Man's 7-Year Search to Find Job Ended With 5
Dead in California
The New York Times
December 4, 1993
Alan Winterbourne wanted a
job and even ran for Congress partly because the
pay looked good.
But his job search evolved
into a long battle with bureaucracy, and it
ended Thursday in a shooting rampage at a state
unemployment office that left him, three state
employees and a police officer dead.
The police said today that
they were uncertain what set off Mr.
Winterbourne, who was 33. They were reviewing
documents he had left at a newspaper just 30
minutes before the attack in which he went into
detail about his seven-year search for work.
"We've got thousands of
things to look at," said David Keith, an Oxnard
police spokesman. "Our first review of those
documents reveals nothing that gives us insight
as to motive."
Workers Singled Out
Mr. Winterbourne, armed with
a pistol and a shotgun, walked into a local
office of the California Employment Development
Department just before noon on Thursday and
opened fire. He singled out workers, witnesses
Mr. Winterbourne fled in a
car after a brief shootout with the police. In
the pursuit, he killed an Oxnard police officer
and was later killed by the police outside
another unemployment office in nearby Ventura,
when he emerged from his car carrying a gun.
Five other people were wounded, one by police
The police seized two rifles
besides the shotgun and pistol. Mr. Winterbourne
had no record of arrests, Mr. Keith said.
Avelina Villalobos, the
employment department's office manager in Oxnard,
said she did not remember seeing Mr.
Winterbourne in the office before the shooting.
Asked if any of the victims had worked with him,
she said, "To my knowledge, nobody had anything
to do with him."
'Tell Us the Reason Why'
Flowers and cards piled up
today outside the bullet-marked entrance to the
office, which was closed for the day. One
handwritten note on a red poinsettia read: "We
have comfort in God. We know He took four people
home. Please tell us the reason why."
A half-hour before the
rampage, Mr. Winterbourne left documents with
The Ventura Star-Free Press detailing his search
for work. He said he would call later to discuss
them with an editor.
Among the documents were job
applications and 288 letters to every major
employer in the county.
Mr. Winterbourne had been
unemployed since 1986 after resigning as a
computer engineer for the Northrop Corporation,
citing an inability to adapt to a change in
assignment. Six months after quitting, he filed
for unemployment benefits at the Oxnard office,
but his application was denied after Northrop
said he had left voluntarily.
The envelope left at the
newspaper included a transcript of his appeal to
an administrative law judge on Dec. 3, 1986. Mr.
Winterbourne told the judge he quit Northrop,
where he worked on a missile contract, out of
fear for his personal safety, but could not
elaborate because of Government secrecy.
In 1990 he lost a Republican
primary contest to Robert J. Lagamarsino, then
an incumbent Congressman representing
California's 19th Congressional District. Mr.
Winterbourne said before the primary that he was
attracted by a Congressman's salary of more than
$100,000. "I think it would be a good job," he
"Largest Hero Sendoff in Ventura County
Officer Jim O'Brien,
Ventura County Star
December 8, 1993
More than 10,000 people turned out Dec. 7, 1993 to
give a fallen police officer the largest hero’s sendoff in Ventura
Oxnard Police Detective James Edward O’Brien, 35, was
buried with full police honors, including a 21-gun salute by the Los
Angeles Police Department's honor guard.
"That Jim O’Brien gave his life as part of his
commitment to public service humbles all of us gathered here today,"
said Oxnard Police Chief Harold Hurtt. "He was a person like you and me.
He had a family, he had many friends, and he had hopes for the future -
all of which were cut short by a mindless act of violence."
In addition to the 5,000 mourners, another 5,000
people lined streets and freeway bridges along the route of the five-mile-long
motorcade that carried O'Brien to his final resting place at Santa Clara
Cemetery in Oxnard.
They were there to celebrate the life of the officer
who was shot to death Thursday, Dec. 2, 1993, while pursuing gunman Alan
Winterbourne, who had killed three people at the Oxnard employment
The Rev. Liam Kidney, who officiated at the funeral
Mass, described O'Brien as a "cop's cop." "He loved being a cop," Kidney
said. "He loved being where the action was. Being a policeman was his
O'Brien was the third officer of the Oxnard Police
Department killed in the line of duty since October 1971.
Born July 30, 1958, in Long Beach, O'Brien was a
longtime Ventura County resident.
He was awarded the Medal of Valor by the Peace
Officers' Association of Ventura County in 1991 for saving the life of a
resident in La Colonia.
He was a member of the Oxnard Peace Officers'
Association, Ventura County Peace Officers' Association, Peace Officers'
Research Association of California, and California Narcotics' Officer
Association. O'Brien attended California Lutheran University and was a
graduate of Ventura College and Hueneme High School.
By Mark Nollinger
Every day for eight years, systems analyst Alan
Winterbourne tried to find a job. And every day he failed. Then one day
it all became too much.
At 11:15 on the
morning of December 2, 1993, Alan Winterbourne, a 33-year- old
computer engineer, appeared in the lobby of the Star-Free Press in
Ventura, California, a placid coastal town about 60 miles north of
Los Angeles. Winterbourne was a husky six-footer dressed in a dark
sport coat, gray slacks, a white shirt and clip-on tie, with long
brown hair flowing past his shoulders and a scraggly beard reaching
his chest. He asked for opinion page editor Timm Herdt. He handed
Herdt a Manila envelope he said contained some documents relating to
unemployment and asked the editor to look them over at his leisure -
he would call back later to discuss them. Winterbourne then politely
thanked Herdt for his time, turned, and left. Herdt put the envelope
aside, unopened, and went back to work.
Winterbourne drove ten minutes south to the
neighboring city of Oxnard, then parked his tan 1978 Dodge Aspen on a
residential street near the state Employment Development Department. In
the lobby of the nondescript, one- story building, about fifty people,
some of them mothers with young children, waited for their turn to be
called. Three dozen or so EDD employees busied themselves with their
work behind the service counter.
At 11:41, Winterbourne walked through the main
entrance. With-out a word, he stepped up to the service counter, pulled
a .12 gauge shotgun from under his jacket and opened fire on the state
Employees and clients hit the floor, scrambling
across the linoleum in a frantic search for cover. Ignoring the
unemployed, Winterbourne sprayed the office floor with random shotgun
blasts aimed at EDD workers. A computer terminal exploded, and 65-year-old
Richard Bateman, a retired businessman who was visiting the agency on
behalf of a nonprofit group that helped disabled adults find work, fell
to the floor in convulsions.
Phillip Villegas, 43, a clerk with a ready smile who
had started at the unemployment office as a volunteer, turned to flee. A
shell slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground.
Kicking open a gate, Winterbourne entered the work
area, where those employees who had not barricaded themselves in offices
tried to hide under their desks. He marched up and down the aisles in
silence: firing, reloading, and firing again. As Bateman groaned in pain,
Winterbourne finished him off with two more blasts to the upper body. He
shot Anna Velasco in the hip - the popular 42-year-old worker had spent
the prior evening translating a healing mass for her church's Spanish-speaking
congregation - then fired a second round into her chest from close range
as she cowered under her desk. When the shotgun jammed, he drew a Smith
& Wesson Classic .44 magnum revolver and kept shooting at the others.
Suddenly, Winterbourne stopped. He leapt over the
counter, stuck the pistol into his waistband, calmly straightened his
jacket, and walked out a side door. Three workers -- Anna Velasco,
Richard Bateman, and Phillip Villegas -- lay dying. Four others were
wounded. Alan Winterbourne had never met any of them.
Outside, Winterbourne ran into four police officers
arriving on the scene. They exchanged gunfire as he sprinted across the
street to his car. Winterbourne sped off through an unincorporated green
belt of lemon groves and produce farms between Ventura and Oxnard, only
to get stuck in traffic at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Olivas Park
Road. Sgt. James O'Brien, 35, a decorated Oxnard detective and the
father of two young children, skidded to a stop about 200 feet away and
took cover behind the open door of his unmarked police cruiser.
Winterbourne leapt out of the Dodge, a Browning .300 deer-hunting rifle
in hand. Peering through the scope, he aimed at O'Brien's car and
started shooting. One bullet smashed through a police spotlight and
struck O'Brien in the head, killing him instantly.
Fearing for the safety of the other motorists, the
police held their fire. Winterbourne jumped back into his car and roared
into the outskirts of Ventura. In a new development of concrete office
parks and squat warehouses, he turned into the parking lot of the
Ventura unemployment office. Half a dozen police cars followed, blocking
driveways and taking position for a final standoff. When Winterbourne
emerged from his car brandishing yet another rifle, a Ruger Mini-14 with
a fresh 30-round clip, the officers cut him down in hail of gunfire.
Police handcuffed the body. The worst shooting spree
in the history of Ventura County was over. Five people, including
Winterbourne, died in less than twenty minutes.