Shooting Suspect Had Neo-Nazi Ties
Aug. 12, 1999
NISQUALLY, Wash. (AP) _ It's becoming a distressingly familiar profile: a low-profile racist with a nasty temper.
People in this rural area outside Olympia where Buford O'Neal Furrow Jr. grew up describe a bespectacled, overweight kid who was teased about his allergies.
``He wasn't somebody that stood out. He was somebody who nobody knew,'' said former junior high schoolmate Loni Merrill.
Furrow turned himself in to the FBI in Las Vegas on Wednesday, saying he had ``killed the kids in Los Angeles.'' None of those shot Tuesday at the Jewish community center died, but postal worker Joseph Ileto, 39, was killed about an hour later. Furrow, 37, is charged with his murder.
Authorities say the overweight kid grew up to become an overwrought adult who once predicted a deadly outburst.
``Sometimes I feel like I could just lose it and kill people,'' Furrow was quoted in charging papers last year from the King County prosecutor's office.
At the time, he had tried to commit himself to a private psychiatric hospital east of Seattle where he told staff ``he was thinking about suicide and shooting people.''
He was charged Nov. 2 with assault, accused of attacking a nurse at the hospital with a knife. Deputies found a 9 mm handgun and ammunition and four knives in his vehicle. He pleaded guilty and served about five months before his release May 21.
The episode followed the breakup of a long relationship he had with Debbie Mathews. She was the widow of Robert Mathews, who founded the neo-Nazi group the Order, a violent offshoot of the Idaho-based Aryan Nations.
Furrow had settled with her in Metaline Falls, a timber town of 230 people on the other side of the state near the Canadian and Idaho borders. The area of rural northeast Washington and the Idaho panhandle is haunted with racist groups.
He didn't make much of an impression, though neighbors were aware of his racist beliefs.
``They were good neighbors, but, well, I got blue eyes, so I guess that helps,'' rancher Meda VanDyke told The Seattle Times. ``I never saw any of his violent side.''
Furrow apparently had addresses in Rosamond, Calif., near Los Angeles, in 1993 and 1994, but locals say he lived in Metaline Falls for several years with Ms. Mathews.
Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler said he believes he married Furrow and Ms. Mathews around 1996, though the union was not recorded with authorities.
In a telephone interview Wednesday from his Hayden Lake, Idaho, compound, Butler said Furrow may have attended services at his Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations a few times several years ago, but he did not know him well. Furrow may also have served as a security guard during the group's Aryan World Congress gatherings in the mid-1990s.
Asked what might have motivated Tuesday's shootings, Butler replied: ``The war against the white race. There's a war of extermination against the white male.''
A woman who answered the phone at the number listed for Debbie Mathews hung up Wednesday. ``I don't speak to reporters,'' she said.
Michael Reynolds works with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups and has a file on Furrow. He said Furrow's actions are consistent with the beliefs of the so-called Phineas Priesthood, which is opposed to interracial marriage and the charging of interest by banks.
That loose-knit group also has been linked to 1996 Spokane-area bombings and bank robberies, and to recent attacks on synagogues in Sacramento.
Former Aryan Nations member Floyd Cochran said he met Furrow at the group's northern Idaho compound in 1991 and 1992.
``We had basic conversations about Jews running the world,'' Cochran said from his home in Moshannon, Pa.
Furrow ``was not any more violent than other people there,'' said Cochran, who now lectures against hate groups. ``He had a fascination with guns, but at the Aryan Nations if you didn't have a fascination with guns you might get shot.''
He said Furrow also ``was fascinated with where did the money from the Order go,'' which ``might explain his fascination with Debbie Mathews.''
Her husband, Robert Mathews, was killed in 1984 when his hideout caught fire during a shootout with federal agents on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.
After his death, 22 Order members were jailed on racketeering charges, accused in the 1984 murder of Jewish radio talk-show host Alan Berg in Denver and of robberies that netted more than $4 million _ one-third of which was never recovered.
Cochran said Furrow also dated Jeannie Yarbrough, whose husband was among those imprisoned, and that he'd heard Furrow used to dig in Yarbrough's yard, apparently looking for the money.
Furrow left the area last year.
``I think (Ms. Mathews) dumped him a year or so ago, and I haven't seen him since,'' the Metaline Falls town marshal, Rick Reiber, told The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane.
Furrow returned to the west side of the state, for a time living in a trailer near Lynnwood north of Seattle, the Times reported.
Then came his clash at the hospital. After his release from jail, he headed south to his parents' home near Olympia. The house here _ visited by the FBI and staked out by reporters _ is tucked into lush woods, out of sight at the end of a long private drive.
His father, Buford Sr., retired from the Air Force in 1977 and subsequently worked for the military as a civilian. Furrow tried to follow his father into the military after graduating from high school. But a knee injury kept him from completing boot camp, said Army spokeswoman Verna Williams.
``He was a loner, a kind of bookish guy _ what they'd call a nerd these days. But he was always nice to me,'' said Ms. Merrill, a classmate of Furrow's at Nisqually Junior High.
Associated Press writers John J. Wiley and Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane, Peggy Andersen in Seattle, Tom Raum in Washington, D.C., and Arlene Levinson in New York contributed to this report.