Man sought in L.A. shooting is white supremacist from Washington state

Seattle Times/August 11, 1999
By Keiko Morris

The man police believe gunned down five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles is an avowed racist who last fall pulled a knife on staffers at a Kirkland hospital, telling them he was suicidal and wanted to shoot people at Alderwood Mall.

"Sometimes I feel like I could just lose it and kill people," Buford O'Neal Furrow, 37, a member of the Idaho-based Aryan Nations group, told doctors at Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital in Kirkland during an interview last Oct. 28, when he tried to commit himself.

Furrow, who also told staff members he was considering killing his wife and her friends, once lived in rural Eastern Washington with Debra Mathews, the widow of Robert Mathews, founder of the neo-Nazi group The Order.

Although acquaintances describe him as a quiet man, he has had a recurring problem with explosive anger - an anger that led to his arrest late last year and assault conviction in King County for pulling the knife on the Fairfax staffers.

Dr. Tim Rogge, the hospital's former medical director, recalled that while Furrow talked during the interview about committing himself, he was reluctant to submit to the inpatient-treatment regimen and began causing problems. Rogge didn't know the nature of Furrow's psychiatric problems.

According to reports by King County Sheriff's deputies, Furrow, who had been drinking, became incensed when hospital staff members took his keys from him.

The police reports further state that:

Furrow demanded his keys back and, when he was denied, produced a knife. According to Julie Callebert, then the director of the hospital's clinical services, he "held the knife about 18 inches from my face, moving it around."

Kirsten Brown, another staff member, told police that she saw Furrow holding the knife "to Julie's face, then towards me. He was about two feet away. I was afraid he was going to stab me. He said: `Give me the . . . keys . . . or I will cut you up.' "

Fairfax staff called 911, and King County Sheriff's deputy J.R. Hall arrived to find Furrow still holding the knife and coming at him with it.

Furrow walked toward the deputy in a threatening stance, only letting go of the knife after Hall drew his weapon and warned him repeatedly to drop the knife.

Furrow later made a statement to police, detailing how he would cut himself with knives, sometimes needing stitches to close the wounds.

In his statement, he also admitted to wanting to do something - such as robbing a bank - so that police would be forced to kill him.

Court records show Furrow was charged with felony assault Nov. 2, 1998, just three days after Fairfax hospital got an anti-harassment restraining order against him. In December 1998, his attorney said she would use an insanity defense at trial, but Furrow instead pleaded guilty.

He was sentenced to eight months in jail and was released in May after serving about five months, with time off for good behavior.

After his release, he was placed on court-ordered supervision on condition he not buy or use alcohol, not buy or own a deadly weapon, submit to a search of his home and car, stay away from his victims and keep taking medications he was on.

Veltry Johnson, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said that between June 16 and Aug. 3, a community supervisor met five times with Furrow and that he was complying with those conditions.

Furrow had lived in several places in Washington during the past decade, including Metaline Falls in Pend Oreille County and more recently in a mobile-home park in Lynnwood. In the mid-1990s, he lived in Southern California, records show.

His most recent address, however, was with his parents in the Nisqually area of Thurston County, near Olympia, where FBI agents arrived last night and again today to question the parents.

Until about a year ago, he had lived for several years just outside tiny Metaline Falls in Pend Oreille County, in the far northeastern corner of Washington near the Idaho border. Late this morning two FBI agents from Spokane and three Pend Oreille County Sheriff's deputies drove onto Debra Mathews' property to talk to her. She lives in a remote area outside of town on property hidden in woods, with signs on a gate on the road that say "Keep out," and "No trespassing."

The agents declined to discuss what they talked to her about, except to say that Mathews did not want to speak to reporters.

Neighbors didn't know him well

In Pend Oreille County, some knew him as Neal and others simply as Furrow - a friendly man who kept mostly to himself.

"I thought he was pretty nice," said Meda VanDyke, an 82-year-old rancher who lives just outside Metaline Falls.

"But then again, I knew that his beliefs were way out of line. They were good neighbors, but, well, I got blue eyes, so I guess that helps."

Furrow and Mathews lived with her teenage son. They visited with other neighbors, sometimes attending local gatherings and picnics. VanDyke recalled that Furrow once lent a hand on her 151-acre ranch during branding time.

But VanDyke was not particularly surprised when she heard that Furrow was linked by police to the shootings.

Once, VanDyke recalled, her son, who also owns land adjoining the Mathews property, was logging near his property line when Furrow, a gun strapped on his side, swaggered up to the crew and asked if any "colored" people were working there.

The loggers didn't take him seriously, even poked fun at him, but her son told them to lay off. He didn't want to get Furrow riled.

Residents in Metaline Falls have not forgotten their community's connection to The Order, and many blame the media for shining a bad light on the town.

Some say the rural nature of the area invites militia activity from time to time, but they don't concern themselves with it, said Dewey Wichman, a lifelong Metaline Falls resident and retiree.

"The world is full of hillbillies up here, but people around here are pretty damn helpful. They're mild and they're friendly," he said.

Residents who knew of Furrow say he spent little time in town during the year or so he lived with Mathews.

Metaline Falls neighbors say they never got to know Furrow as more than an acquaintance, but they knew Debra Mathews - from whom he is now separated - and her saga well.

Mathews had been married to Robert Jay Mathews, the founder of the neo-Nazi group The Order. He died Dec. 8, 1984, in a 35-hour standoff with FBI agents on Whidbey Island, firing at agents with a machine gun before dying from smoke inhalation as his cabin hideout burned to the ground.

Agents said Mathews had participated in armored-car holdups and a bank robbery netting $4 million, and that he had been involved in shooting and wounding an FBI agent. The Order also claimed responsibility for the 1983 murder of Alan Berg, Jewish host of a Denver radio talk show.

Mathews was reported as saying he founded his group because he grew tired of "too much talk and too little action" from the Rev. Richard Butler and his Church of Jesus Christ Christian - Aryan Nations.

Butler said today he could not confirm whether Furrow was a security guard at his organization's World Aryan Congress during the mid-1990s. "It's possible he could have been. A lot of people volunteer for that job."

"He (Furrow) was very much a racist. People just knew," said a woman who did not want to be identified. "But Debbie (Mathews) is an upstanding citizen."

Furrow and Mathews met, VanDyke said, at an Aryan Nations meeting at Hayden Lake, Idaho, several years back. Furrow courted Mathews, and soon the two were sending out invitations for a big Hayden Lake wedding to be conducted by Butler.

VanDyke, who didn't attend, said the two did not get a marriage license because "they did not believe in the laws of this land."

Couple's beliefs were known

Nancy Kiss, a nurse who lives in Metaline Falls, said the couple never discussed their beliefs with her, though everybody knew.

"It's never brought up," said Kiss, who has known Mathews for at least 24 years.

"She doesn't cause anybody problems, and nobody wants to cause her any problems."

While living in Metaline Falls, Furrow commuted to Colville to work at LaDuke & Fogle Equipment, which sells and repairs tractors. He was a capable mechanic but was laid off due to a lack of work there, said manager Roger Lynn.

"He was just a regular guy, showed up for work, nothing special," Lynn said.

"He was kind of reserved."

About three months ago, Furrow moved into his parents' Thurston County home.

The house, set far into the woods along a two-lane highway near the mouth of the Nisqually River, appears to be a large mobile home with a blue, metal roof. Last night, there were a couple of old Volvos parked outside a large garage, and a lone street light illuminated the yard at the end of a long dirt driveway.

Neighborhood residents said they hadn't seen anything to suggest Furrow was violent.

"Neal was a very pleasant child. They're calling him Buford Jr., but we know him as Neal," said Bernice Merrill, who has lived next door to the Furrows for more than 20 years. "They are very fine people."

Furrow graduated from Timberline High School in Lacey in 1979. Classmates remember him as a taciturn loner.

Military databases indicate that Furrow served in the military.

Merrill said Furrow's father, also named Buford O'Neal Furrow, was retired from a career in the Navy. Recently, she said, the elder Furrow's wife began suffering from the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The woman remained at home, though, under the care of her husband.

About three months ago, the younger Buford Furrow moved back into the house where he grew up, Merrill said. She said he had divorced and had no children.

She saw him as recently as four days ago.

The Merrills said they were not aware of any racist leanings expressed by Furrow. One of the big mysteries last night was why Furrow would have gone to Los Angeles.

"He's a country person," Bernice Merrill said. "He was always so quiet. Why would he go there?" According to The Associated Press, Furrow is listed in a database maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center of people connected with radical groups, said Mark Potok, a researcher with the center based in Montgomery, Ala.

Potok said Furrow was a member of Aryan Nations in 1995, and said he has a photo of Furrow in a Nazi uniform, taken that year at the Aryan Nations Compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho.

With additional reporting by Mike Carter, Steve Miletich and David Postman.



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