Man Gets Life for California Hate Crime

The Associated Press/March 27, 2001

Los Angeles -- In a courtroom filled with sobbing victims, White supremacist Buford O. Furrow apologized and blamed mental illness for the 1999 shooting spree in which he killed a postal worker and wounded five people. "I want to try, although it is impossible, to convey my deep sorrow," Furrow said Monday, reading a statement before he was sentenced. "I think about what happened every day and I will grieve for it every day for the rest of my life."

U.S. District Judge Nora Manella imposed two life sentences without possibility of parole, plus 110 years in prison and payment of $690,294 in restitution.

"Your actions were a reminder that bigotry is alive," the judge told him. "If you've sent a message, it is that even the most violent crimes can strengthen a community."

On Aug. 10, 1999, Furrow stormed into the North Valley Jewish Community Center, which was packed with children attending day programs, and fired more 70 bullets. Three boys, a teen-age girl and a woman were injured.

He then headed into the San Fernando Valley neighborhood and killed Filipino-American mailman Joseph Ileto, who was shot nine times. Furrow surrendered in Las Vegas the next day, declaring he had intended to send a "wake-up call to America to kill Jews."

Furrow, of Olympia, Wash., had a history of involvement with anti-Semitic groups in the Pacific Northwest, among them the Aryan Nations. He also had a history of mental problems and had tried to get help without success, his lawyers said when they argued to spare his life.

In court Monday, Furrow insisted he did not harbor hatred for his victims because of race or religion. He said he wished he had been confined to a mental hospital to which he tried to commit himself before the shootings.

"I'm sorry for how I traumatized your lives," he told families in the courtroom. "I would give anything for this not to have happened."

In a plea bargain, Furrow pleaded guilty in January to 16 federal charges. The slaying of Ileto was a federal offense because he was a government employee.

Furrow's remarks Monday were followed by emotional speeches from survivors and victims' families. The most anguished was Mindy Finkelstein, who was a 16-year-old camp counselor at the center.

"I've been to hell and back," she told the judge. "Buford Furrow tried to kill me and he failed. But in a way he succeeded."

The mother, brother and sisters of Ileto described the devastating loss to their loved-one.

"Sometimes I hope this was just a nightmare and my son will come to the front door," Lillian Santos Ileto said. "But I'm afraid it's not so. I will never get over the loss of my son."

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