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Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting

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Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting
LocationFirst shooting: Granada Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States
Second shooting: Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, United States
DateAugust 10, 1999
10:50 a.m. (UTC-7)
Attack type
Spree shooting, carjacking, hate crime, mass shooting, school shooting
PerpetratorBuford O. Furrow Jr. (Aryan Nations)
Motiveantisemitism in the United States

On August 10, 1999, at around 10:50 a.m. PT, American white supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. walked into the lobby of the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills and opened fire with an Uzi sub machine gun, firing 70 bullets into the complex. The gunfire wounded five people: three children, a teenage counselor, and an office worker. Shortly thereafter, Furrow murdered a mail carrier, fled the state, and finally surrendered to authorities.


Buford O'Neal Furrow Jr. (born November 25, 1961) grew up in Lacey, Washington and graduated from Western Washington University in 1986 with a degree in engineering. During the 1980s, Furrow worked for Boeing and Northrop Grumman. In the 1990s, Furrow became involved with white supremacist Richard Girnt Butler's movement and was part of the security detail at Butler's Hayden Lake, Idaho compound.[1] Months prior to the shooting, Furrow had been treated for mental illness while in the custody of the state of Washington.[2]

He had been married to Debbie Mathews[3] (the widow of Robert Jay Mathews, the deceased neo-Nazi terrorist who founded The Order) whom he had met at the Aryan Nations headquarters in Idaho.[4]


On August 7, Furrow bought a used red Chevrolet van in Tacoma, Washington and loaded it with five rifles, two pistols, 6,000 rounds of ammunition and a flak jacket. Furrow considered attacking three Jewish institutions: the Skirball Cultural Center, the American Jewish University and the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, but the presence of armed guards deterred him.[5][6]

Furrow proceeded to drive again from Washington to the San Fernando Valley with the stated purpose of "killing Jews". Three days later, Furrow pulled off the freeway into the Granada Hills area of Los Angeles and made his way to the North Valley Jewish Community Center just before 11 a.m. There were about 250 children playing outside[7] when Furrow walked into the lobby carrying an Uzi-type submachine-gun.[8] He opened fire, spraying bullets from right to left, leaving smoke and more than 70 casings on the ground. When he was done, a receptionist, a camp counselor and three boys were wounded.[5]

Furrow fled the scene in his van. Twenty minutes later, he carjacked a woman's Toyota at gunpoint, left the van behind, and then dumped the Toyota at a Chatsworth motel.[7][9]

The shootings ended with the death of USPS postal worker Joseph Santos Ileto (born March 19, 1960) in Chatsworth, a few miles away from the center. Ileto had just delivered mail to a home and was returning to his postal truck when Furrow asked Ileto to mail a letter for him. As Ileto agreed, Furrow pulled out a Glock 9mm handgun[10] and shot Ileto nine times. Later, Furrow would confess that he murdered Ileto because he thought Ileto was Latino or Asian (Ileto was Filipino American), and because Ileto was a federal employee.[11][12][13]

Police found Furrow's abandoned van, where they discovered a cache of ammunition, rifle magazines, bulletproof vests, homemade explosives, a Ranger Handbook, and freeze-dried food. Two books by Richard Kelly Hoskins, a Lynchburg, Virginia, leader of the Christian Identity movement were also found; a copy of the book War Cycles, Peace Cycles,[7][9] and Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood, a book which according to the Anti-Defamation League justifies antisemitic and racist acts of violence.[14]

Furrow fled 275-miles in an $800 taxi ride from Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas, Nevada,[6] ending the manhunt by walking into an FBI office to confess, saying "You're looking for me, I killed the kids in Los Angeles." Furrow also stated that he wanted his shooting to be "a wakeup call to America to kill Jews."[15]


The injured included a 5-year-old boy, Benjamin Kadish, who was hit in the abdomen and leg, losing 50 percent of his blood; two 6-year-old boys, Joshua Stepakoff and James Zidell, a 16-year-old girl, Mindy Finkelstein, who was hit in her right thigh and shin; and 68-year-old receptionist Isabelle Shalometh, who was grazed on the arm and back.[7]

Joseph Ileto died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and one to the back of the head. He was found dead in a driveway.[13] At Ileto's funeral, messages of condolence from numerous politicians were read by Congressman Brad Sherman.[16]

Of the five people injured in the shooting at the Community Center, all eventually recovered.[17] Benjamin Kadish, the 5-year-old boy, was the most seriously injured victim. Upon arriving at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, "He had no blood pressure, no pulse, so that would put you at the most critical condition you could possibly be in," according to the emergency room physician, but Kadish was eventually stabilized after six hours of surgery. Kadish was released from the hospital on September 23, 1999, approximately one month after the shooting.[18]


The shooting prompted a national movement, the Million Mom March, which culminated in dozens of marches across the U.S. on Mother's Day 2000, calling for increased gun control. The Southern California Regional Million Mom March, which was held at the birthplace of Los Angeles - Olvera Street - brought more than 10,000 "mothers and others" from five counties together demanding change and protection for children against gun violence. Marches were held in major cities, including the main March in Washington, D.C.

In 2004, on the fifth anniversary of the shootings, families of the victims and local officials called for stricter gun control and hate crime legislation. Ismael Ileto, Joseph's brother, said: "We miss him very much ... and we cannot understand why someone would take the life of my brother. He was just doing his job when he was killed."[12] Ileto was honored by having a post office in Chino Hills, California named for him.[19]

Sentencing of Furrow[edit]

Initially, Furrow pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of murder in killing Ileto and state charges of attempted murder for shooting the five people in the Jewish center, although he reportedly confessed to the shootings in interviews with detectives.[16]

Prosecutors in the case, who said Furrow admitted to his crimes stating they were motivated by racial hatred, promised to seek the death penalty if the case went to trial, which led to a lengthy legal battle with Furrow's defense team. The case was further complicated by defense claims that Furrow suffered from serious psychiatric problems.[20]

On January 24, 2001, Furrow pleaded guilty to all of the 16 felony counts against him (which include a murder charge for the shooting of Ileto, six counts of civil rights violations and nine weapons charges). In exchange for pleading guilty, Furrow avoided a possible death sentence, but instead agreed to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to the indictment, Furrow expressed no regrets for any of his crimes.[17][21]

On March 26, 2001, at his sentencing hearing, Furrow was sentenced to two consecutive life terms, plus 110 additional years, without the possibility of parole and was ordered to pay $690,294.11 in restitution to victims' families and insurance companies. United States District Court Judge Nora Manella excoriated Furrow during the proceeding, saying, "Your actions were a stark and brutal reminder that bigotry is alive, if not well."[21]

In 2009, Furrow claimed to have renounced racism and neo-Nazism. He is currently incarcerated in a federal prison in Minnesota.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, Danny W. (2010). The Phinehas Priesthood: Violent Vanguard of the Christian Identity Movement. Praeger Security International. p. 181. ISBN 978-0313365362.
  2. ^ New York Times, August 14, 1999 "Racist Shootings Test Limits Of Health System, and Laws"
  3. ^ Hong, Peter Y.; Ellingwood, Ken (August 15, 1999). "Accused L.A. killer chose hate group's hometown". Newspapers.com. p. A4. Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  4. ^ "ADL Backgrounder - the Order and Phineas Priesthood". Archived from the original on December 29, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  5. ^ a b "The Kids Got In The Way: All the warning signs were there, but still Buford Furrow got his hands on guns and went on a rampage." Time. 154.8. August 23, 1999. p24.
  6. ^ a b "A Visitor from the Dark Side: The accused L.A. gunner drove into town on a high of delusion and self-destruction." Newsweek. 134.9. August 23, 1999. p32.
  7. ^ a b c d "Suspect in L.A. Shootings Surrenders in Las Vegas -- He may be charged in second gun attack." The Seattle Times. August 11, 1999. pA1.
  8. ^ "Separatist in fed court." United Press International. August 31, 1999.
  9. ^ a b : "Manhunt; Police on suspect's trail after children are gunned down in school." Birmingham Evening Mail. August 11, 1999. p13.
  10. ^ Weinstein, Henry. "Slain Postman's Mother Can Sue Weapon Makers." Los Angeles Times May 29, 2004: B1.
  11. ^ The Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California. Retrieved August 3, 2006. Archived December 18, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b "Joined Against Hate Crimes Families of Victims Speak Out About Gun Violence". Daily News. August 11, 2004. pN4.
  13. ^ a b "L.A. shooting suspect charged with hate crimes". CNN. August 12, 1999.
  14. ^ Seper, Jerry. (August 13, 1999). "Close eye kept on U.S. hate groups: Monitors had large file on suspect." The Washington Times. p12.
  15. ^ "Shooting suspect gives up White supremacist held in L.A. attack." The Florida Times-Union. August 11, 1999. pA-1.
  16. ^ a b "Postal worker Joseph Ileto mourned as President Clinton sends condolences". CNN. August 15, 1999.
  17. ^ a b "Furrow pleads guilty to shootings, will avoid death penalty, get life without parole". CNN. January 24, 2001. Archived from the original on August 12, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2008.
  18. ^ "Boy who almost died in L.A. shooting goes home". CNN. September 23, 1999.
  19. ^ "From News to History: Stories from the Pages of AsianWeek". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007.
  20. ^ "Hate killer enters guilty plea, avoids death penalty". CTV News. January 24, 2001. Archived from the original on August 11, 2009.
  21. ^ a b Dree DeClamecy (March 26, 2001). "Jewish Center gunman gets 2 life sentences". CNN.
  22. ^ Modesti, Kevin (September 6, 2009). "JCC shooter Furrow renounces past beliefs". Los Angeles Daily News.