Mom who survived 2007 mass shooting copes with 300 pellets of lead

Mother who survived 2007 mass shooting that killed her 15-year-old daughter reveals she has lead poisoning from the 300 pellets she was shot with

  • Utah mom Carolyn Tuft, 56, and her daughter Kirsten Hinckley, 15, went shopping for Valentine’s Day cards in February 2007 
  • They were in Trolley Square mall shooting in Salt Lake City when a shooter opened fire, before police shot the assailant dead
  • Hinckley was one of the five killed, Tuft was one of four injured who narrowly survived 
  • Tuft was hit with 300 pellets and now suffers from lead poisoning
  • She says she has been unable to work, resulting in the loss of her home and business
  • Tuft does not favor a total ban on guns but on assault weapons 

A mother who survived a 2007 mass shooting in Utah said Thursday she has lead poisoning from 300 shotgun pellets still in her body, leaving her with debilitating headaches, nausea and other serious health problems.

Carolyn Tuft, 56, whose 15-year-old daughter died in the Trolley Square mall shooting in Salt Lake City, has been unable to work, resulting in the loss of her home and business, she told The Associated Press.

She’s stricken when she thinks about other survivors dealing with similar problems after mass shootings, including recent slayings in Texas, Ohio and California.

‘It makes me terribly sad and sick to my stomach and angry, and I just feel very sad for those people,’ said Tuft.

Mary Anne Thompson, local chapter leader of Moms Demand Action, an organization pushing for stronger gun laws, has seen the effects on her friend. Tuft used to be a cyclist, hiker and runner.

‘Carolyn has trouble getting up in the morning and getting dressed,’ she told Salt Lake City television station KUTV, which first reported the story. ‘For many like my friend Carolyn, it’s a life sentence of pain.’

Tuft, who survived a mass shooting in Salt Lake City 12 years ago, is slowly dying from lead poisoning after a shotgun left 300 pellets in her body, a report said

In 2015, Tuft went to DC to lobby for action to ban assault weapons. She is pictured, here with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and her son Scott Hinckley, holding the picture of 15-year-old Kirsten

Little research has been done on the effects of lead poisoning from ammunition, said Gabriel Filippelli, a science professor at Indiana University. Doctors haven’t told Tuft how much longer she may survive, but she says she is struggling.

Once lead enters the body, it can travel through the bloodstream and affect vital organs like the kidneys, brain and heart, causing a litany of serious health issues. It can include kidney disease, depression, heart disease and suicidal thoughts, Filippelli said.

‘There are literally now thousands of people who are victims of mass shootings or survivors of gunshot wounds … we need to work harder to study these impacts,’ he said.

Retained lead bullets or fragments can cause elevated lead levels in the blood and make people with higher amounts of lead feel sick, said Michael J. Kosnett, a medical toxicologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

But even those who don’t feel symptoms because levels are lower could be at risk of long-term health effects, he said.

Tuft was shot multiple times when a gunman, Sulejman Talović, opened fire at Trolley Square mall, where she and her daughter Kirsten Hinckley were shopping for Valentine’s Day cards in February 2007.

Both were shot multiple times. Hinckley did not survive.

A Salt Lake City Police officer squats with his gun drawn next to a body inside the mall after a gunman opened fire in the Trolley Square shopping mall on February 12, 2007

The shooter killed five people including Hinckley and injured four others before he was gunned down by police

Trolley Square shooting victim Shawn Munns, 34, showing some of the embedded pellets lodged in his left arm shortly after the shooting

Talović killed five people including Hinckley and injured four others before he was gunned down by police.

Talović was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and migrated with his family to the US in 1998, receiving a green card to be a permanent US resident in 2005. He lived with his parents and three sisters, and purportedly loved hanging out in malls. 

He was carrying two guns – a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and a 38-caliber handgun – when he opened fire. 

Tuft does not favor total gun bans, she said.

But she does support a ban on assault weapons, stronger background checks and proposed ‘red flag’ laws.

‘It’s not OK for someone to come in and take your life away like that. Not just your actual life, but your whole livelihood and everything you hoped and dreamed for,’ she said.

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