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Howard Unruh ( 1921 - 2009 )  Category ( Criminals ) [suggest a correction]
 

Howard Unruh was, it could be said, ahead of his time.

Wearing a suit and a bow tie and armed with a Luger pistol and a "retaliation list," Unruh shot 13 people to death in his Camden, N.J. neighborhood on Sept. 6, 1949. He told police that his neighbors had been plotting against him

Unruh's rampage, which lasted only 12 minutes, is considered the first of its kind, predating such later events as the Texas Tower, Columbine High School and Virginia Tech shootings.

Certainly, Unruh fit what has become the stereotype for the perpetrators of these mass killings. He was described as shy and quiet, despite having seen combat in the Battle of the Bulge as a tank soldier. Unable to fit in in civilian life, he dropped out of pharmacy school and was living with his mother.

Local teenagers taunted him as being gay. Had they known of Unruh's fascination with weapons, many of which he kept in his bedroom, they might have been more discreet.

The incident that apparently triggered his murderous rage was the theft of his front gate, which he discovered after returning from a triple movie feature. The next morning, after his mother left, Unruh loaded his pistol.

Ironically, he missed the first person at whom he fired -- a bread truck driver. But he was just warming up. Unruh wound up killing the owner of a barbershop and the small boy in his chair, a husband and wife who ran a tailor shop (and with whom he had feuded), and a number of random bystanders. Then he returned to his house.

"I ran out of bullets," he later said, "so I went home."

A reporter for the Camden Evening Courier called Unruh's house and actually got him on the phoner.

"What are they doing to you?" the reporter asked.

"They haven't done anything to me yet," Unruh replied, "but I'm doing plenty to them."

The police finally flushed him from the house with tear gas and captured him. A psychiatric evaluation revealed that he was paranoid schizophrenic, and he was sent to the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. There, in a private cell, he lived until his death on October 19, 2009 at 88.

"I'd have killed a thousand if I had bullets enough," Unruh is said to have told a psychologist.


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