Commentary: The evil of John Allen Muhammad

People may argue about the death penalty, but no one's likely to miss its latest recipient, John Allen Muhammad of Tacoma.

Those last two words are tough to acknowledge. But Tacoma was Muhammad's hometown and he launched his offensive against innocent life from the South Sound. He separated from the Army at Fort Lewis. He lived for years on the East Side. He stole his chief murder weapon from Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in the Dome District. He and his teenage acolyte, Lee Boyd Malvo, apparently practiced marksmanship in the backyard of an Oakland-Madrona house.

Under Muhammad's tutelage, Malvo – by his own admission – claimed their first known victim in 2002 when he shot 21-year-old Keenya Cook at her aunt's Tacoma home. Later, the two of them shot at the Temple Beth El synagogue on South 12th Street, apparently as an expression of Muhammad's twisted, hateful version of Islam.

Muhammad and Malvo will always be remembered as the Beltway snipers who terrorized the Washington, D.C., area in October 2002. It wasn't just the number of people they shot; it was they way they did it: over the course of weeks, and completely at random.

When a berserker shoots up a college campus or restaurant and is caught or killed, the body count may be high, but the threat ends. Muhammad and Malvo, in contrast, kept a large population terrified for the better part of a month. As crime sprees go, this was as shocking as they come.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.