killed them. Please hurry.”
When the Marin County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived, Hootman confessed to the crime, saying, “I lost my temper.” He added “So sorry. I wish I could take it back.”
But death — no matter how cheap and futile — is final. There are no takebacks. Henry and Ginger are gone. And Hugh will live the rest of his miserable existence locked away. While Susan will go to her grave without her partner's presence because she propped a door open.
American conservatives are a paradox (if you want to be polite) or soulless expedient cynics (if you want to be accurate). They claim to be “pro-life” — yet they encourage the average Joe to pack heat and release his inner Rambo. All their rhetoric about rights, combined with their silence on responsibility, has poisoned the minds of fearful people. And made killers out of regular folks.
Massacres by damaged young men dominate the headlines. But the reality of gun violence in America is etched in sorrow by the ceaseless daily grind of pointless shootings — 2022 will see more than 20,000 Americans dead by gun homicide. And another 24,000+ will have used a gun to kill themselves.
Ginger Wallace was looking forward to spending Christmas with her family. But now her children will mourn their parents. And her grandkids will try to grasp why their Nana, or whatever term of endearment they used, will be absent this year — and forever.
Consider that as I write this, there are over 1,000 Americans alive today who will be shot dead by the time the sun rises on Christmas morning. Dear readers, I hope none of them are you.