Becky Dieter was checking the channels on her TV on Sunday, Aug. 4, when she saw the breaking news. Two mass murders, one just a couple hundred miles away from her Cuyahoga Falls home.

It was three days away from the eighth anniversary of the Aug. 7, 2011, Copley shootings in which Dieter’s boyfriend Michael Hance, 51, killed seven people and wounded Dieter in a 10-minute shooting frenzy. A Copley officer who had responded to the scene shot and killed Hance.

“No, no, no. This isn’t happening,” Dieter said as she took in the TV news report about the shootings — one in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, in which 22 people were killed, and another hours later, on Aug. 4, in which nine people were fatally shot in Dayton.

Memories of the Copley shootings came rushing back. Dieter, now 57, said she felt “pressure in her chest ... extreme anxiety.”

She again wondered — as she often does, even without such triggers — if there was something she could have done to prevent the rampage, if there was some way she could have found a clue in Hance’s behavior to indicate that he was planning such an attack.

On Thursday, the day after the anniversary of the Copley shootings, she spoke with the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com, reflecting on her experience, the recent shootings and the reignited debate over gun control.

“Even though I am a surviving victim of a mass shooting,” Dieter said, “I still believe in our Second Amendment rights.”

She supports Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed “safety protection order” proposal, called a "red-flag" law, because, she said, it  "gives a family help when they are concerned about a loved one,” while ensuring due process.

Red-flag laws, which are now in 17 states, generally allow for police and family members to get a court order to take away firearms from someone who appears to be at risk. The due process provisions in DeWine’s proposal include a hearing within three days; police are ordered to seize the person’s guns if a judge finds “clear and convincing evidence” the person is dangerous.

The red-flag law would not have prevented the Copley shooting, however, Dieter said. She stressed that Hance — who killed neighbors and family members — gave no indication that he would, or could, harm anyone.

Dieter, echoing earlier comments, said Hance had not shown violent behavior before the mass shooting. He had no criminal history.

Family members of shooters, Dieter said, “always seem to be blamed, [people saying], they should have known.”

Hance was depressed and had been having trouble sleeping, she said. She and Hance were both grieving over deaths of family members.

He had displayed unusual behavior, but nothing that alarmed her.

“There were reasons,” she said, for his quirks.

For example, he removed all the batteries from the clocks in the house, telling her the ticking sound bothered him.

But “to connect the dots” from those actions to Hance turning into a mass shooter "would have been unfathomable" to her.

“I now believe he was suffering from some type of paranoid delusional disorder, and was in a psychotic state," she said.

“If I would have known that he was going to kill my family and friends, I absolutely would have done something to stop him," Dieter said. "I would have done whatever I could that was humanly possible."

"The act is so unfathomable because it's so uncharacteristic for a man who for 51½ years of his life never was violent."

 

Background checks

After the El Paso and Dayton shootings, DeWine also called for stronger background checks. He said checks should be performed for all gun sales in the state, with the exception of sales between family members and "certain other limited sales.”

Currently, Ohio does not require private sellers (sellers who are not federally licensed firearms dealers) to perform a background check when transferring a firearm.

Dieter said she doesn’t see the call for “universal” checks as onerous: “I don’t think it’s an infringement on the rights of anyone buying a gun to have a thorough background check.”

But, she said, a background check didn’t prevent Hance from buying a gun five days before the Copley shootings. He passed a federal background check at a Barberton pawn shop and got the gun the same day, the shop owner said in 2011. It was one of two handguns he used in the rampage.

Currently, Ohio does not require private sellers (sellers who are not federally licensed firearms dealers) to perform a background check when transferring a firearm.

 

Gun magazines

Dieter also favors a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines, like those used by the Dayton killer.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl has said the Dayton killer’s semi-automatic pistol was modified to fire like a rifle. It had double drum magazines that allowed him to fire as many as 100 .223-caliber rounds without reloading, the chief said.

The attacker fired at least 41 shots in less than 30 seconds, killing nine people.

DeWine’s proposals do not address the magazines. When asked about the devices last week, he said some issues should be addressed at the federal level.

 

Shooting's fallout

Earlier this month, Dieter said, she celebrated her first year without any hospital stays since the 2011 shootings. She suffered two collapsed lungs when Hance shot her. One lung was struck by a bullet and the other was punctured by a rib fractured when she fell.

She's no longer comfortable in crowded places — even though the Copley shootings took place in a quiet neighborhood.

She continues to see a therapist, and she's found a church home at Grace Church in Bath, where she attends a grief group. 

"I know God is with me. I know he would love [for] me to focus forward, but it's very difficult," she said. "I don't think about the fact I was injured. I think about all those people who are gone."

"Pray for the victims and their families and friends," Dieter said of the recent mass shootings. "I also ask that you please pray for the shooter's family members and friends. They are often forgotten victims or are blamed for the family members' actions."

 

 Contact Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook.