The Washington State Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $2.25 million to the families of five California children who were wounded...
The Washington State Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $2.25 million to the families of five California children who were wounded or traumatized when a prison parolee opened fire in a Jewish community center in 1999.
Buford Furrow Jr., 46, is serving a life sentence in prison after pleading guilty in 2001 to the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, Calif.
The families of the victims had filed a $15 million claim against the Department of Corrections (DOC), claiming that corrections staff failed to properly supervise Furrow, or visit his home and should have known that he had obtained firearms and ammunition.
State Corrections Chief Eldon Vail said in a news release Wednesday that he hopes “in some small way these families will be able to find peace and resolution.”
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Furrow, a self-avowed white supremacist, graduated in 1979 from Timberline High School in Lacey, Thurston County. In October 1998, when Furrow tried to commit himself to Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital in Kirkland, he threatened staff members with a knife. He was arrested, pleaded guilty and served 5 ½ months in King County Jail for assault with a deadly weapon.
In August 1999, Furrow drove from Washington state to Southern California in a van loaded with weapons, according to law-enforcement accounts. He allegedly scouted out several Jewish-related facilities and settled on the North Valley Jewish Community Center outside Los Angeles, where he fired more than 70 rounds.
Three boys, a teenage girl who worked as a camp counselor and a female receptionist were injured by gunfire. Furrow then walked up to mail carrier Joseph Ileto, asked him to mail a letter and then fatally shot him.
Furrow surrendered the next day in Las Vegas, telling police the shootings were intended as a “wake-up call to America to kill Jews.”
The families of the three wounded boys and of two children who claimed to have suffered psychological harm while witnessing the shootings, filed the claim in 2006.
Mike Withey, the Seattle attorney who represented the five families, said Wednesday that his clients were “gratified by the settlement.”
He said the settlement came after “many depositions” and a full day of mediation with DOC officials. The civil case was slated to be tried in King County Superior Court next month.
The DOC said Furrow reported as directed to his community corrections officer for several months before the shootings. He was banned from possessing firearms or alcohol.
Vail said that since the shooting, state lawmakers have increased offender supervision.
“We all try to make sense of these senseless acts of hate and violence. They leave us all shocked and saddened but motivated to find ways to improve public safety,” Vail said in a news release.
The Offender Accountability Act, which went into place in July 2000, gave DOC more authority to impose conditions on offenders on probation. Since the shootings, DOC has also gained easier access to felons’ mental-health records.
In January, Withey reached a settlement with an Everett pawnshop, Loaner Too. Furrow retrieved the pistol he had previously pawned there and used it to shoot Ileto. That suit, filed on behalf of Ileto’s wife, was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.