A white supremacist accused of wounding five people during a shooting rampage at a Jewish center was indicted today on a charge of murdering a postal worker because he was a nonwhite. A federal grand jury charged Buford O. Furrow, 37, with murder of a federal employee, which carries a potential death sentence.
The mailman, Joseph Ileto, was gunned down Aug. 10, shortly after five people were wounded at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. Police said Furrow shot the Filipino American nine times because he was a nonwhite federal worker.
At the community center, Furrow fired 70 shots, wounding a 68-year-old receptionist, a 16-year-old counselor and three boys, police said. He reportedly scouted three Jewish institutions before settling on the community center.
He fled after the shootings but surrendered the next day in Las Vegas.
Months of pretrial hearings are likely on such issues as pretrial publicity, change of venue, use of Furrow's confession to the FBI and whether the death penalty will be sought. If a mental health defense is sought, complex litigation could delay the trial until next year.
Meanwhile, five state counts of attempted murder and one count of carjacking will be held in abeyance.
On Wednesday, Police Chief Bernard Parks released 911 tapes that recorded the terror of the attack on the community center. He reiterated his call for gun control. Parks wants a ban on assault weapons, on "Saturday Night Special" handguns and all unsafe handguns. He also has called for a ban on gun shows and strict regulation of gun sales.
The tapes revealed fear and panic as well as fast action by employees of the Jewish center.
The callers, one a woman hiding under a desk, gave police and fire dispatchers vital information about the center's location and what was happening. There was also confusion, especially about the gunman's physical features.
"Please hurry. He's got a huge machine gun," cried the first woman who called 911. "I don't know how many people are dead, but there's hundreds of children. There's a summer camp here."
She stammered out the location of the center.
As a dispatcher sought information about the shooter, the woman said she had seen a white, heavyset man wearing black. "He was shooting like crazy," she said, adding that she saw the gunman run out across the parking lot. Other callers described the shooter as Asian or Hispanic or a teenager.
Police arrived within four minutes of the first call.
The National Rifle Association's lobbying arm has stated that Furrow was in violation of gun control laws already in place in California and has questioned whether new gun control proposals would have prevented the shootings.