Memorial grows for Korean killed in shooting spree
July 6, 1999
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (CNN) -- As mourners piled flowers, candles and mementos outside a Korean church where the last victim of a weekend shooting rampage died, the Web site of a white supremacist group linked to the slaying suspect could not be accessed Tuesday.
Those trying to open the site for the World Church of the Creator were greeted with the message: "Forbidden. You don't have permission to access on this server."
Meanwhile, at the makeshift memorial for Korean graduate student Won-Joon Yoon, one note said: "I never met Won-Joon Yoon and yet my heart feels the pain of his passing. ... "I don't have an answer to this "craziness".
Yoon was shot before Sunday services outside the Korean United Methodist Church. Among those who visited the site were Yoon's father.
The shooting spree that began Friday and left one other person dead, ended Sunday night when the suspect, 21-year-old former Indiana University student Benjamin Smith, fatally shot himself in Illinois.
Although a coroner in Illinois said he was treating Smith's death as a suicide, an official inquest was to be held. Tom Nicolay said Smith shot himself three times.
Smith had been sought in a series of Independence Day drive-by shootings targeting blacks, Jews and Asians that also injured nine people.
Authorities were trying to reconstruct Smith's past to shed light on how he apparently became a murderer. People who knew him described him as a racist and a troublemaker in public, but quiet and reserved in private.
Police said Smith, who had been majoring in criminal justice, often roamed the campus passing out the fliers against Jews, blacks and Asians.
Appearing in a 1998 documentary for the university's PBS TV station, Smith gives a glimpse into his hatred and white supremacist beliefs, saying he had a right to pass out racist leaflets on campus. As he put it, "all it really is is the truth."
"I'm not blind. I can see that people of color do create a lot of problems for our country. It's not a personal thing. It's really just a concern with my own people," he said.
Smith -- who once was a member of World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group styled as a religion -- told the station that Bloomington police had grabbed him out of class and "basically tried to intimidate me and get me to stop" passing out fliers.
"People call our literature hate literature, but all it really is is the truth that reflects on the minority as negatively," he said.
Three weeks ago, Smith was arrested by Wilmette, Illinois, police for driving under the influence and illegal distribution of racist handbills. He showed up at a court hearing a week and a half ago, but the case was continued for a later date.
Grew up in Wilmette
Smith was born and raised in Illinois. Until two years ago, Smith, his parents and two younger brothers lived in the fashionable Chicago suburb of Wilmette.
He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, considered one of the finest public high schools in Illinois.
In his senior yearbook, his name is listed as one of the people who didn't pose for a portrait. But in his class statement, he declared, "Sic semper tyrannis," which roughly translated means, "Thus ever to tyrants."
That same phrase was said to have been shouted by John Wilkes Booth before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
One neighbor from Smith's youth was shocked to learn of the news of the shooting spree. "I didn't realize it was one of my neighbors until I was told it was the Smith son. Wow, it's scary that the kid next door could do this," he said.
Smith's African-American neighbor in Bloomington also expressed shock.
"There was never really a, 'I don't like you, I hate you because you're black," said Tyrese Alexander. "He seemed to harbor intense anger, but it was never of a physical nature. He never lashed out at anybody. He just had an angry look on his face."
Matt Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator, described Smith as "a pleasant person who believes in his people, who believes in his people, the white people, I can't say anything bad about him."
The church leader said he suspects the shooting spree may have been prompted by the rejection Friday of Hale's license to practice law in Illinois because of his views on race.
"I strongly suspect that the denial of my law license set him off," Hale told CNN in an interview. "Why? Because of the timing involved and because I know he was very passionate about me getting my law license. He had testified for me at the hearing I had on the matter."
Shooting spree motive vague; suspect kills self
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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