Gary Stephen Weksler, focus of a police investigation into two explosions that tore through a Koreatown apartment building Tuesday, has a fixation with pyrotechnics and weapons, a relative and court records indicated Wednesday.
Moreover, the life of the 38-year-old suspect was apparently complicated by severe personality problems and a persecution complex and fueled by memories of recurrent run-ins with the law and a broken home.
From court records and an interview with Weksler’s uncle, Sid Weksler, a Los Angeles food processing executive, emerges a picture of a loner who could never hold a job for long and who never found his niche in society.
“He’s a juvenile delinquent,” Sid Weksler said of his nephew. “He’s a big, lumbering kid (he stands over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds), who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He just looks like he would.”
Gary Weksler’s big fireworks cache, which he stored in his one-room, first-floor apartment on Menlo Avenue, is believed by police to be responsible for at least one of the explosions that injured 10 police officers. One of the officers, Dan Johnson of the Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad, was still hospitalized Wednesday night, in good condition at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan.
Weksler suffered a hand injury, possibly from an earlier fireworks accident, and was being held in the jail ward at County-USC Medical Center on suspicion of possession of a destructive device, a felony. Arraignment was scheduled for today.
Officials of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Police Department said the precise cause of the two blasts, which occurred about 10 minutes apart and which triggered a blaze that gutted the Victorian-style apartment house and rocked the neighborhood, was still under investigation.
Weksler, according to his criminal court records, was born in Los Angeles, the only child of parents who divorced when he was 4 years old. His father, Hal Weksler, is a partner with his brother, Sid, in an egg processing plant.
Lived With Father
After the divorce, Weksler grew up with his father, stepmother and two stepbrothers in West Los Angeles in an upper-middle-class environment, his uncle said. But he never got along with the family or society, Sid Weksler said in a telephone interview.
“He’s withdrawn,” he said. “He feels he can’t get a break.”
As a youth of average intelligence--but exhibiting personality problems--young Weksler showed the need for private schooling, according to court records. At that time, records indicate, he was undergoing psychiatric and psychological counseling.
It was also during that period, according to his uncle, that Weksler became fascinated with fireworks and guns.
“All his life, since I can remember, he liked fireworks,” Sid Weksler said. “Most kids do. But he stayed with it. This kid knows more about guns, gun powder and pyrotechnics than most.”
Then, reflecting on Tuesday’s bizarre events, he added, “It’s a sad thing.”
Gary Weksler dropped out of the 10th grade and embarked on an erratic employment history, which included working at his father’s plant, operating a taffy machine at Farmers Market and attempting to create a cottage industry selling collages made from gun parts and bullets.
Besides fireworks, his other passion was skeet shooting, Sid Weksler said.
Several years ago, his uncle recalled, Gary Weksler was almost killed while target shooting when a friend inadvertently wounded him near the heart with a .45-caliber slug.
According to court records, as a 17-year-old estranged from his family, Weksler began using marijuana. It was not long before confrontations with the law began.
Weksler’s police record shows a string of arrests, including suspicion of marijuana possession, begging in a public place, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted extortion, reckless driving and battery on a police officer.
In 1977, Weksler was convicted in Los Angeles County Superior Court for the sale of marijuana and in Beverly Hills Municipal Court for battery on a police officer. He received periods of probation for both offenses.
At the time of his arrest in 1977, police investigators noted that Weksler possessed a .38-caliber revolver, a 12-gauge shotgun and large quantities of ammunition.
A psychiatrist wrote to a judge in 1977 that Weksler’s “interest in weapons and their availability to him renders him somewhat unpredictable if he is placed under emotional stress.”
Said Sid Weksler: “He just doesn’t think like you and me. He’s in a slightly different world.”