L.A. shooting suspect charged with hate crimes
Buford Furrow could get death penalty
August 12, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Buford Furrow, a self-described white separatist who once feared he "could just lose it and kill people," was charged Thursday with murder and five counts of attempted murder -- all alleged as hate crimes.
The charges, filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, follow Tuesday's attack on a Los Angeles area Jewish community center and the killing of a Philippines-born postal worker about an hour later.
Furrow, who had been charged by federal authorities earlier with the murder of postal worker Joseph Santos Ileto, 39, was due to make a court appearance later Thursday.
Federal and state prosecutors are forming a joint task force to determine which jurisdiction has the strongest case to prosecute Furrow first. Both the federal and state murder charges carry a possible death penalty.
U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas said Furrow confessed to killing Ileto, who was shot in the chest and head by a 9 mm handgun while making deliveries in Chatsworth, California.
"He stated that the postal worker was a good 'target of opportunity' to kill because he was 'non-white and worked for the federal government,'" Mayorkas said. "According to Furrow, the mail carrier appeared to be Hispanic or Asian."
Furrow was also charged with carjacking the vehicle that authorities say he was driving when Ileto was killed. Furrow allegedly stole the car after abandoning a van he had driven to the community center.
The Los Angeles district attorney's complaint alleged that Ileto "was intentionally killed because of his race or nationality."
That allegation is part of state law dealing with hate crimes.
Furrow also was charged with the attempted murders of Isabelle Shalometh, 68, a receptionist at the center, counselor Mindy Finkelstein, 16, and three little boys, Benjamin Kadish, Joshua Stepakoff and James Zidell.
Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti said it's alleged that Furrow committed the crimes "because of the victims' religion or ancestry or perceived religion or ancestry."
Kadish, 5, was the most seriously wounded. He remained in critical but stable condition Thursday at Childrens Hospital after doctors inserted four pins in his left leg.
Stepakoff, 6, who was wounded in left leg, is listed in good condition. Zidell, 6, was wounded in left foot. He was released from hospital Thursday. Finkelstein was wounded in right thigh and shin and is listed in good condition. Shalometh was grazed on the arm and back. She was released from hospital Tuesday night.
The victims were shot during a barrage of 70 bullets fired in the community center's lobby. Police said Furrow used an Uzi submachine gun -- part of a larger arsenal he carried.
Furrow turned himself in to the FBI in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning. That night, he was brought back to Los Angeles aboard a U.S. Customs helicopter after waiving extradition.
While Furrow was still in Las Vegas, he was charged by federal prosecutors with illegal possession of a firearm and with killing Ileto.
Authorities said Furrow fled to Las Vegas by taxi -- a 275-mile trip that involved two cabs -- after Tuesday's shootings. He spent the night at a hotel, then walked into an FBI office and confessed to the shootings at the community center, authorities said.
In October of last year, Furrow tried to commit himself at the Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.
At that time, he gave authorities a statement which said in part, "I am a white separatist. I've been having suicidal and homicidal thoughts for some time now ... Sometimes I feel like I could just lose it and kill people. I also feel like I could kill myself."
Furrow got in trouble at the hospital when he pulled a knife on a nurse. In November, he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, served about five months in jail and was released on May 21.
He was on probation at the time of Tuesday's violence in Los Angeles.
Correspondent Jim Hill contributed to this report, written by Jim Morris
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