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L.A. Suspect Charged With Murder

August 12, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A white supremacist told the FBI that he killed a Filipino-American postal worker because he was nonwhite and worked for the federal government, authorities said today as more charges were filed in that killing and a bloody attack on a Jewish center.

U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas revealed a detailed account of the murder of postal worker Joseph Santos Ileto shortly after county prosecutors filed new state charges against Buford O. Furrow, 37.

The new charges include first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder _ all alleged as hate crimes based on race, nationality or religion.

Mayorkas said Ileto was shot ``maliciously and with premeditation.″

According to the prosecutor, Furrow confessed to killing Ileto shortly after the shootings that wounded five at the North Valley Jewish Community Center a few miles away.

Furrow told authorities he saw the postal worker standing next to his van and asked if Ileto would mail a letter for him. When he agreed, Furrow pulled out a gun and shot him 10 times. Ileto tried to run away, but Furrow shot him again and watched him fall to the ground face down. He then fled in a stolen Toyota.

Furrow told investigators that he thought Ileto was Hispanic or Asian.

Mayorkas said additional evidence was being gathered by federal investigators in the center shooting and ``we will file federal civil rights charges if the evidence so warrants.″

The district attorney’s state complaint alleged that Ileto ``was intentionally killed because of his race or nationality.″ The so-called ``enhancement″ to the murder count _ the allegation of a hate crime _ could make Furrow eligible for the death penalty.

Furrow was charged with the attempted murders of Isabelle Shalometh, 68, a receptionist at the center; counselor Mindy Finkelstein, 16; and three little boys, Benjamin Kadish, Joshua Stepakoff and James Zidell. Benjamin was the most seriously wounded and remained in critical condition today.

County prosecutors alleged that Furrow committed the crimes ``because of the victims’ religion or ancestry or perceived religion or ancestry.″

Furrow was also charged with carjacking.

Furrow, who surrendered to the FBI in Las Vegas, was brought back to Los Angeles Wednesday night aboard a U.S. Customs helicopter after waiving extradition.

Authorities said Furrow fled to Las Vegas by taxi _ a 275-mile trip that involved two cabs _ after Tuesday’s shootings. He spent the night at a hotel, then walked into an FBI office and confessed to both the center shooting and the slaying of the mailman, authorities said.

``You’re looking for me _ I killed the kids in Los Angeles,″ an FBI source quoted Furrow as saying. The source said Furrow assumed he had killed some children.

He also told investigators ``he wanted this to be a wake-up call to America to kill Jews,″ an FBI source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At his federal court appearance, Furrow sat expressionless as the charges were read, said his attorney, Art Allen. Asked if he understood the charges, he answered: ``Yes, I do.″

Shackled at the feet and cuffed at the wrists, Furrow then walked down the steps of the courthouse to the jeers of a bystander who rushed up and shouted: ``You’re a coward! You are a coward!′

Furrow looked at him and smiled, and was then hustled away.

Last fall, Furrow tried to commit himself at the Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital in the Seattle suburbs, but got in trouble when he pulled a knife on a nurse. He pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, served about five months in jail and was released on May 21.

The balding suspect also belonged to the Aryan Nations group in 1995, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains a database of white supremacists.

After the center shooting, police said, Furrow abandoned a van full of ammunition, survival paraphernalia and a book linked to white supremacist thought.

``He certainly had the wherewithal to create a greater tragedy than the one we had,″ Police Chief Bernard Parks said.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said Furrow’s comments upon surrendering proved the attack was a hate crime.

``To these kinds of demented and warped minds, having a few hours under the sun where the whole world is paying attention to you is really tantalizing,″ Hier said.

Furrow lived at times in Metaline Falls, Wash., once a haven for the supremacist group The Order and had a relationship with Debbie Mathews, widow of Order founder Robert J. Mathews. Mathews was killed in 1984 when his hideout caught fire during a shootout with federal agents on Whidbey Island in Washington state.

The community center in suburban Granada Hills, a leafy middle-class neighborhood, remained closed today, guarded by police and security officers. It was expected to reopen Monday.

Instead, the children assembled next door in St. Andrews and St. Charles Episcopal Church, which shares its space with Temple Beth Torah _ a refuge for children the day of the rampage.

``Nobody’s going to scare us away,″ J. Eliad, the father of a 4-year-old girl, said Wednesday. ``We’re going to be here for good.″

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