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Shooting suspect a loner but well-known for hate

The man who surrendered Wednesday in the shootings of five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles has a painfully familiar history: a low-profile loner with racist views and a nasty temper.

Those who remember Buford O'Neal Furrow Jr., 37, say he was a lonely, bespectacled overweight boy teased by his classmates. After high school, an injury kept him from completing Army boot camp.

Later, he got involved with neo-Nazi groups near this timber town in eastern Washington and had a long relationship with the widow of a hate-group founder killed in a shootout with federal agents.

After the relationship ended last year, Furrow tried to commit himself to a private mental hospital in the Seattle suburbs, telling the staff at Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital "he was thinking about suicide and shooting people" at a mall north of Seattle.

"Sometimes I feel like I could just lose it and kill people," Furrow was quoted as saying in papers filed by King County prosecutors.

He was charged Nov. 2 with second-degree assault, accused of attacking a nurse with a knife after he apparently changed his mind about committing himself and demanded his car keys back. Deputies found a 9mm handgun and ammunition and four knives in the vehicle. He pleaded guilty, served about five months in jail, and was released May 21.

Furrow was described as a quiet guy by those who had contact with him in Metaline Falls and in a rural area at the south end of Puget Sound, where he grew up. His father retired in 1977 as a chief master sergeant in the Air Force.

"He (Furrow) was a loner, a kind of bookish guy, what they'd call a nerd these days," junior high schoolmate Loni Merrill said Wednesday. "He wasn't somebody that stood out."

Furrow graduated from high school in 1979 and joined the Army in August 1980. He got an honorable discharge two months later because of an "unstable knee," said Army spokeswoman Verna Williams.

Furrow apparently had addresses in Rosamond, Calif., near Los Angeles, in 1993 and 1994, but locals say he lived in Metaline Falls for several years with Debbie Mathews, whose husband, Robert Mathews, founded the neo-Nazi group The Order, a violent offshoot of the Aryan Nations. Mathews was killed in 1984 when his hideout caught fire during a shootout with federal agents.

Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler said he thinks he married Furrow and Mrs. Mathews around 1996, though the union was not recorded with authorities.

In a telephone interview Wednesday from Hayden Lake, Idaho, Butler said Furrow may have attended services at his Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations a few times several years ago, but he did not know him well.

Asked what might have motivated Tuesday's shootings, Butler replied: "The war against the white race. There's a war of extermination against the white male."

A woman who answered the phone at the number listed for Debbie Mathews hung up on the Associated Press on Wednesday. There was no sign of her on her property, which has several "No Trespassing" signs.

Former Aryan Nations member Floyd Cochran said he met Furrow at the group's northern Idaho compound in 1991 and 1992.

"We had basic conversations about Jews running the world," Cochran said in a telephone interview from his home in Moshannon, Pa.

Furrow "was not any more violent than other people there," said Cochran, who now lectures in opposition to hate groups. "He had a fascination with guns, but at the Aryan Nations, if you didn't have a fascination with guns you might get shot."

Michael Reynolds of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups and has a file on Furrow, said Furrow apparently followed the beliefs of the so-called Phineas Priesthood, which is opposed to interracial marriage and the charging of interest by banks. That loose-knit group also has been linked to 1996 Spokane-area bombings and bank robberies, and to recent fires at synagogues in Sacramento, Calif., Reynolds said.

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