Vital Signs

Mass Murderers From Brooklyn

To Hicksville and Hebron

On December 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson loaded his 9-millimeter pistol, put 160 rounds of additional ammunition in his pockets, and took a train crowded with homebound commuters to Hicksville, Long Island. There he deliberately commenced firing on the packed passengers, killing six people and wounding 17 others. As he paused to reload, two brave men overpowered him. Early in the morning of February 25, 1994, Dr. Baruch Goldstein loaded his automatic rifle and went to a mosque in Hebron on the West Bank of the Jordan River, where the patriarch Abraham is said to be buried. Firing into the crowd kneeling at prayer, he emptied the magazine, killing 30 or more and wounding many others.

Ferguson, a Jamaican, deliberately set out to kill white people. Goldstein, a Jew who thought of himself as an Israeli, had gone to kill Palestinian Muslims. Why? Is the fact that each had spent a significant part of his life in Brooklyn all they had in common?

As a child, Ferguson led a sheltered life in an affluent family in Jamaica. He attended one of the island's best schools. Its principal said he was a pleasant, punctual, well-behaved student who played cricket, was the star goalkeeper on the soccer team, and graduated in the top third of his class. After graduation, his father got him a job but died when Ferguson was 20. Looking to improve his prospects, Ferguson emigrated to the United States when he was 24. After a marriage that gave...

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