Shooting in the Stacks
In a world-renowned Utah genealogical library, a disturbed gunman vented his rage
It was an unlikely venue for violence: The world's largest genealogical library, pride of the Mormon Church, just off Temple Square in Salt Lake City. There, a disheveled and disturbed man walked in and opened fire last week, shattering the hushed silence. In a terrifying hour, Sergei Babarin, 70, killed two people and wounded five others before police sharpshooters fatally shot him.
Those searching for clues turned to the killer's family and acquaintances for answers. Babarin's wife, Zoya, says her husband, a toolmaker, suffered from schizophrenia and had quit taking his medication before the deadly outburst. A Russian immigrant, Babarin and his wife lived in an apartment not far from the world-renowned Family History Library, within the shadow of the Mormon Tabernacle. The apartment manager, Diane LeToile, says Babarin was frustrated by his inability to speak English. "He couldn't communicate," LeToile says, adding, "He'd kind of stomp off angrily."
Witnesses say Babarin strolled into the lobby of the busy library and opened fire with a .22 caliber handgun, killing a security guard and a woman doing research. Genealogical experts in town for a conference were in the five-floor library, along with the usual crowd of tourists, when the shooting started. Many ducked under tables and desks or barricaded themselves in offices on upper floors. The gunfire briefly trapped a group of 95 fourth graders who were on a field trip. SWAT teams evacuated some 2,700 people from the library.
The Family History Library provides names for what the Mormon Church calls the baptism of the dead, a ceremony it believes gives the dead the opportunity to join the church in the afterlife.
This story appears in the April 26, 1999 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.