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It was an average Tuesday evening, December 7, 1993, when a group of commuters on a Long Island Rail Road car came face to face with the sort of terror most people see only on television. Without warning, a Jamaican immigrant named Colin Ferguson pulled out a pistol and started firing at random, killing 6 passengers and wounding 19. After Ferguson was convicted and before he was sentenced, the survivors of his attack and the relatives of his victims got a rare chance. The judge allowed them to confront their tormentor and speak their minds about him, about justice, about their own lives and their futures.
Colin Ferguson was born with many advantages. In his native country of Jamaica, Ferguson attended the exclusive Calabar Boys' High School, an academy that numbers among its alumni Percival Patterson, the island's Prime Minister. The Fergusons lived in a two-story home protected by walls and wrought-iron gates in Kingston's elite suburb of Havendale. His father Von Herman Ferguson, was one of the most prominent businessmen in Jamaica. When the elder Ferguson died in a car accident in 1978, his funeral was attended by government and military luminaries.

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However, that passage and the subsequent death of Ferguson's mother from cancer shattered the family's fortunes. In 1982 Ferguson, then 24, left for the U.S. where he was never able to re-create the life he had led on the island of his birth.
At first, though, there had been hope. He met Audrey Warren, an American of Jamaican descent, married her in 1986, and qualified for permanent U.S. residency. The couple moved into a house on Long Island and had a son. Enrolled in a local community college, Ferguson made the dean's list three times. But that approximation of bliss collapsed in 1988,
when Warren sued for divorce and won custody of their child. By that last
week of the divorce, Ferguson was jobless and living in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, in a tiny $175-a-month room with a communal bath down the
His descent was precipitous. At the time of his divorce, Ferguson began working for Ademco, a burglar-alarm manufacturer. A year into his job he fell from a stool, receiving a back injury that led to his termination at Ademco. He sued for compensation, and won a $26,250 judgment but, for
some reason, tried to reopen proceedings with the New York State workers'
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compensation board. He complained that he was a victim of racial prejudice and rejected the state-appointed doctors that were sent to examine him because their surnames sounded ethnic and not black. Eventually, Ferguson, who wrote and called incessantly, was put on a list of possible troublemakers and the security guards at the board were on the watch for him.
In the fall of 1990 Ferguson enrolled at Adelphi University and got into angry confrontations with teachers and students, accusing white students of racism and black activists of being ``Uncle Toms.'' ``Black rage will get you,'' he told a black professor. He talked loudly of violent race
wars and revolution. He interrupted a lecture by yelling ``Kill everybody white!'' and by 1991, ferguson was suspended. In 1992 his ex-wife, who has not spoken to him since their divorce, filed a complaint with police charging that Ferguson had pried open the trunk of her car. Ferguson also clashed with the police when he got into a shoving match with a woman over a subway seat. He had compiled a list of complaints and enemies, as did other recent mass murderers including Alan Winterbourne, who shot four people in Oxnard, California, and Gian Luigi Ferri, who killed eight

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people in a San Francisco office building. Ferguson started to believe
almost everyone white, Asian, or black had become a racist and particularly prejudiced against him (Toufexis 1993).
Early this year Ferguson went to California in search of new
opportunities. There were only new humiliations. He did not like
competing with immigrants and Hispanics for jobs. When Ferguson applied at a car wash, the manager laughed at him. The next day, Ferguson walked
into Turner's Outdoorsman and made a downpayment on a gun. As proof of
residency, he used a California driver's license he had received on a previous visit and the Royal Motel address.