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White House Suspect Left Note : Shooting: Message indicates he expected to die, a source says. The 26-year-old Colorado hotel worker, a dishonorably discharged soldier, is formally charged.

October 31, 1994|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Francisco Martin Duran, the Colorado man accused of spraying the outside of the White House with rifle fire, was formally charged Sunday with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and damaging federal property. One federal source said Duran left "a semi-suicide note" in his belongings.

According to the source, Duran--an Army veteran who served 2 1/2 years in the Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., penitentiary for aggravated assault with a vehicle--apparently expected to die after firing 20 to 30 rounds at the White House on Saturday. The rambling, handwritten note detailed how he wanted his affairs handled in the event of his death, the source said.

Duran instead was subdued by two tourists and taken into custody by Secret Service officers. Although several shots from his Chinese-made assault rifle struck the building, no one was injured in the shooting.

Duran's note eventually may shed light on a possible motive for the attack, but officials said Sunday they were still not certain what motivated him to fire the shots from a public sidewalk in front of the White House. The Secret Service, describing his demeanor as "completely flat," said the 26-year-old hotel worker was not cooperating with authorities.

White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta said: "At this point in time, there really is no indication as to what his motive was."

Duran is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court today. The firearms charge, upon conviction, is punishable by a maximum 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000. The property charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $10,000 fine.

Although officials said there is no evidence at present of any attempt to assassinate the President, who was in the White House Executive Mansion at the time, Ronald Noble, the Treasury Department's enforcement chief, told reporters Sunday that such a charge has not been ruled out. He said a criminal investigation is continuing with help from agencies including the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, the U.S. Park Police and the District of Columbia Police Department.

The Army reported that Duran was dishonorably discharged in September, 1993, after serving 30 months in military prison on charges of vehicular aggravated assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

He recently had been working as an upholsterer at the posh Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., but abruptly disappeared a month ago after saying he needed to buy supplies for target practice, according to a missing-person report filed by his wife in El Paso County, Colo.

In Denver, hotel President Steve Bartolin told reporters that Duran, who lived in the nearby community of Widefield with his wife and 5-year-old son, was a loner who showed up for work on time every day, up to the day he disappeared.

"Nobody had anything to say (about him), he was so quiet," Bartolin said.

Officials said Sunday that Duran purchased the SKS assault rifle used in the attack in Colorado Springs on Sept. 13, the same day Clinton signed into law the massive anti-crime bill, which prohibits future purchases of most semiautomatic weapons.

But Duran's weapon had been imported by a dealer in January, before Clinton banned that particular Chinese-made weapon in May, so there was nothing illegal about Duran's purchase of the weapon, according to the officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

White House officials stressed that Clinton continues to have "great confidence" in the protection afforded him by the Secret Service. The President rested Sunday and held to his plan to attend an evening gala at Ford's Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was killed by an assassin's bullet 129 years ago. The shooting was not mentioned by any of the performers, who included Whoopi Goldberg, Paula Poundstone, Luther Vandross, Sam Waterston, Paul Reiser and others.

Meanwhile, the two bystanders who tackled Duran recounted how they ended his shooting spree.

Harry Rakosky, 34, of San Antonio, told the Associated Press that he saw the man fumbling with the weapon to put in another magazine. "I thought that would be a good time to take him out," he said.

"I think the Lord had me at the right place at the right time," he added. "I'm real thankful to him that nobody got hurt."

The other man, Ken Davis of Hagerstown, Md., said: "Harry hit him high, in the back. I grabbed his legs as he went down. He kicked a tiny bit and stopped. The barrel was against his side, pointed up."

Robert Haines of Washington, D.C. then held the rifle down so the gunman could not move it.

White House officials said the principal problem illustrated by Saturday's incident is the number of heavy weapons on U.S. streets.

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