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Biswanath HALDER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Shooting spree at a US university
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 9, 2003
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1941
Victim profile: Norman Wallace, 30 (graduated student)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on February 17, 2006
photo gallery

On May 9, 2003, Biswanath Halder, an alumnus of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), went on a shooting spree, killing one student, Norman Wallace, and wounding a professor and a Ph.D. student at the Weatherhead School of Management at CWRU in Cleveland, Ohio.

Halder held off police and SWAT officers for over seven hours in sniper-like gun battles, while approximately 100 people hid in offices and closets until they were rescued by police. Halder was ultimately apprehended by a SWAT team in a fifth floor classroom closet.

In 2006, Dateline NBC aired a report on the incident, which featured video footage of the shooting, interviews with family members of Halder and Wallace, and discussions about Halder's motive. He was later sentenced to life in prison.


Indian-American sentenced to life in prison

Sridhar Krishnaswami -

February 18, 2006

An Indian-American has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after he was convicted of killing a student in a shooting spree at a US university three years ago.

65-year-old Biswanath Halder, born in Kolkata, was spared the death penalty by a jury that returned the recommendation for life imprisonment without parole. The formal sentencing was done by the presiding Judge Peggy Foley Jones yesterday.

Halder went berserk three years ago at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in Ohio and left Norman Wallace, a 30-year-old graduate student, dead in a shooting rampage.

In spite of the horrific tragedy, Halder only hesitatingly apologised to the family of the murder victim after the Judge told him that Wallace's relatives were present in the courtroom and that he owed them an apology.

"It's a terrible tragedy and I'm exceptionally sorry," Halder reportedly told Wallace's relatives. Soon after one of Wallace's brothers told Halder that "I do forgive you.I don't want to have that on me. I don't want to be like you." A defiant Halder who appeared to have shown no remorse during the trial had a grouse against the university he once attended, accusing a computer lab employee of hacking into a website that he had set up to help fellow Indians to set up businesses.

During the seven-hour seige in May 2003, Halder shot and killed Wallace and injured two others. Last December he was convicted on 196 counts and faced the death penalty.

Defence lawyers did not contest that their client was involved in the shooting and killing, but only that Halder had severe problems. Experts had testified that he showed signs of delusion and out of touch with reality. The defence had mainly argued that Halder should not be awarded death sentence as he was "mentally ill" and said it was relieved at his getting the life imprisonment.

In a statement, the university thanked law enforcement officers who risked their lives at the time of Halder's rampage.

"While the pain of this incident will never completely fade, we hope the jury and the judge's final decisions in this matter will help in the healing process and bring some level of peace to our university family and to the Wallace family," Lara Kalafatis, Vice President of University Relations, said in the statement.

"This is a profoundly sad episode in our university's history, and we are grateful justice has been served.


Halder case: Into the mind of a killer

Arthur J Pais in Cleveland, Ohio

January 19, 2006 -

One defense witness thought Biswanath Halder was something like Mel Gibson's character in the film Conspiracy Theory. Halder, who lived in an attic in a three-storied house in Cleveland, Ohio, had hardly any furniture but his house was filled with boxes and boxes of magazines and newspapers.

Halder, who was found guilty recently of holding some 150 students and professors hostage and killing one student on May 9, 2003, could get the death sentence. The sentencing phase of the trial has just started in a courtroom in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Forensic Psychologist Jeffrey Smalldon, who has examined many serial killers told the jurors on January 19, the second day of the sentencing process, that Halder, 65, was convinced that his seven-hour long violent siege of the business school of Case Western University was justified. "Violence is essential!," Halder declared recently in describing the siege, Smalldon told the jury that was taking copious notes.

He was fighting cyber criminals, Halder told the psychologist. Halder added that by striking at the university, which Halder blamed for allegedly shielding a student and employee Shawn Miller who had reportedly hacked his Website, he made the world a safer place. His goal was to "liquidate" the university and that is why he entered the campus armed with over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, the psychologist said. Halder told him. "By doing what I did I saved the mankind."

Halder also told it (cyber crime) "Will never be allowed to happen again." And he added that he decided to act against the university because he believed it was paying reporters to write negative stories on him. Halder was convinced that everyone from Federal Bureau of Investigation and the judges were corrupt and had a thing or two against him. 

And his action had "saved the world billions and trillions of dollars," Halder reportedly told Smalldon. Though Halder boasted about his mastery of mathematics and business, he also admitted to Smalldon that he had "lived a subhuman life" since his arrival in America in 1969 ostensibly to study. He could never have contact with his family in India, especially his only sibling, a sister, or have a girl friend because he was always short of money.

The psychologist, who emphatically told the jury that Halder was mentally ill, also added that the killer still had the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. Though he expressed regret for his action, Halder never showed any remorse, Smalldon added. 

But Halder did not have a history of violence till the May 9, 2003 shootout, Smalldon said answering a question by defense lawyer Kevin Cafferkey. And he has created no violence in the jail, Smalldon added.

This is the first time the jury has heard about Halder's mental illness. It was not allowed during the trial because judge Peggy Foley Jones ruled that it did not meet the legal definition.

Cafferkey also said that Halder, who studied at various universities before going to Case Western for a business degree five years ago and could not hold any job for more than two years, had mental disorders since at least 1980.

An alcoholic, Halder has been sober for over 15 years.

It will take the jury a few days to decide whether Halder should serve a life sentence or go to the electric chair. Halder, who is being described by several defense witnesses as "grandly disillusioned," sits with his three court-appointed lawyers in the court with an impassive face but taking copious notes that he passes on to his defense team.

Dressed in a gray sports jacket and a white shirt, with a sober colored tie, and a $150 wig, the man described by one of his classmates at Case Western as someone who wore the same clothes day after day, Halder seldom looks at the jury or witnesses for the defense, who offer damning testimony against him. All in the hope of showing that his action was triggered by severe mental problems.

One of the defense lawyers, Cafferkey told the jurors on January 17 that Halder, "the bizarre little man who no one befriends" is mentally ill. He must spend the rest of his life in prison, Cafferkey added. He can "never live in society because of his actions of May 9, 2003," he added.

The forensic psychologist Smalldon said Halder was "one of the most isolated people I've ever evaluated."

Former neighbor Philip Helon, a law student when he lived in the same three-story building as Halder about five years ago, described Halder as someone who always appeared lonely. And had no friends or family members visiting him.

He also described Halder as "a little off" and as someone who was always obsessed with Shawn Miller, a Case Western University employee.

Halder had unsuccessfully sued the university and Miller more than three years before Halder went on a rampage in May 2003, dressed in military fatigues, wearing a helmet and a bulletproof west.

"The very first thought, at least from what I recall, when I heard a sole gunman was in the university, my instinct was, could that possibly be Biswanath," said Helon.

Helon also said that he occasionally invited Halder to a party but he declined the invitation.

When Helon gave Halder a sweater for Christmas and asked him to join him for a photograph, Halder resisted the idea, saying that he was too ugly. But he finally posed. 

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Rick Bell appealed on January 17 to the jury to sentence Halder to death and described him as a selfish man who plotted the rampage for over two years, buying one of the two guns he took with him to the campus soon after he lost the civil suit against Shawn Miller and the university.

The jury heard from Smalldon that Halder told him during an interview for the defense that Halder's Website, meant for Indian businessmen, could have made an impact of "billions and trillions" of dollars in 22 months had it not been hacked. Coming from a man who had no success in business since his 1969 arrival in America, the boast showed how delusional Halder was, Smalldon added.    

Bell, who has sought vigorously to discredit Smalldon, had called during the trial the defense arguments that Halder did not commit a premeditated crime as unreal.

According to John Laskin, one of the attorneys for Halder, the latter said he went into Peter B Lewis Building when he expected it to be nearly empty. He just wanted to protest. But when he lost his eyeglasses, he panicked, and shot blindly killing one student and wounding two others, then fired at police -- blindly, because he had lost his eyeglasses, the lawyers argued.

"Are you kidding me?" Bell retorted in his closing argument, The Cleveland Plains Dealer reported. "This [defense] is an affront -- an affront to that [Wallace] family back there in the courtroom. Halder is a sociopath.

It angers me that [Halder] could be portrayed as some sad, strange little man -- that's not the case," Bell said. "He planned this for a long time."

Halder won a victory of sorts when Judge Peggy Foley Jones dismissed terrorism charges against him. Had he been found guilty on that charge, a death sentence seemed certain but now he could be sentenced to a life term, eligible for parole after 28 years.


One killed in US school shooting

Saturday, 10 May, 2003

BBC News

One person has been killed and at least another one injured after a gunman opened fire at a university business school in the US city of Cleveland, police said.

Police said the gunman - reported to be in camouflage and armed with a semi-automatic rifle - began firing shortly after 1600 local time (2000 GMT) at the building at the Case Western Reserve University.

Witnesses said the gunman was firing indiscriminately, sending terrified fleeing for their lives.

It is believed up to 50 people may have been inside.

"We're all shaking and quite scared," Tracy Warner told the Associated Press news agency from a third-floor office where she was hiding with several other people.

The standoff ended seven hours later after police stormed the building arresting the alleged gunman.

"We believe he is the shooter or one of the shooters," Police Chief Edward Lohn said without giving any details.

Few students

The large building houses the Weatherhead School of Management and has 9,500 students.

It is believed that few students were inside the building when the shooting began as final exams were completed last week.

This is the latest in a string of fatal shootings at American schools.

Last month, a 14-year-old boy killed his headteacher at a school in Pennsylvania, before turning the gun on himself.

In 1999, in one of the worst massacres in US schools, 14 students and a teacher died after two teenagers opened fire at the Columbine High School.


The man behind the crime

62-year-old Biswanath Halder was an immigrant from India, thought of as a loner on campus

For the shootings  at the Case Western University, 62-year-old Biswanath Halder was charged with 338 felony counts— including aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, attempted murder, illegal weapons possession and terrorism. Some of those charges were dropped on the first day of trial before opening arguments, and the terrorism charge was dropped before jury deliberations.

Halder was a former MBA student at Case Western Reserve University. Born in India, Halder moved to the United States in 1969, hoping to get rich.  He earned his degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1999, and continued to take classes at the school.

Halder was known around the campus as a loner. Halder never socialized, living alone in his attic apartment. He stood out because of his odd behavior and clothing, and the obvious toupee he wore.

He was often seen spending his time at the computer laboratory.

In July 2000, someone hacked into Halder’s computer and deleted thousands of files. Those files, he said, were the groundwork for a multi-million dollar business. The hacker had also left behind a number of offensive messages in the guestbook on Halder's Web site.

He claimed Shawn Miller, a computer lab supervisor, was responsible for this. Halder knew Miller from his time at the lab. They didn't get along.  A couple of times Miller had to discipline Halder for breaking the rules. He says Halder just ignored him.

Miller denied again and again that he was the hacker but Halder didn't believe him. Infuriated, Halder complained to Case Western school authorities demanding that Miller be punished but the university referred the matter to police. When the police dropped the case for lack of evidence, Halder still wasn't satisfied. So he sued Miller. This litigation is by no means his first. (Halder has a history of suing — in the '70s and '80s he filed lawsuits against computer companies that refused to hire him, claiming discrimination.)

At the end of April 2003, Halder's lawsuit was thrown out of court. Convinced now that Miller and the university had conspired to harm him, Halder picked up a gun, the prosecutor said, with a mission in mind. He was intent on finding his own justice.

Biswanath Halder's defense team openly admitted what he had done but begged the jury to convict Halder on lesser charges arguing his actions were not those of a ruthless killer intent on mass murder. They claimed he was a mentally ill man, and called in witnesses to testify to his delusions.

Halder didn't make it easy for his lawyers to prepare a defense, often barking orders at them. One defense attorney says Halder would ask them to do tasks that had nothing to do with the case — such as insisting on getting two cent stamps.



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