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Furrow's downward spiral entered its final twist last fall. In late October, he took a 12-week leave from his job as a computer-assisted-design engineer at Northwest Gear, a maker of aircraft parts in Everett, Wash. Then he started drinking. One afternoon, in the depths of that bender, he tried to check himself into Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital. Babbling about having stabbed himself a few days before, he also boasted that he had a gun in his car. When an administrator took his keys and warned him that she would have to call the police, Furrow thrust a black-handled switchblade at her. It took a local cop three warnings at gunpoint before Furrow dropped the knife.
It was only a single paragraph, but Furrow's error-riddled written statement to police that day spoke volumes: "I am a white seperatist. I've been having suicidial thoughts. Yesterday I had thoughts that I would kill my ex-wife and some of her friends then maybe I would drive to Canada and rob a bank... Sunday I was feeling suicidial and cut my left index finger to the bone... Some times I feel like I could just loose it and kill people."
Now that he has, it is hard not to ask why nobody tried to keep Furrow off the streets or at least give him more than the six weeks of mental-health treatment he apparently received. He was released from the King County jail for good behavior last May, 2 1/2 months before the end of his eight-month sentence for assault. Did he then begin planning where he would strike? Did he have help?
It is more likely--and in a way more disturbing--that he acted alone. The real question is, How many other single white supremacists are out there, blessed by the doctrine of Christian Identity and fueled by hatred and the pursuit of the Phineas priesthood? The Rev. Richard Butler of Aryan Nations told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week that Furrow had probably been motivated by "the war against the white race." Furrow himself said as much to the authorities. "You can say he was sick, but [the supremacists] gave him a focus for his sickness," says veteran cult watcher Rick Ross. "His involvement with the movement let him project his concerns outward."
Law-enforcement officials fear that the ranks of the disenchanted are growing--and that they will be harder than ever to track if, like Furrow, men begin operating alone. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups nationwide, there are between 35,000 and 50,000 adherents in 100 Christian Identity ministries. Even though supremacist rallies are often sparsely attended, Joe Roy, intelligence director at the Alabama-based center, notes that there have been 10 times as many episodes of domestic terrorism, including hate-based murders and bombings in abortion clinics and newspapers, as the 100 such cases that were recorded in the U.S. in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City federal building.
After the shooting last week, the Internet was peppered with hate messages like this one: "Recent events should remind jews [sic] that they are indeed an unwelcome minority in this country and should leave one and all...let the killings begin!" According to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, the number of hate websites has ballooned from one to more than 2,000 in the past four years. "The Internet has been the greatest thing since fire for these groups," says Roy. "They can potentially reach millions now."