BYLINE: SAM SKOLNIK P-I REPORTER
The Everett pawnshop that sold Buford Furrow a semiautomatic handgun allegedly used during last summer's shooting spree in California is being targeted in a wrongful-death suit.
Authorities say Furrow used the 9mm Glock to kill a Filipino-American postal worker in a Chatsworth, Calif., driveway on Aug. 10, 1999.
That same day, Furrow, a former Olympia resident with a history of mental illness, allegedly wounded three children, a teenage girl and a woman at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in nearby Grenada Hills.
Furrow has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the shootings.
According to the suit, filed yesterday, Glock Inc. and other makers and sellers of guns in Furrow's possession are partially responsible for the attack at the community center and the death of postal worker Joseph Ileto.
The Everett pawnshop, Loaner Pawn Shop Too, and the store's former manager, David McGee, are named as defendants. Pawnshop employees "frequently bought and sold many firearms from and to Furrow, knew Furrow personally, and had at least a reasonable basis for concluding that Furrow, if in possession of firearms, was a danger to others and to the public generally," the suit alleges.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Ileto's mother and the parents of three children who were wounded in the attack.
Furrow was convicted of a knife assault at a Kirkland mental health facility in 1998. He is an avowed white supremacist with ties to violent hate groups.
Josh Horwitz, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney representing the victims' families, said Furrow shouldn't have been allowed to build and maintain an arsenal of semiautomatic and assault-style weapons.
Pawnshops that sell guns have a responsibility to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands, Horwitz said. "If (the pawnshop manager) had actual knowledge or even implied knowledge that Furrow was mentally unstable, he has an obligation not to sell that gun," the lawyer said. But John St. John, the owner of the pawnshop and three other Everett businesses, said the sale of the Glock to Furrow satisfied all federal regulations. St. John said Furrow never acted strangely during his visits to the shop or gave him any reason to be concerned. St. John called Furrow's actions "twisted and sick" but said his business shouldn't bear any responsibility for the crimes. "What, are we supposed to psychologically evaluate every customer who comes through the door?" he said.
McGee, the former manager, said Furrow never mentioned "that off-the-wall stuff" he had been involved in and that he didn't seem dangerous or unstable.
Paul Jannuzzo, general counsel of Georgia-based Glock Inc., said yesterday he had not yet heard of the suit and couldn't comment.
In addition to the pawnshop, McGee and Glock, the defendants include the makers or sellers of six other guns seized from Furrow after the shootings.
It is unclear where Furrow initially bought the Glock he later pawned. Federal agents have speculated that Furrow bought it in early 1998, at a gun show in Spokane.
The gun was first purchased in 1996 by the Cosmopolis Police Department in Grays Harbor County. The department then traded it to a gun dealer.
This report includes material from The Associated Press.
CORRECTION-DATE: August 23, 2000
Buford Furrow, the man accused of killing a postal worker and wounding three children at a Jewish community center in California, pawned his own weapons and then redeemed them at Loaner Pawn Shop Too in Everett. A story about a wrongful-death lawsuit against the shop, on Page B1 of the Seattle and the Northwest section Aug. 11, may not have made clear the nature of the pawnshop transactions.
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