James Swann

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James Swann
James Edward Swann, Jr.

1964 (age 54–55)
OccupationFormer security guard
Parent(s)James Swann, Sr.
MotiveMental illness
DateFebruary, 23–April 19, 1993
CountryUnited States
Location(s)Washington, D.C.

James Edward Swann, Jr., a.k.a. "The Shotgun Stalker" (born 1964), is an American serial killer whose random drive-by shotgun shootings in Washington, D.C. in 1993 earned him his nickname in the press. Swann was living in the Iselin section of Woodbridge Township, New Jersey before the attacks.[1]


Swann drove to Washington to carry out the attacks, which took place in the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. Each of the attacks followed a standard format: Swann would slow his car down next to a pedestrian and fire a 20-gauge shotgun at the target before driving away. Four people were killed and five injured in 14 attacks by Swann before he was apprehended by the Metropolitan Police on April 19, 1993.[1]

In custody[edit]

Swann was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to Saint Elizabeths Hospital.[2] He claimed to have been driven to the killings by voices in his head, including that of the ghost of Malcolm X, who told him to kill people in Northwest Washington—the "civil rights side of town"—because they had been responsible for the civil rights leader's assassination in 1965.[2][3]

In 2011, Swann applied for a 12-hour furlough from the psychiatric hospital where he has been committed in order to visit his father. Such a visit was to be under his father's supervision. Witnesses for Swann pointed out that he has earned an associate degree in Computer Science.[4]

A psychologist testifying on his behalf said that he had reviewed Swann's records, which showed that Swann "had not had a violent episode at the hospital since 2003, and his aggression with his psychosis was gone." This psychologist felt that Swann has a "low risk" of violence. However, as recently as 2008, Swann was still suffering from hallucinations.[4]

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Kennedy, Swann's father had given him a t-shirt with the phrase "Thrill to Kill" emblazoned on it, which Swann enjoyed wearing.[4] The request for a furlough was denied.[5]


  1. ^ a b Kovaleski, Serge F. (20 April 1993). "N.J. man arrested after another shotgun slaying". Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b Duggan, Paul (27 September 1994). "Shotgun stalker ruled insane, not guilty". washingtonpost.com.
  3. ^ McKay, Jack. "The Shotgun Stalker -- a two-month nightmare". DCJACK.org. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
  4. ^ a b c Alexander, Keith L. (15 February 2011). "D.C. shotgun shooter seeks 12-hour release from St. Elizabeths". washingtonpost.com.
  5. ^ Alexander, Keith L. (25 February 2011). "Judge denies D.C. shotgun stalker 12-hour release from St. Elizabeth's". washingtonpost.com.