District of Arizona Chief Judge John Roll was among the victims of the horrific Arizona shootings over the weekend.
I'm saddened and depressed over all the lives lost in this senseless tragedy.
The motives behind the shooting are not yet known, though some cautionary lessons are starting to emerge.
We know there are mentally unstable people in the world, some of whom are prone to violence.
We also know there are politicians and pundits who employ violent rhetoric to scare people, to cause fear, to create uncertainty, in order to obtain, maintain, or increase their political or economic power.
Indeed, before being killed on Saturday, Judge Roll was himself the victim of this violent rhetoric:
In February, when U.S. District Judge John Roll presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher, the Marshals Service was anticipating the fallout.
When Roll ruled the case could go forward, Gonzales said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.
In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online.
"They said, 'We should kill him. He should be dead,' " Gonzales said.
Roll, who is the chief federal judge in Arizona, said both he and his wife were given a protection detail for about a month.
"It was unnerving and invasive. . . . By its nature it has to be," Roll said, adding that they were encouraged to live their lives as normally as possible. "It was handled very professionally by the Marshals Service."
At the end of the month, Roll said four key men had been identified as threat makers.
The Marshals Service left to him the decision to press charges but recommended against it. Roll said he had no qualms about following their advice.
The recommendation was based on the intent of those making the threats.
"I have a very strong belief that there is nothing wrong with criticizing a judicial decision," he said. "But when it comes to threats, that is an entirely different matter."