SAN DIEGO — The FBI and San Diego police Tuesday sought to calm fears in the gay community here that suspected multiple killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan might return to Saturday's Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade with murder on his mind.
"There is an extraordinary amount of fear out there that he's coming back to continue killing," said Sgt. Mike Cash, the Police Department's liaison with the gay community. "We've been trying to do everything we can to dispel rumors and make sure everyone feels safe at the parade and can have fun."
Police will have uniformed officers, bicycle officers, undercover officers and the horse patrol at the parade, which is expected to draw 85,000 people to the Hillcrest neighborhood where Cunanan lived. FBI agents will also be mingling with spectators. And, as always, there will be a law enforcement contingent marching in the parade.
"If this individual is here, we'll deal with him," said Cash, although he declined to reveal how many officers will be working the parade. "If anybody thinks they see him, tell the nearest cop. There will be plenty of them."
Cunanan is suspected in the murders of a former lover, David Madson, onetime friend Jeffrey Trail, Chicago developer Lee Miglin, New Jersey cemetery worker William Reese, and, last Tuesday, of internationally known fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Among the rumors that Cash and other law enforcement personnel have tried to quash in recent days is that authorities have discovered Cunanan's "hit list" and have suggested that people on it go into hiding. No such list exists, officials said.
After the FBI announced that Cunanan might be dressing as a woman, one San Diego television station hired a computer graphics firm to "morph" the poster pictures of him to show what he would look like with long hair and heavy makeup.
FBI Promises Hunt Is Relentless, Aggressive
Officials from the San Diego Police Dept., FBI and U.S. marshal's office told an overflow crowd Tuesday night at the Lesbian and Gay Men's Community Center in Hillcrest that the manhunt for Cunanan is relentless and aggressive and following hundreds of tips. FBI agents distributed copies of the FBI wanted-poster showing four pictures of Cunanan with various hairstyles and different expressions.
"I've been in law enforcement for 25 years and I don't recall any fugitive hunt this massive," said Bill Gore, special agent in charge of the FBI office in San Diego. He said agents in 10 regional offices of the FBI are in daily contact to compare leads.
The officials also stressed there is no evidence to suggest Cunanan will attempt to return to his native San Diego where he lived until leaving April 25 to visit a friend and a former lover in Minneapolis.
"We don't have any information he's coming back to San Diego this weekend or at any time," said Police homicide Lt. Jim Collins.
Mandy Schultz, executive director of San Diego Lesbian & Gay Pride, which organizes the parade, urged community members not to be frightened away from the parade by rumors of Cunanan returning. This will be San Diego's 23rd annual gay parade.
"We cannot be afraid," said Schultz, her voice rising. "We've worked too hard since Stonewall," a reference to the 1969 clash between gays and police in New York that is said to mark the beginning of the gay rights movement.
Much of the talk in the cafes, bookstores, nightspots and other gathering spots of Hillcrest centers on Cunanan, known to some as a free-loving "party-boy" who craved fashionable clothing, imported cigars and fine wines and told wild stories about celebrities and lavish European vacations.
"A lot of people are scared and talking of staying home from the parade," said Mark Madrigal, shopping at the GayMart clothing store where Cunanan was a regular. "Everybody thinks they see him everywhere. It's spooky."
A Vulnerable Time for Gay Community
At the Euphoria Coffee and Bookstore, patrons agreed that the community is particularly vulnerable during parade week, when the order of the day is socializing and partying.
"People can get careless during Pride Week," said J.J., a model with dyed blond hair. "You might not scrutinize who that guy is near you. That could be him!"
Cunanan was also a topic of discussion at services Sunday at the Metropolitan Community Church, with a large gay congregation.
"There is a lot of uncertainty with all this talk of a hit list," said the Rev. Houston Burnside Jr. "But I think it's important that people not be scared away from the parade. We shouldn't be intimidated or closeted by anyone, even from our own community."
If there are some people who think attendance may be suppressed by the rumors about Cunanan, there are others who think attendance may be boosted.
In the past, controversy and confrontation have led to increased participation. Attendance doubled in 1994 when a radio talk-show host threatened to lead a "normal people's contingent" and increased again in 1996 when fundamentalist protesters picketed the parade.