“Criminals” vs. “Terrorists”

Polk County History Center

The Polk County Courthouse – Bartow

Yesterday four gunmen here in Florida “terrorized” the town of Haines City east of Tampa, killing two elderly women, a mother and daughter, in their home.

It all began with the robbery of a pawn shop. The police responded chasing their escape vehicle; the gunmen opened fire on the police during a wild chase. The police responded in kind, bullets flying about on a main highway.

The vehicle crashed and three of the four gunmen got away – the fourth was chased down by a police dog.

One of the remaining three broke into a house “viciously” killing the two elderly women. When the police responded (a call from a neighbor alerted them) the gunman crashed the women’s car through the garage door in an attempt to escape and was greeted with a hail of police bullets. He was wounded but not killed and taken into custody.

The remaining two were captured the next day, hiding in a backyard shed after the neighborhood was put on lock down. All residents were “advised” to remain in their homes while those trying to return home were barred by police.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said “I want you to understand how ominous, how dangerous, the people we are dealing with here are,” pointing out that the suspects had attacked officers with vehicles and firearms.

He said he preferred a peaceful conclusion to a violent standoff between suspects and law enforcement, but vowed: “If they choose the latter, we’ll give them a gun fight, one they’ll never forget.”

“We’re not taking any risks, he said earlier. “If they pull guns on us, make no mistake about it — we will shoot them. A lot.”

So what is the difference between a “crime” and “terrorism”; between Haines City and Paris? The victims are just as dead. The residents just as “terrorized”.

Suppose the gunmen in Haines City said they were the new Black Panther Party? Or converts to Islam? Or Communists? Is that what elevates thieves and murderers, “common criminals”  to “terrorists”? Does one need a “political agenda” to become a “terrorist? Is terrorizing and murdering people not enough?

Are all such criminals terrorists or are all “terrorists” just criminals with an “agenda” which they claim or we assign to them?

What happened in Haines City happens all over America everyday. Yet we did not give up our civil rights or our gunds  to fight this “threat” notwithstanding that if you are killed by a “common criminal” you are just as dead as those in Paris. And you have a much greater chance of being murdered by that common criminal here in America than by a bonafide “terrorist”.

Last week a young man was arrested in Ohio for planning a “terrorist” assault on the U.S. Capitol.  Authorities claim he was going to kill Congressmen and government officials He was a recent convert to Islam.

Mind you, he was still “planning”.

He was twenty years old. His father said “he was more like 16” and “rarely went out”. Presumably he therefore was not attending college nor did he have a steady job. He went from this a couple of years ago to this:





Does anyone but me think this young man is unstable? In need of mental health assistance? There are converts to Islam like Muhammad Ali and the singer Yusuf Islam – and then there is Christopher Cornell. A child of the internet age, he bought an assault rifle, 600 rounds of ammo and learned bomb making techniques.  It has been reported that it is the same weapon used at Sandy Hook.  He didn’t go to Yemen or Iraq or Syria.  He has no apparent connections with “terrorist” groups.

There is currently a great deal of skepticism surrounding this latest FBI bust.  Seems Cornell recently met a man who, it turns out was an FBI “snitch” under indictment on unrelated charges.    This man is the primary “witness”.  He took Cornell to the gun shop and, it has been suggested, financed the attempted purchase of the weapon as the FBI swooped in – that same weapon used at Sandy Hook.   Cornell had little money and no means to finance or plan an attack on the capital, according to his father.

But he is now considered a “terrorist”.  He is no longer just a mentally unstable person planning a crime.  If anyone had noticed his loneliness, if he had had just one friend, maybe he would still be just a normal young man in Ohio.


About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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3 Responses to “Criminals” vs. “Terrorists”

  1. jmsabbagh says:

    Great post.He chose to what he is now ,The parents have done a great job raising him. Regards.Jaalal


  2. I suspect school bullying probably played a bigger role than mental illness in this young man’s case. The pattern sounds pretty consistent with an Asperger’s child who is bullied at school and compensates by getting obsessed with the Internet. Jodi Picoult has written two novels which offer excellent psychological profiles of both situations, the Asperger’s child (House Rules) and the victim of merciless school bullying who is driven to engage in a school shooting (Nineteen Minutes). Asperger’s Disorder is not a mental illness, by the way. It’s a developmental disorder.

    The US really does a terrible job of preparing kids to live in a culturally diverse society. In Denmark, in contrast, they offer formal diversity training classes emphasizing both religious and ethnic tolerance.

    In both my own school experience (I was serially bullied) and my daughter’s, teachers and school administrators covertly colluded with the cool cliques and the bullies to perpetuate the problem.


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