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FBI Searches Fired Airline Worker’s Home for Crash Clues With PM-Plane Crash, Bjt

December 9, 1987

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ FBI agents removed boxes and a metal briefcase from the home of a fired airline worker killed in a jetliner crash that reportedly stemmed from a revenge plot against his former boss.

David A. Burke, 35, was portrayed by friends and neighbors as an amiable man who championed civil rights at his longtime employer, USAir, but who got into trouble for it and had a stormy side that included brushes with the law.

″I don’t know how he could’ve done what they said he done, not David,″ Burke’s older brother, Allan Burke of Rochester, N.Y., said in an interview in today’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Investigators declined comment on an ABC News report that a revenge-crazed Burke left a suicide note and smuggled a .44-caliber Magnum onto Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771, whose crew reported gunfire and smoke in the cockpit just before Monday’s crash killed all 43 people on board.

″It appears at this point - and has yet to be substantiated - that it was a criminal act on board that caused the craft to come down,″ said Richard Bretzing, FBI special agent in charge.

USAir, PSA’s parent corporation, has confirmed that Burke was fired Nov. 19 for ″misappropriation of funds,″ and that he and his former boss, Raymond F. Thomson, 48, of Tiburon, were aboard the doomed flight.

Police and agents spent much of Tuesday inside Burke’s condominium about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, interviewing a woman neighbors said they believed was his girlfriend. They later returned with a search warrant.

Paul Breen, who supervises the FBI’s Long Beach office, refused to say why authorities removed the two cardboard boxes and metal briefcase.

The tall, stocky Burke, a native of England whose parents are Jamaican, was the father of as many as 11 children, though he apparently had never married, according to the Rochester newspaper.

Burke, who lived in Rochester 14 years, was investigated by police and the FBI there for alleged cocaine trafficking and car theft, but wasn’t charged in either case, the newspaper said.

Al Nitto, a former next-door neighbor in Rochester, said police were occasionally called to Burke’s home to investigate alleged domestic disputes and Burke once ″blew out all the windows in his garage door,″ although Nitto did not know if he used a gun.

Even so, Nitto’s wife, Marie, said that when they heard the reports about Burke in connection with the crash, ″We couldn’t believe it.″

″Dave was a very classy person. He always had things under control. He drove nice cars, wore nice clothes,″ she said.

Burke fought fiercely for equal opportunity employment at USAir at Greater Rochester International Airport, friends said. A year or two after he was hired, Burke sued the airline, claiming it was discriminating against him on the basis of race by promoting people with less seniority, his brother said.

″They held that against him for years,″ Allan Burke said.

″The reason black employees are out there (working for USAir) is because of David,″ said Terry Stith, a longtime friend. ″If he thought something wasn’t right, he’d do something about it.

After 13 years with the airline, Burke transferred to California about a year ago. Residents in Long Beach, where he had lived since June, described him as a nice neighbor, though with a temper.

″We heard him hollering at his daughter,″ said Roger Krause. ″To me, when I talked to him, he was real nice.″

Allegations that Burke stole $80 to $90 from a USAir office on Nov. 15 led to consideration of misdemeanor charges against him, said Mike Qualls of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

″Our people were supposed to meet with police today to discuss the case,″ Qualls said Tuesday.

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