|“||I am no psycho. I have a good mind.||„|
|~ Howard Unruh|
|“||I fired on him once, then stepped over him and went into the store||„|
|~ Unruh describing his killing of James Hutton|
Howard Barton Unruh (January 21st, 1921 – October 19th, 2009) was an American man known for committing the first officially recognized mass shooting in American history. His killing spree has become infamously known as the "Walk of Death". It was at the time, the deadliest mass shooting until 1966.
Unruh was born on January 21st, 1921 to Freda Vollmer and Samuel Unruh. He and his brother James were raised by their mother due to his parents separating and he attended Cramer Junior High, before eventually graduating Woodrow Wilson High School. The yearbook describes Howard Unruh as a shy boy who wanted to work for the US Government.
In 1942 Unruh enlisted in the army and fought in the Rhineland in 1944 and 1945 during World War II. Section Chief Norman Koehn said he was a smart, quiet man who never drank or swore and enjoyed writing to his mother and reading his Bible. Koehn also recalled Unruh's marksmanship, calling him a "first-class soldier" and noting that he had deadly aim as his hobby was guns. He received an honourable discharge when the war ended and found work as a metalworker in New Jersey before enrolling in the Temple University School of Pharmacy, which he left after a month on grounds of poor physical condition. He began to hang around his mother's house, the basement of which he converted into a shooting range. He had regular feuds with many of his neighbours over often trivial things that he believed were slights directed at him, including barber Clark Hoover, who buried rubbish on his property, and a boy he referred to as "Sorg", who tapped into Unruh's electricity to light up his Christmas tree.
On September 6, 1949, Unruh took a wrench and threatened his mother with it, causing her to run out into the street to a neighbour's house to escape. He then took a Luger and a six-inch knife and went out into the street. He shot at a passing van before entering the cobbler's shop belonging to John Pilarchik, who was on his hate list, and shot him in the chest. He then shot the still-living Pilarchik in the head and left, not seeing a child crouching behind the counter, and entered the barber's where Hoover was cutting the hair of a six-year-old named Orris Smith. Unruh then shot Smith and Hoover dead and ignored Smith's mother Catherine, who was rushed to hospital by a neighbour. Unruh fired at a boy in a window, missing, and fired several shots into a bar, also failing to kill anyone and being shot in the leg. Unruh reloaded and began walking towards the house of his primary target, Dr. Maurice J. Cohen, who he claimed subjected him to homophobic abuse. On the way there, he shot insurance salesman James Hutton after he failed to move quick enough when Unruh asked him to let him pass. He then entered Cohen's store and killed him, his mother Minnie and his wife Rose. He then stepped into the road and killed four motorists. He then entered the tailor's shop belonging to Thomas Zegrino and shot his wife at close range. He also killed a two-year-old boy by firing through his window and injured two neighbours non-fatally.
Unruh fled to his apartment and was fired on by about 50 police officers. During the shoot-out, journalist Philip Buxton called Unruh and had a conversation with him before hanging up. A police officer then climbed onto the roof and tear-gassed Unruh before arresting him. He was found to be insane at his trial and remained in a lunatic asylum for the rest of his life. He died on October 19th, 2009.
This is a list of people killed by Howard Unruh during his "Walk of Death". Order according to Wikipedia.
- John Pilarchik
- Orris Smith
- Clark Hoover
- James Hutton
- Rose Cohen
- Minnie Cohen
- Maurice Cohen
- Alvin Day
- Thomas Hutchinson
- Helga Zegrino
- Helen Wilson
- Emma Matlack
- John Wilson