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Six weeks before his deadly rampage at Trolley Square mall, Sulejman Talovic proudly showed three young relatives the 12-gauge shotgun, .38-caliber revolver and black backpack of ammunition he had collected.

None of the three teenagers, skeptical of Talovic's claim that he was "hustling" for a local gang, thought to alert Talovic's parents or police.

Talovic had invited the teens, all distant cousins, to his family's west Salt Lake City home on Jan. 1, and the four watched MTV in the basement.

"Do you know what hustling is?" Talovic asked cousin Kemo Muskic, 18.

"Isn't it like when you sell drugs?" Muskic recalls responding.

"And guns, too," Talovic said.

The teens - Muskic and two brothers, Alis and Aldis Mustafic - hadn't spent much time with Talovic recently. But Muskic said they knew him well enough to know he was not a gang member.

Faced with disbelief, Talovic offered "proof." He took the teens into his basement bedroom and opened a small closet.

Inside lay the shotgun and revolver Talovic would use to kill five people and wound four at Trolley Square mall on Feb. 12, before dying in a shootout with police.

The shotgun was kept in a soft-shell gun case with a zipper. The handgun was in a metal gun box.

Next to the weapons lay a backpack with a box of ammunition he would carry during the shooting. Police would later say they found 90 unspent rounds of ammo in the bag.

Talovic opened the metal box and allowed Muskic to hold the handgun. The teens passed it around, examining it for authenticity, Muskic said.

Another cousin, Alis Mustafic, took hold of the shotgun and passed it to the others, Muskic said. "I was surprised," he said.

The Mustafic brothers, reached by telephone, confirmed that they saw the weapons in Talovic's house but declined to elaborate. Muskic said an FBI agent interviewed him two days after the shooting. Alis and Aldis Mustafic said an FBI agent also interviewed them.

With his parents and three younger sisters upstairs, Talovic told the teens he was "strong with the shotgun;" that he got the revolver from another member of the Crips gang; and that he used a knife to remove a swastika tattoo on his arm in order to join the gang. Talovic said he planned to sell the guns.

Talovic showed them a plastic Ziploc bag that was about a quarter full of marijuana, Muskic said. He was asking $200 for the drugs, he said.

Muskic said he didn't put much stock in what Talovic said and didn't ask many questions because he didn't believe him.

"Nobody really believed him," Aldis Mustafic said.

The cousins took it as tough talk from someone trying to impress people.

Muskic had known Talovic since seventh grade, when the two went to Hillside Intermediate School and lived in the same apartment complex. He hadn't seen much of his cousin since then, but knew him as a quiet, reserved kid.

During the 45 minutes or so the teens stayed with Talovic downstairs, Talovic put on a tough demeanor Muskic didn't recognize. He had never before talked about guns or drugs, Muskic said.

"He was talking like he was all that," Muskic said. ''Like he was a 'gangsta.' ''

Talovic's Texas girlfriend, Monika, said he never spoke of guns, drugs or gangs during more than 28 hours of telephone conversations the teens had in the two weeks leading up to Feb. 12. The teens, who never met in person, both had fled war in Bosnia as children.

On Feb. 11, Talovic told Monika only that the next day would be the "happiest day" of his life, and that she would not be able to forgive him.

Talovic's father, Suljo Talovic, has said he never knew his son had guns. If he did, he would have put a stop to whatever he was planning, he said.

Suljo Talovic learned from police that Talovic bought the shotgun legally from a sporting goods store in November. A task force, including local Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, are interviewing previous owners of the revolver.

Police still are investigating the shootings and are expected to release a report in coming weeks.

Muskic said he was shocked by Talovic's shooting spree.

"I just couldn't believe it," he said. "I couldn't believe he was capable of doing something like that."


* MATTHEW D. LAPLANTE contributed to this report.