Gunman a Former Librarian, Father Shot Up Prosecutor’s House, Report Says
PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) _ The gunman accused of slaughtering six people in this coastal city was a college-educated former librarian from Kentucky whose alcoholic father was jailed for a shooting into a prosecutor’s house, it was reported Saturday.
William Bryan Cruse, who was charged Friday with six counts of murder for a shooting rampage at two shopping centers, had been convicted of assault in 1978, said police in Lexington, Ky.
A high school classmate, Robert Welch, said Cruse’s father, W.B., owned two bars where fights often broke out.
State records show that W.B. Cruse was an alcoholic who went on a shooting spree in 1949, spraying bullets inside the empty home of a commonwealth attorney, Kentucky’s equivalent of a state attorney, The Orlando Sentinel reported in Saturday editions.
The elder Cruse was sentenced to five years in La Grange Reformatory, a state prison. He and his wife, Dora, are dead.
Cruse was born and grew up in Irvine, a small town southeast of Lexington, Ky.
As a high school student, said Welch, Cruse was ″a nice boy, on the quiet side. His clothes were well-pressed, and he was always well-behaved.″
Cruse was small, didn’t play sports and seldom attended high school dances.
But his home life was far from quiet, the classmate said.
Cruse was described by neighbors in Palm Bay Friday as a silent, hostile man who frightened them with guns.
″The kids were all afraid of him,″ Eucal Grant said of the 59-year-old Cruse, who lived three doors away. ″I considered him off his head - crazy. He just acted crazy. No one talked to him, not even his next-door neighbors.″
On Tuesday, the 68-year-old Grant said, Cruse carried a gun as he chased a child down a street in this modest, racially mixed subdivision of single- family homes.
Neighbors said they had complained to police about Cruse yelling at their children, but nothing was done. Some also said a neighborhood petition asking for action against Cruse was given to police last fall, but Palm Bay Chief Charles Simmons said he knew nothing about a petition.
Neighbors say Cruse’s latest rampage began Thursday night when two teens cut across his yard.
Cruse, a thin, gray-haired man, started shooting and hit John Rich, playing basketball across the street, in the back.
After that, Cruse, cursing and shooting, sped away from his white, two- story house toward the Palm Bay Shopping Center, neighbor Marguerite Hall said.
About 30 minutes later, police received their first report of shots in the shopping center.
″He was prejudiced against the Jamaicans, the Puerto Ricans and the blacks. And he hated kids,″ said Derrick Suarez, 14, who lives behind Cruse’s house.
Suarez said that Cruse pulled a gun on him and other boys playing football across the street in October, accusing them of crossing his lawn.
″A lot of neighborhood people were frightened of him,″ said Ron Stearn, who is caring for Cruse’s ailing wife, Millie.
″He chased my kids in his car,″ Stearn said. Cruse’s wife suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a chronic nerve disorder.
″She’s very upset,″ Stearn said, adding that Mrs. Cruse would not make any comments about her husband.
Stearn said he had filed a police complaint against Cruse on Good Friday because he had made sexually suggestive remarks to his 6-year-old son.
″The police told me he was wacko ... then they didn’t do anything,″ Stearn said. ″I would like to find out why they didn’t prosecute him before this happened.″
Simmons confirmed Friday that police took a report about an incident involved ″a conversation″ with a child. The incident was considered minor and no charges were filed against Cruse, who has no Florida criminal record, Simmons said.
Some neighbors said Cruse was a native of Kentucky. He had lived in Palm Bay at least two years, police said.
Cruse’s reputation was such that when his neighbors heard television descriptions of the man whose high-powered rifle killed six people and wounded 14 Thursday night, they at once thought of him.
″He didn’t like kids much. He didn’t talk to anybody in the neighborhood. He just gave me the creeps. I was afraid of him, that’s one thing that prompted us to move away,″ said Louise Sullivan, a former neighbor.
She and her husband, on hearing the gunman’s description, thought, ″Oh my gosh, we wondered if that’s the guy who lived up the street from us.″
In Kentucky, a statement released Friday by Lexington police said Cruse was arrested in 1978 on a first-degree assault charge and in 1980 on public intoxication charges. The assault charge was reduced to third-degree, and he was sentenced to six months in prison. Police did not know if he served the sentence.
Cruse attended public schools in Irvine from 1934 until 1946 and earned a bachelor of arts in history in 1951 and a master’s degree in library science in 1954 at the University of Kentucky.
He worked for the Cincinnati Public Library from 1955 to 1967, records showed. Cruse was listed in the Lexington city directory from 1972 to 1983.