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Unemployment Office Gunman Left Behind Was Pacifist and ‘Nice Guy’ With PM-Office

December 3, 1993

Unemployment Office Gunman Left Behind Was Pacifist and ‘Nice Guy’ With PM-Office Shooting-Scene, Bjt

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) _ The man who killed three state unemployment workers and a police officer had been turned down for jobless benefits and lost an appeal that went all the way to the Supreme Court, according to documents he left behind.

Thursday’s rampage ended when Alan Winterbourne was shot to death by police when he went to a second unemployment office.

Police said Winterbourne walked into the state Employment Development Department office in Oxnard and opened fire Thursday morning. Three state employees were killed and four other people were injured.

After an eight-mile car chase during which Winterbourne shot an officer to death, police shot Winterbourne down in front of the unemployment office in his hometown of Ventura.

Authorities said they didn’t know his motive. But the Ventura Star-Free Press reported today that he was denied jobless benefits in 1986 after his former employer, Northrop Corp., argued he had left that job voluntarily.

The paper said Winterbourne included documents about the case in an envelope he left for an editor there only 30 minutes before the rampage began. Winterbourne said that the envelope contained ″some documents about unemployment″ and that he would call back later to discuss them.

He also left in the lobby a cardboard box full of items documenting seven years of futile job hunting, including help-wanted ads, job applications, and 288 letters addressed to every major employer in Ventura County, the newspaper said.

Winterbourne received his bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic Institute in 1985, then worked briefly for Northrop Corp. He resigned in early 1986, citing an inability to adapt to a change in assignment.

Six months after quitting, Winterbourne filed for jobless benefits at the Oxnard office, but was denied on the grounds that he had quit, not been fired.

The envelope left at the newspaper included a transcript of his Dec. 3, 1986, appeal hearing. Winterbourne told the judge he left Northrop out of fear for his personal safety, but couldn’t elaborate because of government secrecy.

The case continued until 1990, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court’s dismissal of Winterbourne’s appeal of his denial of benefits, the paper said.

Neighbors in the Ventura neighborhood where Winterbourne lived with his mother said they were baffled by the shooting.

″He was nice to the kids,″ said neighbor Cyndy Rasmussen. ″He was always mowing the neighbors’ lawns. He was a nice guy. I just can’t believe it.″

The pastor of his mother’s church said Winterbourne called himself a pacifist. ″He seemed like a very gentle person,″ added Dave Hall of Trinity Lutheran Church.

Two years ago, neighbors said, Winterbourne asked them to sign a petition against new stop signs, saying they were bad for the environment. He reportedly sent a stack of letters to a local traffic engineer.

In 1990, Winterbourne tried to ride his activism into Congress, campaigning for the Republican nomination on a promise to cut the deficit and eliminate the 55 mph speed limit.

But he didn’t actually do much campaigning, he said in an interview then, because he didn’t want to split the party.

He said representing Ventura County in Congress would be ″a good job,″ especially since he was a computer systems engineer who hadn’t worked in four years. He won 11 percent of the vote in the primary.

Winterbourne opened fire with a handgun and shotgun at about 11:40 a.m. in the Oxnard office. Witnesses said he methodically shot workers and reloaded while ignoring customers.

The three state employees killed were Richard Bateman, 65, of Ventura; Phillip Villegas, 43, of Oxnard; and Anna Velasco, 42, of Fillmore.

Officer Jim O’Brien, 35, was slain in the drivers’ seat of his unmarked police car. Police said Winterbourne and pursuing police were stuck in traffic when Winterbourne got out of his car, shot O’Brien in the head, returned to his car and drove on.

The four wounded people were all hospitalized. One of them, a 41-year-old woman, was listed in critical condition early today.

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