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Ex-Postal Worker Gets 22 Years for Murder

Courts: Victim's family asked for life sentence, saying that slaying of processing center supervisor was racially motivated.

May 07, 1996|PAUL JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After hearing impassioned statements from the family of slain postal supervisor James Whooper III, a federal judge sentenced Bruce William Clark to 22 years in prison Monday for the 1995 murder of Whooper, who was Clark's boss, in a mail processing center in the City of Industry.

Relatives of Whooper, 50, of Rancho Cucamonga, strongly urged Judge Consuelo B. Marshall to give Clark a life sentence, alleging that the crime was racially motivated and that Clark had planned it, putting his personal business in order before pulling the trigger.

"Give this man the maximum," declared Elizabeth Gill, Whooper's aunt, holding back tears. "[Clark] did it for no other reason than Jimmy was black."

Outside the courtroom, Felicia Whooper, the victim's eldest daughter, said Clark, who is white, had problems working under a black supervisor.

"He tried to make trouble for my father," said Felicia Whooper, 28, declining to elaborate. She said the family was satisfied with Clark's sentence.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Patricia Donahue said Clark gave no motive for the shooting and showed no remorse. In a plea agreement, Clark pleaded guilty in January to second-degree murder and to carrying a gun during a crime of violence.

Clark, 58, of Azusa, sat silently during the hearing. He kept his eyes focused on the courtroom wall and did not look at those testifying. He declined to address the judge.

He will not be eligible for parole and will serve his full sentence, Marshall told Whooper's family. No relatives or friends of Clark were in the courtroom.

His lawyer, Richard Satwier, rebutted the family's charges of racism, stating that the facts of the case show that the shooting had no racial motive.

The July 9 incident occurred after Clark, a distribution clerk, punched Whooper, a mail processing supervisor, in the back of the head for unknown reasons at the Industry station. Both workers had unblemished personnel files and were regarded as quiet and nonconfrontational by colleagues at the sprawling 24-hour processing facility that employs more than 1,000 workers. No one heard or saw the two men get into an argument, Donahue said.

As Whooper went to report the incident to a superior, Clark left the room and returned with a paper bag. When Whooper asked Clark what was in the bag, Clark opened it, pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and fired twice, striking Whooper in the upper body and face. He died at the scene.

Whooper was the 35th and most recent U.S. postal worker to die in a violent workplace incident during the last 12 years.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in a 1994 report that homicide was the second leading cause of postal worker deaths on the job.

Whooper's relatives said they came to the proceedings to ensure that Clark was not released after serving a brief prison term and to vent their anger at the murderer.

"This man that killed my nephew," Gill said, "he didn't just kill Jimmy, he destroyed a whole family." Whooper, Gill emphasized, will never meet his two-month-old grandson, who was brought to the courtroom proceeding Monday by family members.

"[James Whooper] gave life to seven children," Felicia Whooper tearfully told the court, "and this man took his away."

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