Benjamin Nathaniel Smith

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Benjamin Nathaniel Smith
Born(1978-03-22)March 22, 1978
DiedJuly 4, 1999(1999-07-04) (aged 21)
Cause of deathSuicide
MotiveRacial hatred
DateJuly 2–4, 1999
Location(s)Illinois and Indiana, U.S.
Target(s)Jews, Blacks, Asians
Killed3 (including himself)

Benjamin Nathaniel Smith (March 22, 1978 – July 4, 1999) was an American spree killer and member of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator. During the weekend of July 4, 1999, Smith targeted members of racial and ethnic minorities in random drive-by shootings in Illinois and Indiana, after which he committed suicide.

Early life[edit]

Smith was born and raised in Wilmette, Illinois. He attended high school at New Trier Township High School. During this time he accosted a Skokie, Illinois police officer and plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor battery.[1] He transferred to Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha for his senior year. He did not pose for a photograph in his senior yearbook, but in his class statement he wrote, "Sic semper tyrannis" (Thus always to tyrants). This phrase was shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.[2]

After graduating, Smith attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Smith dropped out of the university in 1998 after several conflicts with campus authorities. After dropping out, he transferred to Indiana University (Bloomington), where he studied criminal justice. Police reported that Smith was known for passing out hate-filled fliers against Jews, blacks and Asians on university campuses. In October 1998, Smith was the subject of a story on his university's public broadcasting station.[3]

Shooting spree[edit]

Smith was a follower of the white supremacist organization now known as the Creativity Movement, and was a devoted disciple of the group's leader Matthew Hale. Two days after Hale was denied a license to practice law in Illinois, Smith loaded his light blue Ford Taurus with guns and ammunition and went on a three-day, two-state shooting spree, killing two people and wounding nine others.[4]

On the evening of Friday, July 2, Smith shot and wounded nine Orthodox Jews in drive-by shootings in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Smith then shot and killed former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American in front of two of his three children, while they were walking outside Byrdsong's Skokie, Illinois home. The next day, Smith traveled to Urbana, Springfield and then Decatur, where he shot and wounded an African-American minister. On Sunday, July 4, Smith traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, where he killed Won-Joon Yoon, a 26-year-old Korean graduate student in Economics at Indiana University, who was on his way to the Korean United Methodist Church.[5]

Smith shot at but missed another nine people. On Sunday, July 4, fleeing the police in a high-speed chase on a southern Illinois highway, Smith shot himself twice in the head and crashed his automobile into a metal post. He then shot himself again, in the heart, this time fatally. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

It is widely believed that Smith's crimes were related to his affiliation with the World Church of the Creator, which views him as a martyr.[6] The group argued that Smith believed himself to be a soldier of the Racial Holy War movement. His actions were indelibly fueled by racial hatred.

A chapter of Lone Wolf (a study of spree killers), by Pan Pantziarka, is devoted to Smith and his crimes. Invisible Revolution, a documentary by filmmaker Beverly Peterson, features an interview with Smith less than two weeks before his killing spree. The film includes scenes of Smith distributing World Church of the Creator leaflets in his home town and saying, "`If they violate our constitutional rights and say we can't put out our literature, we have no choice but to resort to acts of violence and really to plunge this country into a terrorist war they've never seen before."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dedman, Bill (1999-07-06). "Midwest Gunman Had Engaged In Racist Acts at 2 Universities". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  3. ^ (July 6, 1999). Suspected shooter said his hate-filled leaflets spoke 'the truth'. CNN.
  4. ^ Walsh, Edward (July 6, 1999) "Racial Slayer Killed Himself in Struggle " The Washington Post
  5. ^ Michael H. Stone & Gary Brucato. The New Evil: Understanding the Emergence of Modern Violent Crime (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2019), pp. 74-78.
  6. ^ Waltman, Michael; Haas, John (2011). The Communication of Hate. Peter Lang. p. 18. ISBN 9781433104473. Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  7. ^ Baudner, David (July 8, 1999). "Interviews with racist aired on Tv". Associated Press.