Suspect identified in California shootings, hunt intensifies
Source: suspect on parole
August 11, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) --A manhunt spread across California Wednesday as authorities searched for the balding suspect who walked into a Jewish community and day-care center and fired more than 70 bullets from an assault-style gun before slipping away and vanishing in metropolitan Los Angeles.
The motive remained a mystery following the attack that wounded three young children, a teen-ager and an adult.
Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. David Kalish identified Buford O'Neal Furrow, also known as Buford O. Furrow Jr., as the prime suspect in the shooting and a carjacking shortly afterward. The suspect is a balding male with brown hair, about 5'9" and 185 pounds.
A law enforcement source in Washington state told CNN's Charles Feldman that Furrow is "currently out on probation on assault charges." The source said Furrow pleaded guilty to assault charges in King County Superior Court in Seattle in April. The source also said Furrow served some time for this conviction.
"There's no way that the individual who perpetrated these crimes is going to get away. Period," Kalish told reporters late Tuesday night.
Furrow is believed to be heavily armed despite the recovery of several weapons and a bullet-proof vest from a van used by the suspect.
Shortly before 11 a.m. PT Tuesday a man with a high-powered gun stormed into the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills and sprayed the lobby with more than 70 rounds, wounding three young children, a teen-ager and an adult.
Kalish said it was not known if the suspect was a member of any anti-Semitic or Nazi group but urged Furrow to give himself up.
"Turn yourself in, you are not going to get away,'' Kalish said.
Kalish described what he said was an "eerie scene" when police arrived at the community center. He said gunsmoke still hung in the air.
Heavily armed police from several agencies fanned out in the area using helicopters and tracking dogs to search for the gunman, last seen fleeing the center on foot.
Residents were told to stay in their homes with the doors locked as some 250 officers did door-to-door and car-to-car searches of a one-square-mile area that is highly residential.
'Armed and dangerous'
"The suspect is considered armed and dangerous," Kalish said.
Kalish added: "We simply do not know what the motive was. We do not know if this particular place was targeted because of the students being Jewish ... We have no reason to believe he acted other than alone.
Kalish said they had linked the shooting to a nearby carjacking. The hijacked car was spotted at a hotel in Los Angeles.
Sixteen minutes after the shooting, near the Van Nuys airport, a gunman deserted a red van and stole a woman's 1999 dark-green, four-door Toyota Corolla, using a small semi-automatic weapon.
Through much of the night, the search focused on and around the 7-Star Suites Hotel, where police located the Toyota Corolla.
The hotel is on Devonshire Street in the west San Fernando Valley community of Chatsworth, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Shortly before 9 p.m. PT (midnight ET), SWAT team members, wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with machine guns, started searching the hotel.
Shortly after 1 a.m. PT (4 ET), the police and canine unit had finished searching the hotel, said Sharyn Buck, a police spokeswoman. "There's no sign of the suspect right now," she said. "We don't know if he was ever in the hotel. All we know right now is we haven't located him."
California Gov. Gray Davis offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the gunman's arrest.
Police said the van was loaded with "an extensive amount" of high-powered ammunition, smoke-grenade devices and a flak vest. Food and survival-type items were also found in the van.
The van had Washington state license plates. Police identified the owner through the tag numbers, but they don't know yet who was driving it.
Police said a "nationwide manhunt" was under way for the shooting suspect, described as a bald white man, 37, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds.
With 250 police officers assigned to the case, Kalish said he would keep maximum resources on the investigation until the perpetrator was in custody.
Child's wounds are life-threatening
Doctors at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center fought to save the life of a 5-year-old boy who underwent emergency surgery for critical abdominal wounds that lasted more than six hours and a second operation for leg wounds that followed.
Afterwards, the surgeon, Dr. Clarence Sutton, said the boy was in critical condition and his prognosis for recovery is fair. The boy is breathing with the aid of a respirator.
The surgery was "intense," the doctor said. He said the boy lost a "tremendous amount of blood" -- about 30 percent of his blood volume -- at first and the priority was to stop the hemorrhaging.
At Childrens Hospital, doctors removed two 9 mm bullets from the buttocks and the fractured left leg of a 6-year-old boy, listed in stable condition.
An 8-year-old boy, shot in the left foot, was listed in stable condition.
A 16-year-old girl, said to be a teacher's aide, was shot in the right thigh and shin and is described in stable condition.
The one adult wounded, a 68-year-old woman who has worked as a receptionist at the center for 13 years, is also in stable condition.
Her daughter, Lucille Goldin, said she rushed to the hospital and her mother was able to sit up and talk with her.
Isabelle Shalometh suffered grazing bullet wounds to the arm and breast, hospital officials said.
"She said that a young man, I guess in his 40s, walked in and she saw him coming at her, and I guess he just started open firing, and she knew enough to quickly duck down, and she did and crawled into the back office area where some of the other girls were," Goldin said.
Goldin said her mother said the gunman "wasn't anyone she knew or seemed to belong there."
Federal agents search for evidence of hate crime
Police evacuated other children from the grounds of the North Valley Jewish Community Center, which also includes a day care facility and summer camp, and searched for the gunman.
Jeff Rouss, director of the center, said at least 250 children were at the facility at the time of the shooting, while others -- a busload -- were on a field trip.
"We must do something about guns. We must stop this," Rouss said. "Let's protect our children. Let's let them be children."
The FBI dispatched members of its civil rights squad to the location to look into the possibility the shooting might have been a hate crime. Agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also were sent to the scene, an ATF spokesman in Washington said.
"There is a male on the loose who is very dangerous," said Los Angeles Police Sgt. John Pasquariello.
"The only thing I know for certain is an unknown gunman walked into this North Valley Jewish Community Center and indiscriminately fired his weapon," Pasquariello said.
"At this time, we are saying lone suspect. We do not know if there was more than one suspect at this point," he said.
'Worst case scenario for firefighters'
Ruda said the gunman "sprayed the lobby and then walked down the short hallway ... He sprayed as he walked down the hallway, out of the building and then to the west."
Ruda said all the victims were shot in the lobby of the community center, where authorities found 20-30 shell casings that appeared to be 9 millimeter from a semi-automatic weapon.
"Paramedics found the worst case scenario for firefighters -- young children with gunshot wounds that are very extremely dangerous," Ruda said. "Firefighters were able to stabilize the children, stop the bleeding and get them to the local hospital."
Four policemen led a chain of 10 young children -- all holding hands -- from the shooting scene. Firefighters helped lead some of the children to safety and one was moved to tears by his tiny charges.
"They were very calm and orderly. They were angels. Their faces were very angelic, they were very wide-eyed as I looked and teared inside with them," Ruda said.
'You feel like a target'
Concerned parents began arriving at the center within an hour after the shooting, but were taken to the nearby Temple Beth Torah to be reunited with their children.
"How do you explain to a 9-year-old child who loves coming to a camp at an after-school program that, 'You know what -- it's just not safe,'" said the mother of one of the children on the field trip. "You feel like a target."
The father of another of those children said: "Words cannot describe the type of circumstance that we have here. But until something is done ... these situations are going to continue to occur and everybody has got to stand up and say something and do something to stop it for our children, for our own lives."
One parent who broke police lines was handcuffed and briefly taken into custody.
'Sad day for the city of Los Angeles'
"Once again, our nation has been shaken and our hearts torn by an act of gun violence," President Bill Clinton said during a brief statement Tuesday evening at the White House. He also offered his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.
Earlier, Vice President Al Gore offered Los Angeles federal assistance in capturing the gunman.
"This is a sad day for the city of Los Angeles," Mayor Richard Riordan said at a news conference.
California Gov. Gray Davis, a strong gun control advocate, offered to put up a $50,000 reward if it would help to capture the gunman responsible for the shooting.
"This is yet another example of a senseless barbaric act of violence against innocent children and defenseless adults," Davis said. He also urged people to work to get assault weapons off the street, saying they have no place on the streets of a civilized society.
The Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement at mid-afternoon expressing outrage at the attack.
"In light of the rash of hate crimes throughout the country, including the synagogue arsons in Sacramento and the shootings in the Midwest, today's shooting at a Jewish community center has understandably led many to conclude this horrific incident was motivated by anti-Semitism."
Correspondent Charles Feldman contributed to this report.
The Los Angeles Police Department
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