This article is a work of aggregation building on the reporting
of scores of Patch reporters across more than 900 sites. It was written
by John Ness and Catherine Crawford in consultation with over a dozen
Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook School, where 26 people were murdered: 20 children and 6 educators. The horror of the event brought a renewed focus on the prominence of gun violence in America: its role in suicides, in domestic abuse, in accidents, in street crime, and, of course, in mass shootings perpetrated by the mentally ill.
The annual number of gun-related deaths now almost equals the number of deaths from traffic accidents: tens of thousands of Americans every year. We decided to try to convey the scale and diversity of gun violence by telling 100 stories from across our network. Our hope is that, while Newtown asks for some well-deserved privacy on this anniversary, these stories—of gunshots, threats, and people reacting to gunshots—can help other Americans continue the discussion about our problem with gun violence.
As the horrors at Sandy Hook Elementary flashed across TVs nationwide on Friday, Dec. 14, a man in Des Moines decided he needed to call the police. He told them about his ex-girlfriend, a 33-year-old woman who had been making threats against former co-workers. He said her mental health had deteriorated since she had been fired from her job. She had begun to hear voices, carried on conversations with people who weren’t there, and had compiled a list of people “she was going to take out.”
She wanted to acquire a gun, but doubted she would be able to pass a background check, he said. She admitted to having homicidal and suicidal thoughts, he said.
The ex-boyfriend told police the Newtown shootings convinced him to act “because she might be serious,” according to the police report. Police found the woman laying on the floor in the dark, claiming that she had been illegally hypnotized.
On the Saturday after the shooting, on the other side of the country in Suisun City, CA, an 18-year old was apologizing for celebrating the shootings on Facebook and saying he had considered similar acts. “I was merely being a stupid 18-year-old,” he wrote. On Monday, police arrested him on felony charges of criminal threats.
In Orange County, CA that same Saturday, a 42-year old security guard was "venting his life problems" when police say he shot at a Macy's department store. Police said it was the second time he’d done so.
In Dakota County, MN a woman stabbed a man and told arriving police officers she wished she was the Sandy Hook shooter, because she “understood” him. Twenty miles or so away, Sami Rahamim was catching a flight to New York. That fall, his father had been killed along with four other people by a suicidal employee with a pistol. Sami was meeting a group of mass shooting “survivors” convened by the group “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.” (Of the 93 mass shootings that happened from 2009-2013, four took place at a shooter’s current or former workplace.)
At 2:30 a.m. Monday morning after the Newtown shooting, a Palos Hills, IL man was arrested on a DUI charge, after which he mentioned the Sandy Hook shooting and promised to shoot up a school and the police station after his release. Police went to his home and confiscated his firearms and ammunition “for safekeeping.”
In Charleston, SC something beautiful happened: Teresa Gardner put her hand on a stranger’s chest, and felt the heartbeat of her son, Maraleius Birdsong. The 20-year-old Birdsong was an organ donor, and when he was fatally shot in the head in a robbery in March, his heart had been transferred to the man she had just met for the first time. It was hard to be without her son at Christmas, "but it's a joyous Christmas now," Gardner said.
On Tuesday, Chicago-area SWAT teams swarmed neighborhoods and train stations on a manhunt for two armed bank robbers who'd escaped from a federal jail as schools in Oak Forest and Tinley Park went on lockdown. Prosecutors in Joliet issued an arrest warrant for a former high school teacher under psychiatric care who threatened to “shoot and kill” officials from his school district.
On Wednesday in nearby Oswego, police respond to reports of a man with a weapon in his vehicle outside a Walmart. They found him sitting with an AR-15 style rifle, a shotgun, and a “significant amount” of ammunition. They charged him with two felonies. In California, an 18-year old posted a threat using the account of a student at Palm Springs High School: “im going 2 kill every 1 at pshs 2morow so stay home I got a gun.” The 18-year old was arrested. In Cupertino, CA a stretch of highway was shut down after someone shot a Marine recruiter’s back window out as he drove by.
In Loganville, GA at about 2:40 p.m. a 14-year old boy’s body, which had been bound and shot, was discovered by his father. It was the last day of school before the boy’s Christmas break. Police suspected he was killed as part of a robbery.
On Thursday police in Northampton, PA received a report that a student threatened to bring a gun and knives to school and to kill students and staff. The boy’s mother led police to his bedroom, where they found two handguns on his nightstand. The boy was charged with terroristic threats, and his mother with endangering the welfare of children, among other charges. In California, a 61-year-old man allegedly left a message on a voicemail system at Laurel Elementary School at 4:15 a.m., claiming that there would be a shooting there about seven hours later. The call ended with "maniacal laughter," police said.
On Saturday on Long Island, NY police arrested a 2002 graduate of Mepham High School for threatening to “shoot everyone” at his old school.
That Monday was Christmas Eve. The body of 30-year-old police officer was found early that morning in a parking lot in Wauwatosa, Wis. Six months later, her husband, an Iraq War veteran, pleaded guilty to her murder.
On December 29th in Iowa City, IA a man allegedly fired his handgun inside his apartment, then rammed his Ford Explorer through the glass doors of a sporting good store. Once inside, he smashed his way into the store’s glass cases containing ammunition and firearms and then began “dry firing” several weapons in the store.
Students in Havre de Grace, MD returned from Christmas break to find police officers deployed to each of their schools. That same week in the same town, police found two people shot in a house. One died. By the time they found the shooter, he had shot himself.
At 5 a.m. on January 5, a New Jersey police officer was arrested in the fatal shooting a friend of his in his home.
In California, the Martinez Unified School District took the step of locking not just its main doors, but every classroom door. In Michigan’s Oakland County, teachers received active shooter training, as did teachers in Columbia, Maryland.
On Jan. 12 in San Diego, police shot an armed man in a movie theater, with a dozen matinee moviegoers sitting in the room. At the same time, a forum convened in Oak Creek, WI to talk about how to move forward from the mass shooting perpetrated by a white supremacist at a Sikh Temple in August 2012. They tried to broaden the discussion beyond gun control: "The little things in life ... make us more safe, make us more secure,” the mayor of Oak Creek said. “Hopefully, the public that was here got that out of it."
On January 14, the town of Stratford voted to name its new elementary school after Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who died trying to protect her students. Soto grew up in Stratford, 30 miles from Newtown, and her hometown is now dotted with memorials to her.
Loretta Sieman, a Des Moines mother of a young man with delusional paranoid schizophrenia, was also taking advantage of the window of public attention that followed the Newtown shooting. Sieman told Patch the Sandy Hook gunman could have been “my Kevin.” “One minute he was our Kevin, and the next minute he wasn’t,” his mother said. “Do you know what it feels like to have to call the police because you’re afraid of your son, to tell them he doesn’t belong in your home?”
Kevin died young of natural causes. “Maybe this is why God had to take him,” Sieman, a devout Catholic, said. “This is why I have to speak. I can’t just sit back any more.”
In Orange County, CA a 24-year old dental assistant was reportedly shot and killed by her husband. In Trumbull, CT, just 15 miles south of Newtown, a student “made a threat to return to [his] school in a manner similar to the tragedy in Newtown,” police reported.
In the early morning of January 26, Tyree Wimberly was shot dead outside a strip club in Eastern Pennsylvania. Police arrested 20-year-old Ulysses Rodriguez, whose street name was “Slime,” for the murder. In Liburn, GA a man was shot with a .22-caliber revolver after he pulled into the wrong person’s driveway. He was hit with a bullet as he tried to drive away and later died in intensive care.
In Maryland, the lawyer for the 15-year-old who shot up Perry Hall High School’s cafeteria in 2012, injuring one, pleaded his case. "This is not Columbine. This is not Newtown. Bobby was immature. Bobby was sick. Bobby has mental illness," he said. On January 31 in South Atlanta, one middle school student shot another in the back of the neck, and a teacher was trampled in the panic that ensued. Neither died, and the juvenile shooter was apprehended.
On Feb. 3, the bodies of an engaged couple were found, slumped over in their car in an Irvine, CA parking garage. Both had been shot to death, although robbery did not appear to have been a motive. Disgruntled former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner would eventually be charged with the crime.. The father of the dead woman in the garage had represented Dorner in a hearing that resulted in Dorner’s dismissal from the force.
Attempts to capture Dorner resulted in one of the biggest manhunts in the history of the United States. Around 5:15 a.m. on February 7, 71-year-old Emma Hernandez and her 47-year-old daughter Margie Carranza were shot when officers mistook their vehicles for Dorner’s. That same day, another police officer “was gunned down in an apparent ambush” by Dorner, according to the Riverside Police Department. Five days later, Dorner exchanged fire with two more officers in San Bernadino county. He fatally shot one. That day, Dorner would die in a burning cabin that was filled with ammunition.
On February 12, a University of Maryland graduate student set fires around his house to lure his roommates out of their home. When they came out to help him fight the fires, he shot both roommates with a .22 caliber rifle he’d legally purchased less than a month earlier from a gun store. He then turned the gun on himself. That same day in Maryland, the 15-year-old who had shot up Perry Hall High School was sentenced to 35 years.
In Marion, IA a police chief explained his department’s heavy expenditures on new weapons: "Every time you turn around there is an active shooter somewhere, in a school, in a business,” he said. “It's just getting out of hand."
Later that week, in Blackwood, NJ, two twenty-something former students of Highland Regional High School were charged with third-degree terroristic threats for a Facebook hoax/threat to “shoot up” the school.
Back in Orange County, CA police struggled to determine why a 20-year-old went on a shooting spree. “There's no evidence to explain his bizarre, violent behavior," said a police spokesman. Although four died during the rampage, the killer spared a few who crossed his path. Before carjacking a man’s pickup truck at a gas station, he said to the owner, "I don't want to hurt you. I killed somebody and today's my last day. Give me your keys."
In East Haven, CT, 19-year-old Amanda Bowden threatened a Newtown-style massacre at the city’s Gateway Community College, saying she had guns and napalm.
Confusion led to the accidental police shooting of 89-year-old Marie Zienkewicz in Buck’s County, PA on Feb. 20, when her apartment number was confused with that of a police target.
When Michael League called Puyallup Police in Washington on March 4, he told them he had “committed a father’s worst sin.” League had shot his two adult children because he faced a “litany of family issues and determined there was no other way to resolve them,” according to court documents. One died, and one was critically injured by a gunshot to the head.
Days later in Brandon, FL a 70-year-old man discovered his wife having sex with a 42-year-old man in the couple’s living room when he rose to get a drink in the middle of the night. Wald fetched a gun from the bedroom, shot the man several times, then called 911 and explained he’d shot someone “fornicating” with his wife.
The next day, an eighth-grader and a high school sophomore were fatally shot in the same California park where two other teens had been shot and killed two years earlier. "The things that happen in this park startle me to death," said a local police officer. "It shouldn't be happening and I don't want it to be either a reflection of the people in this park, because it's not that way."
Less than a week later, two police officers from Solon, OH were fired upon during a traffic stop. A bulletproof vest saved the life of one officer who was hit in the chest. The shooter was shot and killed by the policemen.
Back in Newtown, the community hoped for answers as court documents were unsealed on March 28th. The details in the documents revealed a few details about the shooter’s interests, but don’t answer the larger question of why he attacked the school three months earlier.
On April 2 in Georgia, a man is sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary. His attempts were foiled when he confronted Melinda Herman, an armed woman who had been hiding in a closet with her 9-year old twins. The mother shot the burglar five times in self-defense.
In the first week of April, a man tried to prompt police to kill him when he pulled a replica gun at the Vernon Hills Police Department in suburban Chicago. Lazarus was shot and wounded by police. In his pocket was a note that read, “I apologize for placing your officers in this position. I am dying from cancer and couldn’t do the deed myself.”
At an April 6 house party in Detroit, teenager Balaal Hollings was shot in the head while trying to break up a fight. Doctors thought he might never walk or talk again, but two months later he walked across a graduation stage to tell his classmates, “I am fully rehabilitated.”
In Tom’s River, NJ a 4-year-old boy shot and killed Brandon Holt, his 6-year-old neighbor and playmate. The death was determined accidental, but the 4-year-old’s father was later charged with child endangerment and failing to secure weapons. "Brandon had the most precious and most contagious but shy smile," a friend of his grandmother told Patch.
On April 15, two terrorist brothers set off bombs at the Boston Marathon. On April 18, they shot and killed 27-year-old MIT officer Sean Collier, who was weeks away from being sworn into the Somerville Police Department. Collier was posthumously appointed to the department, and given badge number 310. Police thought the brothers attacked Collier for his gun.
After an eight-day, two-state manhunt, police finally caught up with a man who allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend in Waukesha, WI. Police found him on an Indiana bike trail on April 22, but before they could arrest him, he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head. Camden, NJ was set on edge three days later when a man repeatedly called 911 to report bomb threats and shootings across the area.
On April 26, a man at a check-cashing store in Marietta, GA. was robbed and shot to death. "If they wanted to rob my husband, just take his money. You didn't have to kill him. Why did you kill him?" his wife lamented.
In California’s East Palo Alto, five people were shot and injured in a drive-by-shooting while waiting at a bus stop on Sunday, May 5. In the southern part of the state, the family of a 25-year-old whose fatal shooting by a sheriff’s deputy was allegedly caught on a cameraphone, announced plans to file for $10 million in a wrongful death claim. Not far away, a carjacking attempt and alleged homicide in the high desert town of Yucca Valley led to a high-speed chase and shootout two days later. One of the suspects died at the scene, and another, as well as a California Highway Patrolman, were injured by gunshots.
On a Saturday night in East Atlanta, a 33-year-old named Patrick Cotrona was shot and killed during a street robbery. On the Monday after, his brother-in-law nailed a cardboard sign to a pole where the crime occurred that read, “His name was Patrick Catrona. He’s my brother and a kind and loving son and uncle and friend. He went to Ga. Tech. He loved video games & beer. He was a computer engineer & East Atlanta homeowner. And he was murdered, shot down.”
Police Chief David Sabagh told anxious residents of Montclair, NJ to “rest assured there is no one else out there,” after a 26-year-old man shot his girlfriend with a stolen gun multiple times before shooting himself on May 16.
Parents in Dearborn, MI organized a bowling fundraiser on May 18 to fund a new, modern security system for a local high school. Regan Ford, who helped spearhead the event said "As a parent, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School really weighed on my mind. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere."
A June 5 “prank” gone awry nearly crippled a Lothian, MD 21-year-old. Another young man, 22, mistook a .40-caliber handgun for a BB gun and shot Raley in the buttocks while he slept. The victim’s mother said an artery in her son’s leg was “destroyed,” but her thoughts were also with the shooter. “I know he is not a boy because he was 22, but I am a parent and will call him a boy, and this is going to affect his life and his family,” the mother of the victim said. “I have a totally different opinion now on guns and the responsibility people who own these guns should have.”
Shaken by the recent mass shootings, a California State University in Temecula offered a workshop called “Surviving an Active Shooter,” on June 6.
A day later in nearby Santa Monica five people were killed in a rolling wave of gun violence. Clad in black and carrying a semiautomatic weapon, a 23-year-old man fired at people and cars, killing four before police fatally shot him in the Santa Monica College library.
Multiple memorials were held for victims of the shooting. A sister of one of the victims adjusted the collection of candles and flowers laid across the front of a recycle bin before the vigil began. "Too much," she said, placing her hands over her heart. "I love her too much.”
In less than a week, Santa Monica saw another gun murder when a 29-year old man was shot in an apparent gang rivalry turf war. The murder took place in an alley near the already shell-shocked college.
Still in California, a school district in Los Alamitos made plans to prepare its students for a mass shooter. The district decided to “take the existing Homeland Security guidelines on active shooters and modify it for an elementary school or other school environment.” The decision to train children to protect themselves from mass murders stemmed partly from recent mass shootings, but was also influenced by a scare from two years ago, when police stopped an alleged gunman who had shot 9 people (and killed 8) nearby. The gunman was heading from the massacre to his son's second grade school. When police arrested him, he was just blocks from the school and heavily armed, wearing a bullet proof vest.
Days later in Los Angeles, a man sued the LAPD officers who mistakenly fired on him as they were searching for Christopher Dorner. Outside San Diego, an 82-year-old man shot his 73-year-old wife when she served him with divorce papers. In New Jersey, 18-year old Isaac Rinas was shot dead hours after he graduated from high school.
On July 2, a Minnesota court ruled that a victim’s family could not sue the employer of a man who committed a mass shooting of six coworkers after he was told of his dismissal. Reuven Rahamim, whose son Sami flew to New York the Sunday after the Newtown shootings, was the owner of the business and one of the people killed by the mass shooter.
On July 6, Erica Smegielski got married to the man her mother had picked as her “soulmate” when they were 12-year-olds. Her mother was Dawn Hochsprung, the principal at Sandy Hook School who was among the first murdered by the shooter on Dec. 14, and at Erica’s wedding there was an empty chair near the dance floor in her mother’s memory.
On July 8, a military veteran in Washington state shot at police officers who responded to a complaint at his mobile home. His girlfriend described him as a Purple Heart recipient suffering from PTSD who couldn’t get the help he needed from Veterans Affairs.
On July 11 in Chicago, a firefighter’s wife called 911 to tell police her husband was on the phone telling her about his suicidal thoughts. Police found the firefighter’s black SUV in the parking lot of a CVS drug store. The firefighter was inside, apparently talking on his cell phone. His wife had told police he owned a gun. He left the car, made the sign of the cross, and then crouched into a “combat stance.” The firefighter was holding an object, and police fired at him. "Thank you for doing what I wanted you to do," he told a police sergeant afterward.
Two days later, a man in North Hollywood, Calif. was fatally shot in a road rage incident.
Early August marked the first anniversary of the Sikh Temple shootings in Oak Creek, WI which took the lives of six people. Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, accepted an invitation to speak. "These things shouldn't define people. You have to overcome it," Parker said.
On August 5, three people at a Pennsylvania municipal meeting were killed in a mass shooting. Prosecutors are currently seeking the death penalty for the alleged shooter, a junk collector whose property had recently been condemned. Other municipal officials in the area tried to go on with their daily routines. "We're in the process of security upgrades here at the township building,” said the manager of nearby township. “But state law says that anyone can bring a licensed firearm into any public meeting."
On the same day, two homeless men in Tampa were shot: Larry Schuff was injured and Brian Kennedy died. As part of a profile six months earlier, they had told a Patch editor that their goals for the future were to stay alive.
On Aug. 6, a neighborhood in Montclair, NJ saw its third shooting in three months when four people were injured in a drive-by shooting. Also in New Jersey, later in the month, gas station attendant Surinder Singh was shot in a robbery. Christine Wiegand, who worked at a nearby diner, gave an account: “We heard a pop, like a blowout. The guy stopped. He sat wiggling in the middle of the street.”
On Aug. 20 a man walked into an elementary school in DeKalb County, Ga. with an AK-47-style assault rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. He shot at police officers who arrived. Somehow, school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff talked sense into him. “I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you,” she told him in a conversation that was recorded on a 911 call. “That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life.” He surrendered.
No charges were filed in the killing of a 44-year old resident of Cherokee County, GA who was shot on Aug. 25 by a man he’d just eaten dinner with. The two men got into an after-dinner argument, resulting in the home’s resident shooting his guest on his porch.
In California on Labor Day, the body of a twenty-eight-year old woman was found under a bridge in Newport Beach. She was lying face down, appearing to have died from a gunshot wound.
On Sept. 10, a twenty-one-year old man was shot and killed by an 18-year-old in Chicago. His death was “in retaliation for a previous meeting ... to exchange drugs and money for a firearm that the victim had,” police said.
On Sept. 15, a quadruple shooting resulting in three deaths took place in Gwinnett County, GA. A mother, her 12-year-old son, and 19-year-old godson were all shot and killed by a 33-year-old man, who had been taken into the mother’s home two weeks earlier in what was called a “charitable act.”
A few days later, harrowing 911 tapes of that massacre were released. and a neighbor is heard saying, "He's in our driveway. He has a machine gun. He's chasin' them. He just kept shooting, kept shooting. I think she's dead."
On Monday, Sept. 16, Washington DC erupted in chaos when a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard. The 34-year-old fired his first shots at about 8:20 a.m. in the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building. "They know the dangers of serving abroad," President Obama said, "but today they faced the unimaginable violence they wouldn't have expected at home."
The FBI released surveillance video of the shooter entering the Washington Navy Yard before embarking on the shooting spree which left 13, including Alexis, dead. He carried a shotgun covered with etchings: "End to the torment," "Better off this way," and "Not what ya'll say," among other. The FBI said the etchings and other evidence pointed to the shooter’s “delusional” state.
Stories about heroic attempts to save those wounded in the September rampage began to emerge: Navy Yard workers scrambled to help a thirty-year Navy veteran, Vishnu Pandit. Pandit’s colleague Bertillia Lavern stayed with him and prayed. “I felt him breathe,” she said. Vishnu Pandit did not survive.
The following day, a 49-year-old Marine and father of three accidentally shot and killed himself in the Midwest Gun Shop in Lyons, Illinois.
On Sept. 25, a manhunt ensued after a 63-year-old man shot two people, killing one, at an office in Garden City, NY. While he was at large, a nearby shopping mall was placed on lockdown and Garden City schools went into lockdown mode. The shooter’s body was found in the Hudson River five days later.
An 11-year old in New Hampshire threatened to shoot a classmate with a shotgun on Oct. 1. The next day in New Jersey, schools in Point Pleasant Beach and Point Borough were put on lockdown because of a suicidal, armed man at large in the area. The man was later found and taken to the hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Two weeks later in San Diego, CA 20-year old Jonathan Juarez threatened shoot and kill fellow students at the Poway Adult School. Juarez was arrested before acting on the threat.
Then, on Oct. 23, a 13-year old boy was shot and killed by Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies when they mistook his toy gun, a replica of an AK-47, for an assault rifle. When the deputies saw a male with a gun, they ordered him to drop it, and then fired several shots. The boy died at the scene, after which the police found another plastic gun in his waistband.
Panic followed when a lone gunman sprayed bullets in Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport at 9:20 a.m. on Nov. 1.
One TSA worker, Gerardo Hernandez, was killed. Among the injured was a teacher from nearby Calabasas High School. In response to the shooting, many of his students rallied in a protest of gun violence.
Days later, still in California, a restaurant in Perris was the scene of a drive-by shooting. “An occupant of the vehicle fired at the patrons exiting the restaurant,” police said. “A security guard returned fire at the suspect vehicle as it fled the location.” Five people were left with gunshot wounds.
In New Jersey on Nov. 4 police located the body of a 20-year old gunman who opened fire at the Garden State Plaza Mall with a .22 caliber rifle. The shooter, who had stolen the rifle from his brother, committed suicide, and no one else was injured in the incident. His body was found after a multiple-hour search in a storage area of the mall.
At the end of the month, Connecticut released a 44-page document titled “Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury on the Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda Street, Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012," with details on Sandy Hook School massacre. Despite the thorough investigation, no motive could be found for Adam Lanza’s actions.
After nearly seven months of searching, police in Pennsylvania caught up with 21-year old Ulysses Rodriguez, a.k.a. “Slime,” who allegedly had shot and killed a man outside a strip club in Janurary. It was when police arrested “Slime” on a public drunkenness charge that they realized who they had.
On Dec. 2, a student of the University of New Haven allegedly took an assault weapon and two handguns onto the campus, resulting in an hours-long lockdown. The next day, police recovered newspaper clippings of mass shootings from his home. He was charged with illegal possession of an assault weapon, among other crimes. He had a valid pistol permit to carry handguns and two legally registered weapons, police said.
In New Jersey, Patch requested the number of gun permits requested in Chester Township, Chester Borough, Mendham Township, and Mendham Borough. Records showed that the number of permits requested in 2013 (as of December 5) were double or even quadruple what people had requested in 2011.
On Dec. 13, Connecticut Governor Danell Malloy ordered flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Dec. 14, the anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook School.
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