| Suspect in L.A. Shooting Surrenders
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 12, 1999; Page A1 LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11óBuford O. Furrow, a neo-Nazi suspected of shooting three young children and two adults inside a Jewish community center here, surrendered this morning to federal authorities who said he told them his rampage had been motivated by his hatred of Jews.
To the surprise of investigators who had launched a manhunt for him across the West, Furrow, a Washington state resident with ties to an array of hate groups, showed up at an FBI office in Las Vegas after a marathon 270-mile cab ride across the desert.
"You're looking for me," he announced.
FBI officials said they easily arrested Furrow, who allegedly burst into the community center, filled with children attending day care and a summer camp early Tuesday, and sprayed the building with 70 bullets from a submachine gun. "He is cooperating," said Grant Ashley, an FBI spokesman. Law enforcement officials are preparing to charge him with five counts of attempted murder.
Investigators said they believe Furrow, 37, killed postal worker Joseph Ileto, 39, who was delivering mail nearby. Tonight, Furrow appeared in a federal courtroom in Las Vegas to be charged in that slaying and waived extradition to Los Angeles, his lawyer, Art Allen, told the Associated Press. After the hearing, Furrow was put on a helicopter that arrived in Los Angeles 1 1/2 hours later.
Although they still are trying to piece together Furrow's moves, authorities said they think he abandoned his van in a parking lot a few miles from the center, carjacked a Toyota from a woman without harming her and then shot the postal worker about noon.
Shaken by Tuesday's bloodshed and fearful of further violence despite Furrow's arrest, Jewish leaders across Southern California spent today strengthening security at synagogues and other community centers. "We have to be more vigilant," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "We would be fools not to take this kind of horrible incident very, very seriously."
Although police say they believe that Furrow acted alone, Tuesday's attack was the latest in a series of violence directed recently at Jewish groups in California. Three synagogues in Sacramento were set afire earlier this summer, and the chief suspects in that case have been linked to some of the same white supremacist groups with which Furrow has been involved in recent years.
Inside Furrow's van, Los Angeles police found writings related to a national movement known as Christian Identity, which believes that Jews are subhuman, along with heaps of ammunition, smoke bombs and survivalist gear.
Furrow allegedly burst into the Jewish community center 10 months after he was involved in another violent episode closer to home. He was arrested on assault charges last fall after brandishing a knife at two employees of a private psychiatric hospital near Seattle where he had asked to be admitted.
According to court records from the case, Furrow told the staff of Fairfax Hospital that he was "thinking about suicide and shooting people" at a local mall. He had been drinking on Oct. 28 and told hospital employees he had a gun in a truck outside, records show. He relinquished his keys, then demanded them and pulled the knife when he was denied.
"Sometimes I feel like I could just lose it and kill people," he told a sheriff's deputy who was called to the hospital. In his truck, investigators found a 9mm handgun and four knives. Furrow pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and served 5 1/2 months in King County Jail.
It was his first brush with the law, but not the first evidence of a fascination with weapons and a tendency toward antisocial behavior.
After his arrest, he told a sheriff's detective that he had repeatedly cut himself, sometimes severely enough to require stitches, and had thought of robbing a bank "so that the police would be forced to kill him," the court records show. He also told a detective that he had considered killing Debra Mathews, with whom he lived for several years in rural Metaline Falls, Wash., as well as some of her friends.
Mathews is the widow of Robert J. Mathews, the founder of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. He was killed in 1984 in a standoff with FBI agents at his cabin on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.
Meda Van Dyke, 82, a rancher who lives near Mathews in Metaline Falls near the Idaho border, said the couple "didn't get along. He wanted to be completely in control. She was supposed to be completely submissive to him and sometimes she wasn't." Van Dyke said Mathews had told her that Furrow "locked her in the bedroom if she didn't do what he wanted her to do."
He left for good about a year ago and moved to a trailer north of Seattle. After his release from jail in May, he moved in with his mother and father, a retired Air Force sergeant, in a house in a rural area near Olympia, the state capital.
His mother's brother, Bill Wells, who runs a bluegrass music store in Columbia, S.C., said he had not stayed in touch with his nephew but had asked about him when he saw the elder Furrows at a family reunion a few months ago. "They said he was doing fine. He had a job and everything." Wells described Furrow's parents as "good, patriotic people -- good, God-fearing people."
Raised near Olympia, Furrow is a 1979 graduate of Timberline High School. He joined the Army in August 1980 but lasted only two months, receiving a medical discharge because of an "unstable knee."
He attended two community colleges before enrolling in Western Washington University, where he graduated in 1986 with a degree in manufacturing engineering technology.
While living in Metaline Falls, Furrow worked for about a year in the hydraulics department at LaDuke & Fogle Equipment Co., a farm machinery company in Colville, Wash., about 50 miles away. "He came to work every day and seemed to be a pretty good employee," said Roger Lynn, the firm's manager. "He never expressed his views."
Others had glimpses of his beliefs. Mathews's neighbor, Van Dyke, recalled that a local logging crew once came across Furrow in the woods. He had a handgun "strapped on him and wanted to know to know if there were any 'colored' people on the crew," she said.
Bernice Merrill, who lives behind Furrow's parents, said she had noticed him lately helping to care for property. She said her husband last saw him late last week, driving a white pickup truck. "Apparently, he left then," she said.
Duane Stone, a salesman at Kar Korner in Tacoma, Wash., said that Furrow, dressed in jeans and a nice shirt, came in late Saturday afternoon, saying he wanted a van with a fold-down bed and quickly settling on a 1986 red and silver GMC. Within 40 minutes, he had traded in his Nissan truck, paid $4,000 in cash and left. He "really didn't go out of his way to make a lot of extra conversation," Stone said, and he didn't say where he was heading.
Four of the five victims wounded at the Jewish community center, in the San Fernando Valley on the northern edge of Los Angeles, remained hospitalized today. A 5-year-old boy was in critical condition, and three other young victims were in stable condition. The fifth, a 68-year-old receptionist, was released from a local hospital.
Sanchez reported from Los Angeles, Goldstein from Washington. Also contributing to this report were staff writers Bradley Graham and Edward Walsh, research editor Margot Williams and staff researchers Nathan Abse and Mary Lou White in Washington; special correspondent Cassandra Stern in Los Angeles; and special correspondents Kristen Dizon and Sharyn Decker in Seattle.