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Burke Described As Drug-Dealing, Violent Activist With AM-Plane Crash Bjt

December 10, 1987

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ A fired USAir employee who left a suicide message before he boarded a PSA jet carrying his ex-boss had seemed fine in a weekend phone call to relatives, his brother says.

″He said everything was all right. ... Now they’ve got him convicted and crucified already,″ said Allan Burke, brother of 35-year-old David A. Burke.

David Burke died along with 42 other people Monday when the Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 from Los Angeles to San Francisco crashed in central California.

Burke, who was fired as a customer service agent by USAir last month for allegedly stealing company funds, smuggled a gun aboard the flight with plans to kill his former boss, who also was on board, ABC News reported. He left behind a suicide message on his phone answering machine, a federal source told The Associated Press.

Friends, relatives and court documents sketched widely varying pictures of the man who had worked for USAir, owner of PSA, for 14 years.

People who lived near Burke at a condominium complex here for the past six months and relatives in Rochester, N.Y., described Burke as a helpful, friendly man who was anxious to get ahead and active in civil rights. Some long-time friends in New York and a girlfriend said he was violent and mercenary.

The native of England was investigated in 1984 and 1985 as a ″major link″ in a narcotics trafficking operation at the Greater Rochester International Airport, where he worked from 1972 to 1986, an official involved in the inquiry told the Rochester Times-Union. He was never charged.

Hawthorne police took a report earlier this month that Burke used a gun Dec. 4 to confront former girlfriend Jacqueline Camacho, 33, police Lt. Jan Korn said Wednesday. The girlfriend said he later told her the gun was unloaded, and she declined to press charges.

Dale Anderson, a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Rochester office, confirmed that Burke had been targeted in several local narcotics investigations but was never charged. He refused to discuss the specifics.

A man who called himself a long-time friend told the Rochester paper Burke was deeply involved with drugs.

″I know for a fact that, at one time, he was supporting other people’s (drug) habits. ... He was no petty dealer. He was dealing in quantity. He was using his airport connections to move the stuff,″ said the friend, whose identity was confirmed by the Times-Union but withheld at his request.

He didn’t use drugs himself, the friend said, primarily because a younger brother died of an accidental overdose in 1980.

Burke’s operations were thwarted by the drug smuggling probes, said Eddie Green, a Rochester airport cab manager. He said Burke told friends his telephone was bugged and he was being closely watched.

Burke had other brushes with the legal system.

Ms. Comacho went to court in October, saying Burke allegedly tried to strangle her, disabled her car and sliced up some of her clothing, court documents showed. A judge ordered him to remain at least 100 yards from her.

In New York, he was investigated by the FBI after a series of Mercedes-Benz thefts, but again, was never charged, Anderson said.

Friends in Rochester said Burke was the father of as many as 11 children outside of marriage. Authorities in Long Beach said they believed Burke had been married once.

Former New York neighbor Al Nitto said police were occasionally called to Burke’s home to investigate alleged domestic disputes, adding Burke once ″blew out all the windows in his garage door″ during a spat.

Long Beach neighbor Roger Krause said Burke was an ideal neighbor who had few visitors. He said he heard Burke raise his voice only once, to yell at a daughter.

A year or two after he was hired by USAir, Burke, who was black, sued the airline, contending 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. ″But he would still work hard to get equal opportunity employment for minorities.″

David Burke talked to his father on Sunday by telephone and told him he’d been suspended from his job, although he didn’t say why, Allan Burke said.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles refused to press charges against David Burke after he was fired, saying there was insufficient evidence. But on the day of the crash a security consultant for USAir called requesting an appointment to discuss the case, said Mike Qualls of the City Attorney’s Office.

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