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COSTA MESA : Memorial Service Held at Fairview

Eight days after a fatal shooting spree at the Fairview Developmental Center, the wounded state hospital director returned to work Wednesday as about 200 employees gathered to remember a facilities supervisor slain in the attack.

“It was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man,” said Robert Motis, son of 53-year-old Allen Motis of Garden Grove, who was shot three times and killed while at work on July 30.

A state official read a message of condolence from Gov. Pete Wilson and his wife, saying they were “shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless events” at Fairview last week. Others who knew Motis, the building and trade supervisor at the hospital, remembered him as a warm and caring “gentleman.”

There was no mention at the memorial service of Michael E. Rahming, the 38-year-old hospital painter who is now in custody in connection with the murder. But he was clearly on the minds of many as they wrestled with what one pastor called “the serious unanswered questions” that linger.

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“During the past week,” said Hal Britt, an administrator at the 1,100-patient hospital who used to head the personnel department, “many of us have tried to make sense of this tragedy. There is none--at least not that we can comprehend.”

But authorities and those who knew Rahming have offered some explanation for his alleged actions.

Rahming had filed several grievances, claiming his supervisors had harassed him because he is black. Psychological tests ordered by hospital officials indicated that Rahming’s perceptions of bias could drive him to violence, although there were conflicting conclusions. He was allowed to stay at work.

Months of growing tensions in the hospital paint shop apparently exploded July 30 about 9:30 a.m. when Rahming allegedly walked into a break room in the facilities area with a .32-caliber revolver and shot Motis and James Pichon, 36, of El Toro, another supervisor in the paint shop. Rahming reportedly had been at odds with both men.

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Police say Rahming then drove across the hospital complex to the administration building and, after a struggle, shot the hospital director, Hugh Kohler.

Rahming was arrested quietly less than an hour later at his Long Beach home. He has been charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder, and use of a firearm.

Pichon was released from the hospital last week with a superficial head wound, and hospital officials said he is recovering well at home. Family members, however, said he has been despondent about Motis, his boss and friend.

Contrary to police reports of only a single gunshot wound, Kohler, 43, of Costa Mesa, said he suffered two surface wounds to the head, one at the scalp and the other at the back of his neck. But as employees welcomed him back at Wednesday’s service, he appeared fit and rested, without the bandages he had worn last week.

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Kohler said he plans to resume his duties at the hospital today.

While Kohler, under instructions from authorities, refused to discuss the shootings, he did say that his duties will include a review of the tragedy and the events leading up to it.

While the investigation into the shootings remains in the hands of the Orange County district attorney’s office, Kohler added that “obviously we intend to look at anything that helps us understand what happened.”


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