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‘Festering Hatred’ Fueled Stockton Killer : Schoolyard Massacre Linked to Trend of Attacks on Minorities

Times Staff Writer

A “festering hatred” of racial and ethnic minorities drove Patrick Purdy to massacre five children in a Stockton schoolyard last January, an extreme example of a growing trend of hate crimes, Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp said Friday.

In an extensive report on the life, habits and psychological makeup of the troubled young drifter who killed himself after firing 105 rounds from an AK-47 into the crowded Cleveland Elementary School playground, Van de Kamp said his investigators concluded that the 24-year-old had been obsessed with a hatred of Cambodians, Indians, Pakistanis and especially Vietnamese.

Even his last known spoken words--made to a fellow guest at a cheap motel in Stockton as he prepared to get into his car for the drive to the Cleveland School--reflected that obsession, the report said. As the other guest remembered it, there was a joking reference to the fact that the motel was operated by a Hindu family and then the final words from Purdy.

“The damn Hindus and boat people own everything,” he was quoted as saying. A short time later, five Southeast Asian children were dead and 30 other children, mostly minorities, and one teacher were wounded.

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“Sadly, such sentiments are common in California--whether they are directed at immigrant groups or at native-born minorities like blacks, Jews and Hispanics,” Van de Kamp said. “Most people who believe and say such things are not so dangerous and unstable as Patrick Purdy. But it is no coincidence that the number of racially and ethnically motivated crimes in California is rising rapidly.”

Van de Kamp, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, said the investigation had been requested by Asian-American groups worried that the killings were part of an organized attack on new immigrants.

Although the report found that Purdy acted alone, Van de Kamp said he had also hoped to reassure ethnic groups that the killer’s decision to attack a school with a predominance of Southeast Asian-American children was merely a “tragic coincidence.”

“The truth proved otherwise,” he said. “Purdy was filled with hate and anger toward many groups of people, including virtually all ethnic minorities. But in the last days of his life it seems clear that he had focused on Stockton’s large and highly visible population of Southeast Asian immigrants.”

Dale Minami, a San Francisco lawyer who is chairman of the attorney general’s Asian/Pacific Islander Advisory Committee, said leaders of Asian-American groups were disturbed by initial reports that found little racial motivation for the crime. He said they believed that it was important “for our peace of mind” to confirm that racial hatred was a factor so that attention could be focused on it and “we could begin to fashion remedies and solutions.”

“For Asian-Pacific Americans the report confirms a disturbing fact, that violence and hostility against Asian-Pacific Americans is a growing trend in this state,” Minami said. “In this sense Patrick Purdy’s attitude toward Asian-Pacific Americans is not simply an aberration but a more frightening omen of what could become a theme in California in the next decade.”

Noting that California, more than any other state, has had to assimilate huge numbers of ethnic minorities, Van de Kamp recommended that schools be encouraged to develop curriculums that includes instruction in human relations and ethnic studies and that communities establish human relations centers to work with local organizations to “respond to and prevent hate crimes.”

The investigators who prepared the attorney general’s report, however, devoted most of their efforts to sketching a portrait of Purdy, whom they described as hopelessly alienated from society by a turbulent childhood in which he was provided no love and little stability.

Richard M. Yarvis, former chief psychiatrist for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, traveled across the country to interview family members and acquaintances for a psychological autopsy, an investigatory device commonly used to study suicidal behavior.

While there were gaps in the evidence he was able to gather, Yarvis concluded that Purdy had “compensated for his own feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy by shifting blame to others and by rationalizing that he was unsuccessful only because of unfair favoritism to others who were receiving government support while he was not.”


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