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Profile: Pamela Berry
Pamela Berry was a participant or observer in the following events:
Larry Shoemake as a young man. [Source: Jackson Clarion-Ledger]Larry Shoemake, an Army veteran who has become a drifter, loner, and anti-government white supremacist, guns down eight African-Americans in a Jackson, Mississippi, restaurant before committing suicide. Shoemake will be compared to another ex-Army loner, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Like McVeigh, Shoemake is enamored of The Turner Diaries (see 1978), a novel depicting a white supremacist US revolution that ends in genocide against minority Americans.
Blaming the Government, Minorities for His Failures - A 1961 high school graduate, Shoemake is a Vietnam veteran who had trouble adjusting to life after combat. He is well educated and once worked as a camera operator for the educational television station in Jackson. His father committed suicide in 1986. He repeatedly abused his first wife until she left him, and his next two marriages ended in divorce. He has trouble gaining and keeping employment; he did manage to secure a small role in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning, where he was shown carrying the bodies of three slain civil rights workers. Shoemake lived with his mother until she died in 1994. After her death, he began talking of suicide, telling relatives, “Unless I get killed by an automobile, I’ll choose my way out.” Friends and relatives will later say that after reading The Turner Diaries, he began blaming his failures on the federal government, African-Americans, and Jews. “It was like an eye-opener for him,” his third wife will later recall. “There was a distinct difference in him.” He began talking of moving to a white supremacist compound in the Ozarks. Instead, he remains in Jackson, stockpiling weapons and ammunition.
One Dead, Eight Wounded - On the afternoon of April 12, Shoemake pulls his pickup truck behind an abandoned Po’Folks restaurant in Jackson. He pries open the door of the restaurant and unloads two assault rifles, a pump shotgun, a pistol, a .357 Ruger, over 20,000 rounds of ammunition, a gas mask, and a jug full of gasoline. He pours the gasoline in a perimeter around the building. Then he sets up a firing “nest,” and, using his AR-15 assault rifle, begins shooting into a predominantly African-American neighborhood. His first victim is D.Q. Holifield, who has come to Jackson to buy clothes for his son’s birthday party. Shoemake kills him in a barrage of gunfire. Shoemake then shoots his son Johnny in the arm and thigh. When paramedics respond, Shoemake rakes the ambulance with gunfire, forcing it to flee. Onlooker Cherie McElroy, attempting to flee, is shot in the shoulder; her mother is shot in the hip. The wounded McElroy manages to drive away. Pamela Berry, a reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, is shot in the neck; the bullet barely misses two arteries that, had either been nicked, would have ensured her death. Onlooker James Lawson is shot in the leg, as is Lawson’s cousin Darrien Jackson and another onlooker, Dorothy Grayson. All but Holifield survive the rampage. Shoemake continues his onslaught for 40 minutes, in the process setting the gasoline ablaze. As the flames begin to engulf the restaurant, Shoemake places the Ruger’s barrel against his temple and kills himself. Investigators later remove Shoemake’s charred body from the debris. Police later determine he fires at least 100 rounds before killing himself
Police Find Arsenal, Clues - Police find 15 different makes of rifles in Shoemake’s home, along with two shotguns, military manuals, and another 20,000 rounds of ammunition; in all, Shoemake owns some $50,000 worth of weapons and materiel. No one is able to determine how he could afford such an arsenal. Police also find clues that indicate Shoemake may not have been operating on his own. A neighbor tells police of “funny looking fellows” coming and going from Shoemake’s house. “He’s a very weird neighbor,” says Dorothy Simpson, who lives near Shoemake. “He never spoke to anyone. He wasn’t very neighborly.” They find two walkie-talkies in the house. Inside, Shoemake has draped a Nazi flag across his bed, along with his mother’s Bible and a copy of Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf. A Confederate flag, a skull-and-crossbones flag, and a “shrine” to the Branch Davidians who died in Texas (see April 19, 1993) adorn the house. The house is full of scrawled notes, one reading: “I say: Annihilation or separation! Who is crazy, me or you? We will see.” Nearby lies a publication titled, “Separation or Annihilation,” written by William Pierce, the author of The Turner Diaries.
Letter to a Friend - Authorities also find a letter written to a friend a month earlier, but never mailed. It reads as follows: “Hi, Kay. I’m baaaccck! Got my coffee and ready to ramble. We could call this, ‘The Final Ramblings of a Mad Man.‘… I’m sliding down and the farther I slide the faster I slide, and there’s no brush or tree limbs or rocks or anything I can grab and stop the slide and hold on to. I’ve been sliding for a long time and I’m getting close to the bottom and when I hit it will be a great relief to me. The sudden stop won’t hurt. [W]e have to act insanely to bring back sanity. I’m talking getting our guns and start pulling trigger on our enemies. Kill hundreds of thousands or more.… They deserve to die. Now.… Blacks is the problem. Its in their genes.… The bottom line is: Separation or annihilation. I think I’m about to run out of ink. That’s not the only thing that’s running out.… I must go now and explore another planet, because I don’t like this one anymore. Love, Larry.” [Los Angeles Daily News, 4/14/1996; Associated Press, 4/14/1996; Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/1999; Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 3/19/2010] Police spokesman Lee Vance says, “It appeared that he sort of expected that his house would be searched by authorities in the aftermath.” [Los Angeles Daily News, 4/14/1996]
Healing - On April 19, after being released from the hospital, Pam Berry sits in a chair in front of the Southside Assembly of God Church auditorium, and briefly speaks to an assemblage consisting of the mayor of Jackson, police officers, paramedics, her parents, and others. The church, only a block from the Po’Folks restaurant, has bullet holes in its walls from Shoemake’s shooting spree. Berry’s father has told her that he worked with Shoemake and found him to be a nice person, “certainly no racist.” Berry tells the audience: “Don’t hate, and don’t take what happened to me and make it worse. Hate poisons everyone.… I’m glad that race wasn’t a consideration with the white nurse, the white paramedics, and the white doctors [who treated her wounds]. We shouldn’t let sicknesses like Shoemake spread to the rest of us. We can heal a city and we can heal each other. There are far more of us than there are of them.” [Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 3/19/2010]
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