ELKHART — Kevin Knuth, of Fort Wayne, had just gotten into his car Thursday morning as he prepared to head home from Waterloo, Iowa, when he heard the news on the radio.
The announcer, describing it as “our top story” quickly relayed the skeletal details about a shooting at a grocery store in northern Indiana that left three people dead.
Knuth, who worked for MapleTronics Computers in Goshen years ago, was slightly jarred and surprised to hear of the gruesome news from his neck of the woods.
“Elkhart is a small town and obviously a huge issue for the size of Elkhart to deal with,’” he said, “But for it to be carried two states away, it surprised me.”
Hundreds of thousands — if not millions of people — learned of the shootings at a Martin’s Super Market in Elkhart as they prepared for a new day. That was the case for many viewers who tuned into NBC’s The Today Show which reportedly led its newscast with the shooting.
For a short while, in the whirl of the 24/7 news cycle, the grocery store shootings received prominent coverage online at USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor and many news organization across the Midwest.
The Chicago Tribune played it up at the top of its website and provided video, photos and a map. The main headline read: “You could see the gunman waving the gun and taunting him at times.”
As of Thursday afternoon, four TV news crews from Chicago remained in Elkhart, camped out beyond the yellow crime tape in the Martin’s parking lot as investigators continued to work inside the store.
Knuth said he thinks the deaths struck a nerve with people because there’s a wariness and fear of the next Sandy Hook or Columbine.
“When you go into a place where you assume you’re going to be safe (like) walking into a grocery store at night to pick up a gallon of milk and things go terribly wrong, that’s gonna get people’s attention,” Knuth said.
Shelby Sapusek, a former resident of South Bend who lives outside of Milwaukee, Wis., said she was getting ready for work when she saw it on ABC TV’s national news.
She said it piqued her interest, not only because of her familiarity with Elkhart, but also because she worked as a grocery store cashier as a teenager.
Incidents such as the Elkhart shootings feed into the notion that no place is safe, she said.
“You know what’s sad about it, though? It’s not even shocking anymore. It’s like the shock value is gone. It’s more sadness,” Sapusek said.
For Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, the shootings are the kind of attention a city leader never wants to see, but is the kind of story that seems to be playing out in communities across the nation.
He knew the story would be widely covered when he saw the glare of TV news cameras at Thursday’s news conference.
“Regretfully, it’s an incident that has made national news,” Moore said.
“It’d be awfully nice if something like this never happened, but that’s not the case,” he said.