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Portrait of Wilkinsburg shooting suspect shows history of mental illness and hate

Taylor kept a 'Satan List'

Friday, March 03, 2000

By Dennis B. Roddy and Mike Rosenwald, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

On a day he was arraigned on hate crimes charges in a shooting spree that claimed its third victim yesterday, a profile of Ronald Taylor began to emerge: an angry loner with a history of mental illness and obsessions about race.

The charges against Taylor came six months after he had been discharged from the psychiatric unit at St. Francis Medical Center and one day after police who searched his apartment found lengthy screeds denouncing a variety of races and religions.

 
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A court affidavit said Allegheny County police and FBI agents searched the apartment of Taylor, 39, who is black, and found lists of handwritten notes that included statements such as "Death to Jerusalem," and "white trash." Other notes denounced Asians, police, Italians and the news media.

Police discovered the notes -- an estimated 20 pages of them, many signed by Taylor -- when they searched his apartment after he had roamed the streets of Wilkinsburg, shooting strangers at the town's Burger King and McDonald's restaurants, then holing up in a nearby medical office building.

"One list was labeled 'The Satan List.' It denoted 'targets.' These targets included addresses of various businesses in the Wilkinsburg-Pittsburgh area," said an affidavit of probable cause filed in connection with Taylor's arrest.

Kenneth Fulton, an assistant superintendent of the Allegheny County Police, said the Wilkinsburg Burger King and McDonald's where the shootings occurred were not on the list. He declined to identify the businesses that were on the list.

The affidavit said Ronald Washington, who lives in an apartment building on Ross Street, encountered Taylor on the stairs of the apartment building during the rampage. According to the affidavit, Taylor brandished a pistol and told Washington "This gun is for the crackers" -- a derogatory term for white people.

John DeWitt, a maintenance man at Taylor's apartment building, was quoted in the report as telling police that Taylor had called him and fellow maintenance worker John Kroll "white trash and racist pigs" and said he told DeWitt, "I'm going to get you."

Police said that after DeWitt left Taylor's apartment on another call, Taylor apparently shot and killed Kroll.

James M. Ecker, Taylor's lawyer, said he had nothing to indicate that his client carried any animosities toward whites or Jews. Ecker is both white and Jewish.

Taylor was arraigned yesterday on charges stemming from a three-hour rampage during which he shot five men -- three of whom have died -- then held off police inside the medical office building, which had to be evacuated.

Persons close to Taylor, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, said he had been taken several times to St. Francis Medical Center, where he was placed in a unit that treats both psychiatric and addiction problems.

Taylor was released from a psychiatric unit at St. Francis six months ago, after spending 37 days there this summer.

The psychiatric admission came one month after Taylor had moved to his apartment at 1208 Wood St. in Wilkinsburg from his former residence on Penn Circle West in East Liberty.

A neighbor, Clarita Moore, said she remembered seeing him at the Allegheny East MH/MR on South Avenue in Wilkinsburg last November. "He was seeing a doctor there," she said.

During an arraignment yesterday, Taylor answered "yes" when Wilkinsburg District Justice Alberta Thompson asked him if he had mental illness, and answered "no" when asked if he had a drug problem.

Taylor's demeanor yesterday contrasted with his conduct the day of his arrest, when he mugged for the cameras and alternately smiled and glowered at photographers.

As the arraignment broke up, Taylor turned to one man in the crowd and said "I love you, man."

"I love you, too," the man replied.

At another point, he turned toward two women who watched the arraignment and said, "I love you, Mom."

None of the people who appeared to be friends or relatives of Taylor at yesterday's arraignment agreed to comment.

He was arraigned on one count of ethnic intimidation -- Pennsylvania's law for a hate crime -- as well as five counts of aggravated assault, a count of arson, carrying a firearm without a license, and one count of causing a catastrophe.

At the time of the arraignment, three of the shooting victims were hospitalized. The aggravated assault charges included one count each for them as well as one count for each of the two shots he is accused of firing at Wilkinsburg police as they pursued him.

Taylor was arraigned Wednesday night at the county coroner's office on two counts of homicide. One of the victims for whom an aggravated assault charge was filed, Emil Sanielevici, 20, of Greenfield, died yesterday, two hours after Taylor was arraigned. Police said a new count of homicide will be added to the charges.

Ecker said Taylor's family members have become fearful for their safety in the wake of publicity surrounding what authorities now appear to believe was a crime at least partially motivated by racial hatred.

Ecker, who has received widespread publicity on a number of high-profile cases, including the acquittal earlier this month of former Pittsburgh police officer Jeffrey Cooperstein, said he spoke with Taylor the day of his arrest.

"He seems like a nice guy," Ecker said last night. "Obviously, he is unhappy about what happened."

Taylor had lived for eight years on Penn Circle in East Liberty before moving to the apartment building on Wood Street sometime last year. His mother, Shirley, resides in an apartment complex a few blocks down the street.

Taylor attended the Letsche Alternative School in the Hill District for about three months in 1978, the final city school he appears to have attended, according to Lynne Turnquist, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

On Wednesday, in the only statement to emerge from Taylor's family since the rampage, his brother Chuck telephoned the Rev. Don Matzat, host of "The Great Conversation" show on WORD-FM, a religious broadcaster.

Yesterday, Matzat asked the Taylor family to call in again, but there was no response.

Staff writer Jan Ackerman contributed to this report.



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