Chicago's deaf community mourning following Maine mass shooting

Four victims of the shooting were deaf, prompting concern and grief for the community across the country and right here in Chicago

NBC Universal, Inc.

A total of 18 people were killed when a gunman open fired in a bowling alley and restaurant in Maine. Four of the victims would never hear the shots coming.

Josh Seal, Steve Vozzella, Bryan MacFarlane and Billy Brackett were all part of the deaf community, and were playing in a cornhole tournament when they lost their lives.

“The deaf here are all going to be feeling like ‘that could be me,'" said Rev. Joseph Mulcrone, the director of Offices for the Deaf in the Archdiocese in Chicago. “Several people in our community in Chicago are very aware, and actually know deaf people in Maine, including one of the families where the husband died."

Mulcrone sat down with NBC 5's Courtney Sisk on Saturday morning to provide details about the close-knit deaf community and the impact these crimes have.

"The deaf child grows up and seeks out people like themselves," he explained. "So when a deaf person sees another person that is deaf it’s like oh we’re the same.' There is this bond that happens and it’s like your other family.”

He says the deaf community is aware, but vulnerable in many ways.

"They can’t hear. So shooting, screaming, warnings, traffic accidents... Many people who are deaf grow up very, very vigilant, very aware of what’s happening around them because they have to depend on their eyes.”

For him, the tragedy also brings back memories from September when two teenage boys were shot at and killed in Palatine.

One of the victims could hear, the other, Uriel Garcia was deaf.

"Some people came and they were shooting at the hearing friend. Uriel didn’t hear the shots," he recalled.

Garcia's childhood friend Dulce Marquez, who is also part of the deaf community, shared more about him with NBC Chicago.

"He was funny, he was amazing, he was a good friend and made everyone laugh," she signed. “It wasn't fair he didn’t hear the shots."

Sunday's mass will be dedicated to honoring the victims, and praying for their families. Mulcrone also suspects there will be a lot of important conversations about safety.

“That feeling is, 'that could be me,'" he said. “So for the deaf people around the United States there’s a huge awareness of this situation, a huge thinking of 'how do I have to be careful?'”

Contact Us