Suit alleges Hale ordered shootings

Chicago Sun Times/March 15, 2000
By Lorraine Forte

White supremacist Matt Hale ordered Benjamin Smith to carry out last July's shooting spree against Jews and other minorities, an attorney for two teens shot at by Smith charged Tuesday.

Michael Bender said he has new evidence that Smith carried out the shootings under orders from World Church of the Creator leader Hale, but he declined to say what that evidence is.

The allegations, included in an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday, marked the first time Bender has accused Hale of ordering the shootings. The suit states that Smith and Hale hatched the plot to shoot Jews, African Americans, Asians and others "for the benefit of Matt Hale, the World Church and/or their ideals."

Bender's clients are suing Hale and Smith's parents for the Independence Day weekend rampage that started in West Rogers Park and left two dead--including former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong--and nine injured.

Hale, reached at his East Peoria home, called the filing "frivolous. It's just an attempt to keep this suit from being dismissed. Never in a million years did I tell somebody to go out shooting."

Bender said the filing is "definitely not a ploy."

Earlier this year, the FBI all but closed the books on the Smith case, saying they had found nothing relevant after examining data on Smith's computer, which was found in a storage shed shared by Hale and Smith. Smith's shooting spree spanned two states and ended when he killed himself during a police pursuit Downstate.

In an earlier amendment to the lawsuit, Bender alleged that Smith's parents, Kenneth and Beverly Smith, blocked police and medical personnel from providing mental health treatment to their son.

The amendment also alleged that the couple made threats intended to deter the University of Illinois from expelling their son following acts of violence and drug use.

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