2013-05-01 / Front Page

Shooting victim’s family asks for social media checks

BY THOMAS CASTLES
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Less than a year after a teenage girl was gunned down in Old Bridge, her family took part in a gun violence prevention discussion that was held at the Old Bridge municipal complex on March 27.

Maria LoBrutto, an Old Bridge resident whose daughter, Cristina, 18, was one of two Pathmark employees shot and killed by a co-worker on Aug. 31, 2012, at the Route 9, Old Bridge, supermarket, was on hand with her daughter, Michelle, to advocate the passage of Cristina’s Law.

The proposal, if signed into law following passage in the state Legislature, would require employers to screen a job candidate’s social media sites before hiring an individual.

On Aug. 31, Pathmark employee Terence Tyler, 23, a former Marine, left the night shift at the store at about 3:30 a.m. and later returned wearing military-issue desert camouflage and armed with an assault-style rifle and two other weapons.

He entered the store and fired randomly at the other workers, killing LoBrutto and Bryan Breen, 24, also of Old Bridge, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. Tyler then took his own life.

During their investigation, authorities discovered that Tyler had posted several comments online empathizing with mass murderers and threatening violence.

“The lunatic’s intentions were clear and published in a very open and unambiguous way. On Aug. 31, 2012, he simply followed through,” the LoBrutto family wrote in a letter to the New Jersey Legislature.

Cristina’s Law would require a business operator to screen a prospective employee’s social media history during the background check process.

“If responsible employers decline employment to those who have expressed evil intent, and if responsible employers take the additional step of bringing such intent to the attention of authorities and those in a position to possibly intervene and offer assis- tance, lives will be saved,” the LoBrutto family wrote.

Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry expressed his support for Cristina’s Law, which has yet to be introduced in the Legislature.

“Cristina’s Law, I think, is an excellent piece of legislation,” Henry said. “We are not trying to be Big Brother, but we are looking to identify people who are calling out for help.”

About 2,700 people have signed an online petition advocating the passage of Cristina’s Law.

“I believe we have an obligation in society to find out what people’s intentions are,” Henry said. “If they are posting on social media that they wish evil upon others, then as a society we need to react to that. He [Tyler] was able to broadcast on social media that he had ill intentions, that he wanted to kill his co-workers, and yet he was able to get a job here in Old Bridge. … He was able to inflict unspeakable horror and unspeakable pain, which reached out to the entire community.”

According to Henry, the law would cost employers about $30 per social media screen.

“This is similar technology to what the New York Police Department is using now to look for information. This identifies the people who are calling out for help,” the mayor said.

The LoBrutto family’s letter to state legislators concludes with the statement, “Had this employer [Pathmark] simply performed a background check that included a basic review of its prospective employee’s social networking sites, it would have easily learned that this individual made direct threats against those with whom he worked or would work. On Aug. 31, that person was Cristina LoBrutto.”

During the roundtable discussion, Michelle LoBrutto said, “I didn’t just lose my sister that day, I lost my best friend.”

The petition for Cristina’s Law can be found at www.change.org.

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