Shooter targeted blacks, jews, asians - then himself
July 5, 1999
SALEM, Illinois (AP) -- A white supremacist who
targeted minorities in a deadly weekend shooting spree fatally shot
himself as officers grappled with him after a chase, investigators
Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, 21, was pursued Sunday after
he commandeered a van at gunpoint in rural Marion County, Illinois, said
Doug Garrison, an FBI spokesman in Indianapolis. No one was hurt in the
Gerald L. Benjamin, sheriff in Marion County,
Illinois, said today that Smith apparently shot and wounded himself
twice as officers pursued the van in a slow-speed chase. The van then
crashed and Smith shot himself a third time when he was struggling with
sheriff's deputies. He said that the final shot appears to have hit
Smith in the chest.
"All the shots were fired by him," Benjamin
A bloody July 4 weekend
Authorities believe Smith began his drive-by killing
spree in Chicago on Friday, when a black former college basketball coach
was fatally shot and six Orthodox Jews were wounded.
The shooter also fired at Asians and blacks in two
Illinois cities on Saturday, seriously wounding one man, and fatally
shot a Korean man Sunday outside a church in Bloomington, Ind., police
The killings took place during a patriotic holiday
weekend in the United States, during which Americans celebrate the July
4, 1776, Declaration of Independence from Britain.
A 'Sabbath Breaker' tattoo
Two guns found with Smith were consistent with the
shootings and the body had a tattoo on the chest that said "Sabbath
Breaker" -- which Smith was said to have sported.
"It looks like our guy," Garrison said,
adding that the FBI must double-check the fingerprints of the body with
those of Smith's to make sure. Authorities also were attempting today to
trace the source of the guns.
Smith was a member of the World Church of the Creator,
a white supremacist organization, and distributed anti-minority and anti-Semitic
literature while a student at Indiana University.
First sign of violence
The church, based in East Peoria,
Illinois, is led by Matt Hale, who said Smith was a member from June
1998 until May 1999 and never showed any predilection for violence.
"When I spoke to him he never gave
any inkling of being able to do this," Hale said before Smith
apparently took his life.
The FBI had not been investigating Smith
until the last couple of days.
"He was known to police in Chicago
and police in Bloomington, but not to the FBI," said FBI special
agent Ken Kaiser. Witnesses did not see anyone with Smith, but the
investigation into whether he acted alone was continuing, Kaiser said
No cause for arrest
Harlan Loeb, Midwest counsel for the
Anti-Defamation League, said his organization has had Smith "on our
radar screen for quite some time, which is particularly tragic for
someone so young."
Bloomington Police Chief Jim Kennedy
said officers had questioned him twice at his apartment in the past,
related to the pamphlets he was passing out, because some people had
complained about them.
"The biggest thing we could've
arrested him for was littering," Kennedy said.
It began on Jewish Sabbath
The gunman struck outside a synagogue in
Chicago on Friday evening, the start of the Jewish Sabbath. The same
shooter is believed to have killed the former basketball coach a half-hour
later as he walked with his children in nearby Skokie, Illinois, and
later fired at an Asian-American couple in the suburb of Northbrook.
Then on Saturday the same blue Taurus
was seen at shootings in two towns south of Chicago. In the first attack,
the gunman fired on two black men Saturday morning, but no one was hit,
Chicago Police Cmdr. William Hayes said.
Later, shots three of four shots were
fired at six men of Asian descent standing on a corner near the
University of Illinois, Hayes said. A 22-year-old graduate student,
whose name wasn't released, was hit in the leg and was listed in serious
Waiting for services to let out
In Sunday's attack, Won-Joon Yoon was
hit twice in the back and killed outside Korean United Methodist Church
in Bloomington, Illinois. Witnesses told police that after firing into
the crowd, the shooter sped off, running several lights.
"He was apparently parked at the
corner and waited for these people to come out of church and then fired,"
Authorities said .380-caliber shell
casings -- the same kind found in some of the Chicago shootings -- were
also found at the scene of the Indiana attack.
Last year on the Fourth of July, Smith
tucked white supremacist fliers under windshields around Bloomington.
Asked whether the shootings this weekend were related to Independence
Day, Bloomington Police Capt. William Parker said, "It raises
questions in our minds."
Suspected shooter said his hate-filled leaflets
spoke 'the truth'
July 6, 1999
Bloomington, Indiana (CNN) -- Appearing in a
1998 documentary for Indiana University's PBS TV station, Benjamin
Nathaniel Smith gives a glimpse into his hatred and white
supremacist beliefs, saying he had a right to pass out racist
leaflets on campus -- as he put it, "all it really is is the truth."
Smith, 21, shot himself during a police chase Sunday
night and died later in a hospital. He was sought in a deadly
Independence Day weekend drive-by shooting rampage that killed two and
injured nine others -- a spree targeting blacks, Jews and Asians.
Authorities were attempting to reconstruct Smith's
past Monday to shed light on how he apparently became a murderer. People
who knew Smith described him as a racist and a troublemaker in public,
but quiet and reserved in private.
Police said he often roamed university campuses,
passing out hate-filled fliers against Jews, blacks and Asians. He was
known to pass out such fliers at Indiana University where he had been
majoring in criminal justice.
In October 1998, Smith was the subject of a story on
the university's PBS station.
"I'm not blind. I can see that people of color do
create a lot of problems for our country. It's not a personal thing.
It's really just a concern with my own people," he said.
Smith -- who was a member of World Church of the
Creator, a white supremacist group styled as a religion -- told the
station that Bloomington police had grabbed him out of class and "basically
tried to intimidate me and get me to stop" passing out fliers.
"People call our literature hate literature, but all
it really is is the truth that reflects on the minority as negatively,"
Three weeks ago, Smith was arrested by Wilmette,
Illinois, police for driving under the influence and illegal
distribution of racist handbills. He showed up at a court hearing a week
and a half ago, but the case was continued for a later date.
Grew up in Wilmette
Smith was born and raised in Illinois. Until two
years ago, Smith, his parents and two younger brothers lived in the
fashionable Chicago suburb of Wilmette.
He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka,
considered one of the finest public high schools in Illinois.
In his senior yearbook, his name is listed as one of
the people who didn't pose for a portrait. But in his class statement,
he declared, "Sic semper tyrannis," which roughly translated means, "Thus
ever to tyrants."
That same phrase was said to have been shouted by
John Wilkes Booth before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
One neighbor from Smith's youth was shocked to learn
of the news of the shooting spree. "I didn't realize it was one of my
neighbors until I was told it was the Smith son. Wow, it's scary that
the kid next door could do this," he said.
Smith's African-American neighbor in Bloomington also
"There was never really a, 'I don't like you, I hate
you because you're black," said Tyrese Alexander. "He seemed to harbor
intense anger, but it was never of a physical nature. He never lashed
out at anybody. He just had an angry look on his face."
Matt Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator,
described Smith as "a pleasant person who believes in his people, who
believes in his people, the white people, I can't say anything bad about
The church leader said he suspects the shooting spree
may have been prompted by the rejection Friday of Hale's license to
practice law in Illinois because of his views on race.
"I strongly suspect that the denial of my law license
set him off," Hale told CNN in an interview. "Why? Because of the timing
involved and because I know he was very passionate about me getting my
law license. He had testified for me at the hearing I had on the matter."
Benjamin Nathaniel Smith