---- — Not much new information emerged from a press conference this week at the Elkhart County prosecutor’s office. What did emerge was welcome news, no doubt, for the Elkhart Police Department.
Prosecutor Curtis Hill announced his findings that the actions of EPD officers Cody Skipper and Jason Tripp during a fatal police action shooting Jan. 15 were reasonable. The investigation will not be turned over to a grand jury, Hill said, and neither officer will face charges.
The actions by Skipper and Tripp put a quick end to a violent event. That much is certain. But much about what happened that night remains a mystery. We know what happened, but are puzzled as to why.
WHAT HAPPENED the night of Jan. 15 is this: Sean Bair of Elkhart entered the Martin’s Supermarket along Bristol Street. He was armed with a handgun and a large knife. After about a half-hour, he started shooting.
The first to die was Krystle Dikes, a Martin’s employee who was stocking shelves when she was killed. Moving through the store, Bair later shot and killed shopper Rachelle Godfread.
Police were called to the scene and arrived less than three minutes later. Skipper and Tripp confronted Bair and ordered him to drop his weapon. The officers shot Bair as he raised his gun to his own head, squeezing off a final round.
By the end of the night, three families would receive news no one wants to hear.
HILL SAID A NOTE was found on Bair indicating suicidal tendencies. Investigators determined the gunman likely suffered from ongoing suicidal depression that went largely untreated. As for his victims, investigators found no evidence of a relationship between Bair and either Dikes or Godfread.
Put another way: No motive, few answers, a wealth of hurt.
“In this particular instance, a lot of the ‘why’ died that night,” Hill said.
Which isn’t to say the awful night of Jan. 15 isn’t cause for reflection.
Let’s remember that Dikes and Godfread are more than statistics or names in a media crime report. Krystle Dikes’ family recalls her as a friend to everyone she met, a young woman who found fulfillment working with children with special needs. Rachelle Godfread was a global traveler. She was a mother who cherished her children. Both women will be missed.
REMEMBER, TOO THAT Bair was someone’s son, someone’s friend. At some point, his life went critically awry. We’ll likely never know why he claimed two lives in a supermarket on a winter’s night. We can, however, be aware of signs that a friend or family member is becoming deeply troubled. We can ask them to seek help. If need be, we can be that help by notifying authorities.
To Skipper and Trip, a community owes its thanks. Heroism is a poor word choice; the officers were just doing their jobs Jan. 15. They did, however, perform their duty exceedingly well — and probably saved lives in the process.
The violence in that Elkhart supermarket should also remind us that life doesn’t offer guarantees or fail-safes. Normalcy and chaos intersect quickly and without warning. The best we can do is live the best lives we can, every day, and cherish the people around us.
They can be gone in an instant. So can we.