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Shootout Vowed in Chilling Video

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

After vowing in a video suicide message to put on “a hell of a show,” a security guard killed himself early Monday in a fierce gun battle with police after a rampage that left five dead and two wounded, authorities said.

Joseph Ferguson, 20, used the video to explain his decision to systematically target former co-workers around the city after he was suspended from his job Friday and rejected by his girlfriend--who became his first victim.

His threats against Burns International Security employees so concerned company officials that a day before the shootings began, they warned the FBI, which took a report but did not investigate.

Ferguson left behind a videotape--made by a hostage who became the fifth and final murder victim--in which he gives a profanity-laced diatribe against his former girlfriend, several colleagues and his mother, who is in prison for molesting her sons.

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In the six-minute tape, Ferguson says he planned to “make Los Angeles look like a . . . joke,” an apparent reference to the 1997 shootout between police and two heavily armed bank robbers in North Hollywood, authorities said.

“I’m going to see fit that that happens,” Ferguson says in the video, wearing black body armor and waving a handgun. “Either a bullet to my brain, or a . . . cop will kill me.”

He adds that the slayings “should be good enough to last about a week on the news. It’s time to feed the news media.”

Armed with a cache of automatic weapons and gym bag full of ammunition, Ferguson led police on a brief, mile-long chase Sunday night, firing indiscriminately, and then waged a street-corner gun battle. It ended shortly after midnight Monday as police approached to find Ferguson dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ferguson was suspended at work Friday after the former girlfriend, Burns guard Nina Susu, 20, said he vandalized her car following the breakup, hacking its front end with an ax.

Burns officials called the FBI to warn of threats from Ferguson, who had worked for the firm for two years. An FBI agent took a phone report from Burns officials and Susu.

Nick Rossi, an FBI spokesman, said the agent contacted Sacramento police, but concluded the threats didn’t hold enough weight to justify tracking down Ferguson, who had no criminal record.

On Saturday, Ferguson gave no signs of swelling anger as he concluded a two-day gun training course at California Security Training Academy in Sacramento.

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“He passed with flying colors,” said Steve Caballero, the founder of the school and a former deputy sheriff. “His interaction was beyond reproach and he seemed like a gentleman I’d like to have in any class. But you don’t have a crystal ball.”

The fusillade and apparent suicide ended a 24-hour murder rampage that prompted worried Sacramento County residents to lock windows and bolt doors, shut down several area businesses and prompted Ferguson’s employer, Burns Security, to pull 150 employees off the job.

“Everyone was petrified what this guy was going to do next,” said Capt. John McGinness of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. “I was scared to death. This is our worst nightmare.”

Four of the five people killed worked for Burns--Susu, 20; 32-year-old Marsha Jackson; George Bernardino, 48; and Nikolay Popovich, 28. Derek Glimstad, 19, worked at a city boat dock hit in the rampage.

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The breakup that triggered the violence had been building since June, when Ferguson went into a jealous rage during Susu’s two-month trip to her homeland of Moldova, said Susu’s father, Mihai.

“She decided to break up with him when she came back,” he said. But when Ferguson picked her up at the airport, he threatened to kill her if she left, Susu said. “From that point on, she was afraid every day that she went to work.”

Ferguson threatened other co-workers in cell phone calls he made during the rampage. He said he would outdo Nikolay Soltys, suspected of slaying seven family members in Sacramento last month, and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Handcuffing Guard to Tree

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Susu and Jackson were the first to die, shot at their posts in a Sacramento city maintenance yard late Saturday evening.

Investigators say Ferguson took a pickup truck from the maintenance yard then turned up a couple miles away at a city marina along the Sacramento River, where Bernardino and Glimstad were shot and killed.

Ferguson then drove the truck a few miles to the Sacramento Zoo, where he rammed through a back gate, handcuffed another security guard to a tree and stole her green Toyota.

Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas Jr. said the woman was spared because “he thought she was just a nice person.”

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Well before dawn Sunday, police said, Ferguson drove 10 miles east. Armed with an assault rifle and other weapons, he barged into the home of Popovich, another Burns employee.

Popovich and his wife were forced at gunpoint to cook for Ferguson and to help him make the videotape, investigators said.

That videotape gives the picture of an angry, distressed man.

Ferguson rails that for more than a decade his mother, Susan Ferguson, had molested him and a brother, an ordeal he blamed for pushing him into counseling for several years.

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Susan Ferguson is now serving a 14-year sentence at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla for those crimes.

At one point in the video, Ferguson takes a brief break from his rapid-fire speech to peer through a peephole in the front door, to make sure police aren’t approaching.

He explains how he had taken weapons for the killing spree from home and converted semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic ones. He apologizes to his father.

Ferguson saved much of his vitriol for Susu. He says on the tape that he confided in her about the molestations and was betrayed when she rejected him.

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He talks of having fixed front-end damage to Susu’s car. When they split, he decided it was only fitting to inflict damage anew with an ax. “I giveth and I taketh away,” Ferguson said of his actions, “that’s how it goes in . . . life.”

After the videotaping was completed, Popovich was bound and gagged, then shot, investigators say. Ferguson barricaded the doors with sofas and other furniture.

About 9 p.m. Sunday he let Popovich’s wife flee, telling her to make sure authorities got the videotape, investigators say. Ferguson took off in the couple’s blue Nissan Altima.

He didn’t last long on the streets. Three women in a car spotted Ferguson’s blue vehicle among the glassy office complexes south of Interstate 50 in suburban Rancho Cordova. They called 911, and about 11:30 p.m. Sunday two CHP squad cars arrived on the scene.

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A fierce gunfight erupted, with Ferguson firing more than 60 rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle. Officer Martin Tapia suffered two gunshot wounds in his arm. As a partner came to the aid of the 7-year veteran, Ferguson roared off northbound.

Just a mile north at the intersection of Zinfandel Drive and Folsom Boulevard, the blue Nissan swerved into a pole. Police say Ferguson then fired more than 200 shots from the assault rifle and several shotgun rounds. Police converged on the scene, as officers returned fire, riddling the Nissan with bullet holes.

During the melee, 27-year-old Jeffrey Maines was hit by a bullet in the abdomen as he sat in his white pickup truck at the intersection. He was pulled to safety by a sheriff’s deputy and CHP officers. Maines was in critical condition late Monday.

Eventually the gunfire quieted and an armored vehicle rolled up and nudged the vehicle, getting no response.

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Police moved in and found Ferguson dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, they said.

Though investigators found a Nazi flag and white supremacist literature at Ferguson’s home, they said there is no evidence that race played a role in the killings. One victim was black and another was Asian.

Sacramento attorney Michael Barber said he last saw the 20-year-old Wednesday when his parents’ divorce was finalized.

Mother’s Reaction

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“He was in court and he seemed calm, relaxed, friendly as he usually was,” Barber said, adding that “it’s just a pathetic tragedy all the way around.”

Susan Ferguson learned of her son’s rampage and violent death Monday through radio news reports at the prison. “She was red- eyed,” said Lt. Pat Callahan. “She looked like she had been crying.”

Her brother, Ned Cullar, said he had lived across the street from the family until about two years ago.

Cullar said the Fergusons operated their home, which is guarded by Doberman pinschers, like an armed camp. Guns were never more than a few steps away, he said.

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Tom Ferguson maintained iron-fisted control over his children.And even on casual walks through the neighborhood, Ferguson would carry a Taser, Cullar said.

Bars adorn windows of the family home, a security camera perches in the front window and the fences are lined with barbed wire and jagged-edged broken bottles.

Several neighbors said they sporadically heard gunshots from the Fergusons’ backyard.

One couple, who also asked that they not be named, said they had a series of confrontations with the Fergusons, including run-ins with the family’s two Dobermans and at least one with racial overtones.

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The father is an out-of-work landscaper who was receiving alimony and child support from his now-imprisoned former wife, who had managed a 98 Cent store, Cullar said.

In his early teens, Joe Ferguson struck Cullar as “very normal. Intelligent and polite,” a boy who excelled in school. After his freshman year in high school, Ferguson was home schooled.

But by Cullar’s last substantial contact with the youth in December 1998, he was transformed both physically and emotionally.

“He had become very military,” he said “Black boots with red laces, black pants, black T-shirts with a black baseball cap, head almost shaved.” Cullar said he knew that Joseph Ferguson “was going to go off. It was only a matter of when and how many people he would take with him.”

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Times staff writers Margaret Talev and Julie Tamaki in Sacramento and Greg Krikorian and Geoffrey Mohan in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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