LA nursery gunman surrenders to police
Thursday 12 August 1999
Buford Oneal Furrow, a known associate of neo-Nazi groups with a history of psychiatric problems, walked into the FBI office in Las Vegasat around 9am and said: "You're looking for me. I killed the kids in Los Angeles."
Nobody, in fact, died at the North Valley Jewish Community Centre in Granada Hills - three children, a teenager and an elderly woman were hit and survived - but Furrow is now being linked with the murder of a postal worker whose body was found in a suburban driveway an hour after the attack.
He appears to have eluded police by abandoning his red and white van, car-jacking a green Toyota and then taking a taxi on the 275-mile journey across the Mojave desert to Las Vegas. He changed taxis on the California- Nevada border, running up a combined meter charge of about $800. It was not immediately clear why he chose to turn himself in.
Police say Furrow, 37, an unassuming, heavy-set man from Washington state, entered the North Valley Jewish Community Centre in Granada Hills at 10.49am on Tuesday and opened fire with a 9mm automatic weapon, possibly an Uzi. He fired more than 70 rounds, blowing out windows and riddling the walls and fixtures with holes.
The receptionist, Isabelle Shalometh, 68, dived under a desk after being grazed on the back and arm and shouted to everyone to take cover. In a shooting spree that lasted just a few minutes, the gunman struck Mindy Finkelstein, 16, Joshua Stepakoff, eight, and two boys aged six and five who were not named.
The five-year-old almost died after being hit in the abdomen and back, enduring six hours of surgery before doctors declared he was out of immediate danger.
By the time police arrived four minutes after the attack, Furrow was already gone. His van was found abandoned a mile and a half away and the car-jacked Toyota Corolla was parked at the 7-Star Suites motel in nearby Chatsworth. Police Swat teams evacuated the motel and spent much of Tuesday night futilely scouring the building for clues.
Furrow was a member of the Aryan Nations group, based in Idaho, and had a long-standing relationship with the widow of Robert Mathews, who, as leader of the group The Order, robbed several banks in the early 1980s and claimed responsibility for the 1984 murder of the provocative Denver talk radio host Alan Berg - an episode that inspired two Hollywood films dealing with neo-Nazi violence, Costa-Gavras's Betrayed and Oliver Stone's Talk Radio.
According to acquaintances of the couple, Furrow courted Debbie Mathews after her husband died in a shoot-out with federal agents on Whidbey Island near Seattle. They lived together for several years in Metaline Falls, a tiny community in eastern Washington near the Idaho border, making no secret of their affiliations or their beliefs. A photo of Furrow in Nazi uniform has since been obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group campaigning against white supremacists.
Furrow earned a living as a tractor mechanic until the work dried up and his relationship with Mathews ended three years ago. Moving back to western Washington, where he grew up, he agreed to have himself committed at a psychiatric hospital last year because of increasingly violent fantasies. When he began treatment, however, he pulled a knife on several staff members, resulting in a five-month jail term for second-degree assault. "Sometimes I feel like I could just lose it and kill people," Furrow told a sheriff's deputy after his arrest.
He was released on probation in May and went to live with his parents near the state capital, Olympia. Last Saturday, he bought his red and white van, filled it with ammunition, explosives, bulletproof vests, freeze- dried food, a US army ranger handbook and some neo-Nazi literature, then made the long drive down to Los Angeles. Why he chose to travel 1,200 miles to make his attack is not clear. He said nothing during the shooting and left no manifesto in his van. Police believe, however, that he was acting alone.
The incident has stunned America, with politicians, community leaders and media commentators becoming alarmed at a spate of gun violence motivated by little more than abstract hatred. President Bill Clinton described the attack as "another senseless act of gun violence". Jewish community centres across the US posted armed guards outside their main entrances yesterday.
1999's Killing Sprees
July 29: Mark Barton, an Internet day trader with massive losses to his name, kills his family then goes on a shooting rampage in two Atlanta brokerage firms, killing 12 people before committing suicide. A week later, a 34-year-old office worker in Pelham, Alabama, is charged with killing three former colleagues
July 2-4: Benjamin Smith, 21, a member of the white supremacist World Church of the Creator, goes on an Independence Day weekend killing spree in the Midwest, shooting blacks, Jews and Asians in the Chicago area before taking his life as the police close in on him
May 20: T J Solomon, 15, a student at Heritage High School in the Atlanta suburb of Conyers, is accused of firing 14 shots from a .22-calibre rifle and a 357 Magnum handgun, wounding six of his fellow students in the process
April 20: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold use automatic weapons and explosives to launch an attack on Columbine High School near Denver. They kill 12 of their fellow students and a teacher before turning their weapons on themselves
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