Tragedies happen everywhere. It’s often the case, especially with violent outbreaks, that people say “you wouldn’t think it could happen here.” But sleepy towns like Sandy Hook, Connecticut are no less susceptible to horrors like mass shootings than places like New York or Los Angeles. The horrible murders of seven people (and suicide of the gunman) that rocked Texas County, Missouri this week happened in exactly the kind of place where people think it couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. The suspect, 36-year-old Joseph Jesse Aldridge, apparently went door-to-door killing his neighbors after finding his 74-year-old mother dead on her sofa.
Texas County, Missouri, located in the southeastern part of the state, has a population of near 26,000. The 2010 census identified Texas County as the “center of population” for the whole United States. This means that if the US were perfectly flat and had to be balanced by the weight of its population, Texas County would be the fulcrum. (Expect much to be made, symbolically, of this serendipitous fact in coverage of the murders story.) The 1,179 square mile Texas County is in Missouri’s 8th congressional district. According to the 2000 census, the population was 96% white. The largely Republican-controlled county has a median income per household of about $30,000.