White lawyer accused in 5 fatal shootings

Most of victims in Pittsburgh were ethnic, racial minorities

April 29, 2000|By N.Y. TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A white immigration lawyer went on a shooting spree on the outskirts of Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon, killing five people, including a Jewish woman, two Asian men, one Indian and one black man and critically injuring a sixth, police officials said.

The man, identified by the police as Richard Baumhammers, 34, was pulled over in his Jeep and arrested at 3: 30 p.m. in Ambridge, two hours after the police uncovered a 15-mile trail of death that ran through two shopping centers and crossed three townships.

Baumhammers stays with his parents in Mount Lebanon, Pa., where neighbors described the family as "pillars of the community." Baumhammers is licensed to practice law in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

He was arraigned last night on one count of criminal homicide in the shooting at a martial arts school, and the FBI has joined the investigation by the Alleghany County police to determine whether the spree was a hate crime.

The killings followed another shooting spree with racist overtones in Pittsburgh on March 2. In that incident, a black man opened fire in two fast-food restaurants during lunchtime, after proclaiming, "I'm just out to shoot white men." The gunman in that case surrendered to the police, but his actions left a deep reservoir of fear and grief.

Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania responding to the latest shootings, said last night to a Republican group he was addressing in Pebble Beach, Calif.: "Not again. Those are the first words that come to mind. Not again." He added, "Across Pennsylvania, and particularly in southwestern Pennsylvania, we are struggling to make sense of what appears to be yet another brutal racist rampage."

Law enforcement officials got the first call related to the killings at 1: 43 p.m., when a fire alarm went off at the home of one of Baumhammers' next-door neighbors, said Paul Wolf, acting superintendent for the Mount Lebanon police. When police officers and firefighters arrived at the house, Wolf said, they found the body of a neighbor, Anita Gordon, 63, who had been shot to death.

The house was burning after a rug was set on fire. Gordon is Jewish. About 1: 49 p.m., the police received a call about a shooting in neighboring Scott Township, at an Indian grocery in the Scott Town Center. A 30-year-old man had been killed by multiple gunshots.

Another victim was taken to Mercy Hospital, and remained in serious condition lastnight. Police did not release their names, though he was identified by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as Patil Sandip, 24, of Pittsburgh.

Kent Kretzler, owner of Travel Connection, was working next door to the grocery when he said he heard loud sounds. He said he then saw a man walking away from the grocery with his arm extended backward pointing a revolver at the grocery. "Then he calmly and coolly walked along the sidewalk to his car," Kretzler said, adding that the man sat in his black Jeep Cherokee for about a minute before driving off. Another report of gunfire came at 2: 25 p.m., Wolf said, this time at a Chinese restaurant, Ya Fei Chinese Cuisine, in adjacent Robinson Township. Two Asian men there were shot from five to six feet away, said Wolf, one in the face and one in the chest. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. A cook said an employee ran into the kitchen and told everyone to escape.

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