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Suspect in JCC rampage has history of involvement in racist organizations

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11 (JTA) — When Buford O”Neal Furrow walked into the North Valley Jewish Community Center and opened fire Tuesday, he reportedly wanted his action to serve as “a wake-up call to America to kill Jews.” A source said the white supremacist, suspected in a shooting spree at the North Valley Jewish Community Center that injured five, made the comment as he turned himself in to FBI authorities in Las Vegas on Wednesday, 24 hours after the assault. The gunman”s attack at the center in the San Fernando Valley community of Granada Hills sent shock waves and demands for tighter security throughout the Jewish community, still tense from arson attacks on three Sacramento, Calif., synagogues on June 18. Carli Morgenstern, 17, was one of three counselors watching over 14 kindergartners and first-graders in the “Aleph” classroom. Morgenstern said she heard the gunshots and then saw the wounded counselor run into the room, blood dripping down her leg. The other counselors frantically gathered the kids together and ran to the center”s parking lot and then across the street before heading for the convalescent home next door. Morgenstern said the center had held no fire drills and that the counselors had not received any training in how to handle an emergency. “I never thought about security or that we didn”t have a security guard,” she said later. “It never bothered me. This is such a friendly place; everybody knows everybody else.” Responding to security fears, the United Jewish Communities and the Anti-Defamation League formed an alliance on Wednesday to work with Jewish community relations councils to spread security awareness, especially as the High Holidays and the Jewish school year near. In the coming weeks, the groups will open a security hotline and will post the ADL”s security handbook on the Internet. Manuals for emergency planning and crisis management are regularly provided to staff at Jewish Community Centers Association affiliates. In a news release, the JCCA advised all of its affiliates to contact their local law enforcement agencies and to take appropriate precautions. The statement commended the “the calm, concerned manner” with which Jewish community centers across the continent “dealt with the situation” and the Los Angeles staff at the center and the Los Angeles police and fire departments “for their swift and courageous response to this difficult event.” Most seriously injured was a 5-year old boy, not yet identified, who was shot twice, one bullet piercing his abdomen, the other his foot. After undergoing six hours of surgery, the boy, whom doctors described as “a real fighter,” was in serious but stable condition. Lesser injuries were sustained by Isabelle Shalometh, 68, the center”s receptionist; Mindy Finkelstein, 16, a camp counselor; and Joshua Stepakoff, 6. Another injured 6-year old boy was not identified at his parents” request. Authorities said they filed a warrant charging Furrow, 37, with five state counts of attempted murder and that he will be extradited to Los Angeles after an arraignment. Federal civil rights charges may also be brought. Police and media reports say Furrow has had a history of mental problems, criminal assaults and has been affiliated with various racist and anti-Semitic groups. The Seattle Times reported that Furrow was also a member of the white supremacist Aryan Nations. The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said that a munitions-laden van, apparently abandoned by Furrow after the shooting, contained a book written by Richard Kelly Hoskins, a former member of the American Nazi Party and an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement. “Hoskins believes that Jews are a satanic threat to civilization and that ”people of color” are subhuman,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told CNN that Furrow had visited the center”s Museum of Tolerance recently and was thrown out for “abnormal” behavior. Furrow is a resident of Olympia, Wash., and reportedly once lived with Debbie Mathews, widow of Robert J. Mathews, founder of the hate group called The Order. Mathews was killed in 1984 when his hideout caught fire during a shootout with federal agents. Some 22 Order members were accused of numerous crimes, among them the 1984 murder of Alan Berg, a Jewish talk-show host in Denver. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney”s office in Los Angeles, told the Associated Press that federal prosecutors would also charge Furrow in the slaying of Joseph Ileto, 39, a postal worker killed in Los Angeles about an hour after the JCC shootings. Ileto was found dead in his driveway. He had just delivered mail to a home and was returning to his truck when he was shot several times, Mrozek said. The incident has also prompted renewed calls for stricter gun control laws. Although few believe sweeping changes can be enacted, even in the wake of the string of assaults across the country, some U.S. lawmakers and gun control advocates say it is time for Congress to act on pending legislation that would impose some restrictions on gun sales. The Senate has already passed a juvenile justice bill that would subject individuals purchasing guns at gun shows to background checks, ban the import of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds and require that trigger locks or other safety devices be sold with handguns. But the House of Representatives, following a fierce lobbying effort by the National Rifle Association, rejected those proposals in June. In the wake of Tuesday”s shooting, some Jewish activists are taking lawmakers to task. “Congress” inaction has left loopholes in our gun control laws, but more importantly it has fostered the culture of violence that spawns tragic and potentially tragic events every week,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “We must both mitigate the availability of guns and work to mend our society, to create a nation where violence is not tolerated,” he added. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body, said in an advisory sent to its member organizations that recent events “underscore the vital importance of enacting vigorous gun control measures to keep arms out of the hands of individuals who threaten the safety of our children and all members of society.” Jewish leaders slated to meet with President Clinton on Thursday are likely to discuss the need for gun control measures, as well as concerns about the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks from California to Illinois. President Clinton on Tuesday called the California attack “another senseless act of gun violence.” But he stopped short of calling for new gun legislation, saying only, “It calls on all of us not only to give our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, but to intensify our resolve to make America a safe place.”” Meanwhile, the North Valley JCC, which normally welcomes 200- 300 youngsters daily, vowed to carry on. Activities were transferred to a nearby church Wednesday, and will be returned to the center as soon as the police allow. (JTA correspondent Daniel Kurtzman in Washington, staff writer Julia Goldman in New York and Wendy J. Madnick of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles contributed to this report.)