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RAMPAGE IN SACRAMENTO

Shootout Vowed in Chilling Video

Rampage: Joseph Ferguson issued the threat on a videotape made by a hostage he later shot and killed.

September 11, 2001|ERIC BAILEY and ROBIN FIELDS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

"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.

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.

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."

*

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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