RIVERSIDE — A gunman identified as a former Nation of Islam minister shot and wounded controversial former Nation of Islam spokesman Khallid Abdul Muhammad here Sunday on the steps outside a university auditorium where Muhammad had just spoken, officials said.
Muhammad, 43, was hit in the left leg by at least one of five or six shots from a 9-millimeter handgun, officials said. He also suffered a graze wound to the right leg. He was in satisfactory condition after surgery at Riverside Community Hospital, officials said.
Two Nation of Islam bodyguards were also wounded. Caliph Sadig, 33, of Upland was in satisfactory condition with a wound in the upper right back. Another guard, Varnado Puckett, 34, of Pomona was shot three times. He was in serious condition, undergoing surgery at Riverside General Hospital.
A fourth victim, evidently a bystander, was identified by authorities as Terrell D. Strait, 20, of Pomona. He was shot in the left shoulder and stomach and was in good condition at Riverside Community Hospital.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 2, 1994 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 2 Metro Desk 2 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Muhammad shooting--Yahoshuah Ben Sadic was misidentified as a bodyguard of Khallid Abdul Muhammad in a Times photo caption May 30 showing Muhammad being assisted by several men after he was shot. Sadic, founder of the Pomona-based Nation of Israel, says he is not a member of the Nation of Islam.
PHOTO: Yahoshuah Ben Sadic
PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press
The gunman--wearing a dark suit, dress shirt and tie "characteristic of what (Muhammad's) security people were wearing," said UC Riverside spokesman Jack Chappell--stepped from a crowd of about 50 people outside the auditorium where Muhammad had just spoken and fired from five to 10 feet away.
The gunman was severely beaten by the crowd, some of whom reportedly shouted, "He works for the Jews." (Muhammad was fired as a top aide to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after making harshly anti-Semitic remarks last year.) Police plucked the bloodied man from the angry crowd and put him in a police car until he could be taken away by ambulance.
Police late Sunday identified the suspect as James Edward Bess, 49, of Seattle, a former Nation of Islam minister who had been expelled from the ministry, according to Chappell. No motive for the shooting has been discussed by officials.
Ahromuz, a longtime Muhammad friend who was standing on the auditorium steps next to Muhammad when he was shot, said someone had just asked him to compare the struggle of Latinos with those of African Americans.
"The last thing I remember him saying was, 'The same dog that bit you, bit me,' " said Ahromuz.
"After that, just pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. It was so close. I just took my daughter and hit the ground," he said. "I heard a bullet echo in my ear and I could smell gunpowder."
In the chaos after the 6:09 p.m. shooting, Ahromuz said, several young African American men attacked some white people who had rushed to the scene, but others who had been at the speech intervened.
Members of the Fruit of Islam, the Nation of Islam's security contingent, carried the wounded Muhammad back through the building to a waiting white Lincoln Continental and hurried him to Riverside Community Hospital.
Associated Press photographer William Lewis said angry supporters descended on the gunman and pummeled him as police attempted to stop them.
"They were just kicking and stomping him in the head. That's where the pandemonium was. They dragged the shooter out by the nape of his neck, blood dripping," he said. "People were still trying to get their kicks in. The police were trying to protect him. And the people wouldn't let him get out."
UC Riverside senior Mark Thaler, who attended the speech, saw the suspect later, "a bloodied head, and (he was) propped up" in the back of the police car.
Muhammad's son, 9-year-old Farrakhan Khallid Muhammad, was carried away by aides as he screamed, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" The boy, who frequently appears on stage with Muhammad, did not appear to be injured.
Under intense security that included pat-downs and bag searches and a hefty presence of Riverside police, campus security as well as Fruit of Islam, nearly 450 people had entered the Student Recreation Center to hear Muhammad, who was sponsored by the African Student Alliance at UC Riverside.
During the speech, about 70 protesters picketed silently outside, among them Jewish and Roman Catholic students.
Inside, three people were thrown out of the building after they began heckling Muhammad. Campus officials identified one of them as Irv Rubin, a member of the Jewish Defense League.
After the speech, Muhammad stepped outside, where 50 or 60 people were waiting.
"After a speech, he likes to deal with the people, which irritates his security," a friend of Muhammad's told The Times. "Security is more worried about Khallid than Khallid himself."
Sunday's speech had given the university pause, said Chappell.
"The administration was very concerned that there would be protesters, but the student group followed all the processes," Chappell said. "For us to deny them the opportunity for him to speak would have been a denial of free speech."
The friend said that on Saturday night, Muhammad had stayed two hours after the end of his Los Angeles speech to talk to people in the Crenshaw district theatre where he spoke.