The Washington Times
December 9, 1993, Thursday, Final Edition
Racial hatred suspected in N.Y. rampage
Liz Trotta; THE WASHINGTON TIMES
NEW YORK – A black gunman who killed five persons and wounded 18 others on a crowded New York commuter train was someone who “hates whites, Asians and black conservatives” and his random shooting rampage apparently was carried out in the suburbs to avoid embarrassment to Mayor David Dinkins, authorities said yesterday.
Colin Ferguson, 35, of Brooklyn was arraigned and charged with the carnage that began shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday, just two minutes before the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train pulled into the Merillon Avenue station in Garden City.
Wielding a 9mm Ruger semiautomatic, the Jamaican-born loner walked through a passenger car, methodically firing 15 shots and reloading at least once, police said. Police said they found 100 more rounds of lethal Black Talon ammunition in a canvas bag carried by the gunman.
After the rampage, the suspect is reported to have said, “I’ve done a bad thing.”
All those shot were white or Asian.
“I consider this an outrageous crime motivated by bias,” said Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon.
At a mobbed news conference conducted by Nassau County Police Commissioner Donald Kane and other officals, a picture emerged of a severely disturbed man, unemployed and single, obsessed by deep-seated feelings of racial hatred. The commissioner said that Mr. Ferguson had targeted Nassau County instead of New York City because of his high regard for Mr. Dinkins.
“It did not appear it was a random thing. . . . He had severe hostilities toward a lot of people, and he boarded the train because he targeted Nassau County,” Mr. Kane said.
One note said to have been written by the suspect read: “New York City was spared because of my respect for Mayor David Dinkins and [New York Police] Commissioner Raymond Kelly who is officially still in office. Nassau County is the venue.”
Mr. Dinkins condemned the shooting spree but said it could happen anywhere.
Mr. Kane said four papers of handwritten notes found in Mr. Ferguson’s pockets revealed that he had “strong hostility” for Caucasians, including Mr. Cuomo and his staff; blacks, including “so-called civil rights leaders,” “rich black attorneys” and “Uncle Tom Negroes”; and “Chinese racists.” The entries apparently were disconnected, composed of “small notes” and “individual references” rather than complete sentences.
Mr. Kane said the gunman also condemned some institutions, such as the compensation board and Adelphi University in Garden City, from which he reportedly was suspended in 1991 for disciplinary reasons. Some reports said he also had attended Nassau County Community College, where he was a good student, but then was expelled after an altercation with a professor, apparently over a grade.
The shooting drew reactions from across the nation:
* President Clinton condemned the “terrible human tragedy,” saying it should spark new gun-control initiatives. “I hope that this will give some more impetus to the need to act urgently to deal with the unnecessary problems of gun violence in the country,” Mr. Clinton said.
In his first year in office, Mr. Clinton has signed the Brady Bill, with its five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, and supported banning certain types of ammunition, taxing ammunition and requiring all gun owners to pass a standards test.
* Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America said Mr. Clinton “is laying down, if he can, the foundation for gun confiscation.” Gun enthusiasts noted that the gunman bought the handgun in Long Beach, Calif., after complying with a 15-day waiting period.
* Gun-control advocates in Congress, among the nation’s mayors and police chiefs, and James Brady, the White House press secretary shot by a gunman aiming at President Reagan in 1981, laid out plans for even tougher regulations.
* FBI Director Louis J. Freeh called for a complete ban on the manufacture, sale and distribution of assault-style weapons.
* In a statement, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo called for “swift judgment” and “harsh punishment” for the gunman.
* Blacks offered a mixed reaction, with outrage for the senseless killings but sympathy for the gunman’s mental condition.
Of the 18 wounded, one is in critical condition and on life-support systems, the police said. Two more people were injured in the crush of terrified commuters trying to get off the bloodied car.
The heavyset Mr. Ferguson, wearing a blue detention uniform, kept his head down as he stood sullen and silent before the bench in Hempstead District Court yesterday. He did not enter a plea to charges of weapons possession, four counts of depraved indifference, murder and four counts of second-degree intentional murder.
Judge Sandra Fierstein ordered him to be held without bail and given a psychiatric screening. Another hearing is set for tomorrow.
At one point, a reporter yelled out to the suspect, asking whether he hated whites. Mr. Ferguson replied: “That’s a lie.”
Cynthia Roe, who said she was a cousin of the suspect, attended the arraignment and told reporters that she had never seen any evidence that he hated whites.
Police said a search conducted of the suspect’s rented room in a Brooklyn house uncovered a number of papers and a box that had contained the suspect’s weapon. Federal authorities later said that Mr. Ferguson had purchased the weapon legally in Long Beach.
Race, always a highly sensitive issue here, dominated the mayoral election in November. Black leaders, however, for the most part remained silent yesterday about the tragedy. Black radio stations, often confrontational during the campaign, also refrained from comment.
The ill-fated commuter train left Pennsylvania Station at 5:33 p.m. bound for Huntington, Long Island. The suspect is thought to have boarded at Jamaica, Queens. Ten minutes later, with about 100 passengers in the compartment, he started shooting from the back of the third car, went briefly into the No. 2 car and then returned to the third to continue firing.
“The shots just kept going off,” passenger Diane McCleary said. “He just wouldn’t stop shooting.”
John Skramko, another passenger, said: “He emptied his gun out, just randomly shooting people in the head and neck. He then reloaded and continued shooting.”
During the shooting, commuters were screaming and frantically trying to get off the train. According to some, the doors remained shut for some moments. LIRR President Charles Hoppe said the failure of the train doors to open immediately was “under investigation.”
When the train stopped, the gunman was wrestled to the floor by three passengers.
One man said he had seen nothing like it since he was in Vietnam, “Except there I could fire back.”