Racist shooting spree ends in suicide

A SHOOTING spree that shattered Fourth of July celebrations in Chicago and other Midwest cities ended late on Sunday when the suspect, a 21-year-old student known for his racist views, shot himself after leading police on a chase through the Illinois countryside.

The man, who died shortly afterwards, was identified yesterday as Benjamin Nathaniel Smith. Police said they believed Smith had been responsible for a string of attacks over a period of 48 hours, shooting Jews, blacks and Asians. Two of the victims died and another seven were injured.

"It looks like our guy," a spokesman for the FBI, Doug Garrison, said yesterday. The suicide brought to an abrupt end a weekend of increasing terror in the Midwest as the gunman carried out a series of drive-by shootings in a succession of cities and neighbourhoods.

Smith was a follower of a white supremacist group, the World Church of the Creator, which preaches hatred against non-whites.

Until May he was a student at Indiana University, where he was known for distributing racist literature on campus. One leaflet concluded: "Our people, the Great White Race, are slaves to a deceitful, alien government, a controlled media, and a suicidal religion."

Smith was seen late on Sunday near Salem, Illinois, driving a van he had apparently hijacked earlier. After leading police on a chase, he shot himself in the head before crashing the van. Police found weapons in the van that seemed to match those used in all of the weekend's shootings. They were able to identify him because of a tattoo on his chest that read: "Sabbath Breaker".

Even at the outset of the rampage, police warned that the shootings culd be racially motivated. It began on Friday evening, just as the Independence Day holiday was getting under way, in the Rogers Park neighbourhood of Chicago, an area with large numbers of Orthodox Jews. From his car, the gunman fired on groups of worshippers as they left synagogue, injuring two seriously.

Later the same evening, a black man was shot in the back and fatally wounded in Skokie, a Chicago suburb. He was Ricky Byrdsong, a former basketball coach at Northwestern University, who had been walking with two of his four children. They were unhurt.

From Chicago, Smith headed south. Two blacks were fired on in Springfield, Illinois, on Saturday but were not hurt. Later on Saturday, the gunmen shot at a group of six Asian students on a street corner in the university town of Urbana.

One suffered serious wounds to a leg.

Another man was fatally wounded outside a Korean church in Bloomington, Indiana, on Sunday morning. He was named as Won Joon Yoon, a 26-year-old doctoral student, who collapsed and died on the pavement outside the Korean United Methodist Church after being shot.

"I heard bang, bang, bang, bang," recalled the church's minister, Byunchill Hahn, who was preparing the Sunday morning service when the shots rang out.

Weeping, Mr Hahn went on: "I thought it was a firecracker for the Fourth of July." Another worshipper, Pyung Ho Kim, who had been walking with Mr Won, said: "How can you possibly imagine that kind of thing happening at the church?"

Police noted that Smith had personal links with almost every location on his 48-hour spree. He was from Chicago, attended university both in Urbana, about an hour south of Chicago and home to the University of Illinois, and more recently at the Indiana University in Bloomington.

At Indiana, Smith had contributed to the Indiana Daily Student, under the pen name August Smith.

An official of the Anti-Defamation League in the Midwest acknowledged yesterday that Smith had been under its scrutiny for some time, because of his affiliation to the World Church and his activities at Indiana University and a year earlier in Urbana. "He has been on our radar screen for quite some time," Harlan Loeb, a lawyer for the league, said. "That is particularly tragic for someone so young."

The leader of the World Church of the Creator, Matt Hale, conceded that Smith had been a member of the organisation until recently. But he denied that the church's teachings were an incitement to its followers to commit murder. Of Smith, he said: "When I spoke to him he never gave any inkling of being able to do this."

At Indiana University, the dean, Richard McKaig, remembered summoning Smith to his office earlier this spring to question him about the racist leaflets he had been handing out. "He was a very common type of student, nothing disturbing or unusual about him at that time. Not his dress or look, except for his racist views, which were pretty abhorrent," Mr McKaig said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'