US tolerates too much violence, Clinton warns

PRESIDENT BILL Clinton warned Americans yesterday that they were becoming too tolerant of violence as the hunt intensified for the man responsible for a shooting which shocked Seattle on Wednesday.

In America's second multiple shooting in 24 hours, the gunman killed two men and wounded two others in an unexplained boatyard attack. Seven people died on Tuesday when a worker opened fire on colleagues at an office meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Citing the statistic that 13 children are shot dead every day in the US, Mr Clinton said: "I don't think we understand fully just how much more violent the United States is than other countries."

Seattle's police chief, Norm Stamper, said extra officers would be put on duty to find the killer. Although there appeared to be few clues to his identity, police said they had received many tips. "We have a handful that look pretty good at this point," said Chief Stamper. But publicly, at least, the police had no theory about the deaths.

The gunman, described as a white man in his thirties, walked calmly into a boat repair shop, shot four men with a 9mm pistol, and disappeared. A police dog apparently picked up his scent but lost it. The police pulled in a suspect but soon released him. The boatyard is located in a busy commercial district and the gunman simply vanished into the crowds.

Seattle's mayor, Paul Schell, asked the public to be wary as night fell. "Check on your neighbours, check on senior citizens, check on your premises," he said. Local schools were shut down in the immediate aftermath, but reopened yesterday.

The killer seemed not to know the victims; at least, they did not know him. But he walked straight to the office where the shooting took place and left immediately afterwards, suggesting he knew who he was after.

The dead were named as Peter Giles, 27, and Russell Brisendine, 43. A 58-year-old man shot once in the chest was reported to be in a serious condition, while a 19-year-old man shot in the arm was satisfactory.

Mr Giles, the shipyard manager, was "just a super young fellow", said his grandfather, Richard Kelly. "Who would expect a decent, law-abiding, wonderful citizen to just get shot in cold blood?"

The police called in armed assault teams, helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and dogs as the hunt continued last night, but they acknowledged the trail had gone cold.

Mr Clinton's warning was seen as an attempt to revive the debate on gun control. "Our nation continues on this day to be reminded of the horrors of gun violence. We need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children," he said. "Congress needs to send me common- sense [gun] legislation."

The issue may become more important as campaigning for the 2000 presidential election begins in earnest. So far, each incident has sparked horror and calls for new gun laws, but public interest has soon subsided.

t One of the most intense police manhunts in recent US history appears to have come to an end with the discovery of a pile of sun-bleached bones.

The body, reduced to little more than a skeleton, tangled in the roots of a cedar tree in the Utah desert, was discovered by Navajo deer hunters. It was clad in a bulletproof vest and a parka stuffed with pipe bombs. Nearby lay a semi-automatic rifle, military-style helmet, handgun and camping gear. It appears the man was killed by a gunshot to the head.

Monty Pilon, Jason Wayne McVean and a third man, Robert Matthew Mason, began their crime spree in Durango, Colorado, where they stole a water truck in May 1998. Heading west, they killed a policeman in the town of Cortez, abandoned the truck for a flatbed lorry, wounded two more officers in Utah and continued their getaway on foot. Mason's body was found a week later with a gunshot through his head, but the other two vanished without trace. Police now doubt that the third man survived.

Deborah Orr, Review page 5