It’s been said that at some point we all cross paths with a serial killer. The difference for me is I just so happen to know when it happened. he wasn’t a killer yet (to our knowledge). Just a conspicously unfriendly and antisocial dubiously employed 30 year old college student with nebulous progress towards a degree. He had associated himself with the loudest and most radical voices on campus. The only people who accepted his presence were people looking for FOLLOWERS. Forgettable outside key incidents where he made sure he was aligned with the most violent faction.
I have clear memories of Colin Ferguson- the so called Long Island Rail Road Gunman. He was never the Alpha Character at any of the incidents at then troubled Nassau Community College- but he was always there, agitating. If someone was loudly aggrieved Ferguson was more or less magnetized to the area. And when he had a setback there were portents of what he was like and what he would do.
I was astonished to have been to close to such a notably malevolent entity. It was certainly quite a moment when my friend Krissie simply said ”Remember when Colin Ferguson freaked out in the Union ?”- uniting the name and face for me for the first time. While Ferguson himself is devoid of charisma and is not much of a conversationalist-in other words NOT all that memorable- some the things he was part of and a couple of solo acts of completely anti-social anger were memorable in themselves.
The guy was not all that unfamiliar. His voice still sounds like the guy I recall when hes spun up and screaming- which usually bought proceedings to halt. These days no one bothers with Colin Ferguson or cares what he says. He will end his days incarcerated. Hes a cautionary tale about the destructive effects of simply not having any critical thinking skills and what happens when we avoid introspection. His appropriated and twisted beliefs may have had some hints of merit when applied by smarter people.
If you wanted to you could justifiably call Colin Ferguson the first person known to have taken lives because of a hoax or conspiracy theory. Its for someone else to find an earlier Hoax Inspired Murderer. Im not sure we see this sort of behavior on a Mass Scale for another 30 or so years.
I remember seeing him hanging out in the College Union building right about my last semester before moving on in the very early 90’s.
Ferguson was alone in the crowd in a lot of ways – but he did have a crew of sorts he ran with. He associated himself with the most outspoken people to be found and apparently LIKED to be led. Ferguson was the loudest amplifier of anger at every provocative demonstration. If someone yelled anything angrily Ferguson just liked it.
He was conspicuously crazy looking. Hes got this sneer. He was always sort of leering at people; looking right through you and just really creeping me out. That much was unforgettable.
This was the first time that I had thought a lot about it. It wasn’t always apparent to me it was the same Ferguson I had known. Part was the common nature of the last name. As I recall him he was somewhat thinner than when he appeared on TV after the crimes and didn’t carry himself with any confidence.
Who Colin Ferguson Is and Why You Should Care
Ferguson pulled off a ‘reverse racism’ motivated killing spree on a commuter train on New York’s Long Island Rail Road way back in 1993. He was an early perpetrator of a Spree Shooting, a term which seems to have been introduced to the popular lexicon by his specific crimes.
He chose December 7 to act, so at least the day was already tarnished and he didn’t blemish a new date on the calendar. 25 people were injured, some would never fully recover and six died.
The passengers who tackled him when his high capacity clips ran out displayed acts of bravery not seen again until the Uncommon Valor we saw everywhere on 9-11. They rushed a well-armed man in the depths of a blood orgy. I would probably not have had the guts. They were remarkably restrained as he squirmed and lay pinned,denying he was responsible; all the while pleading for mercy.
Watching this unfold on my TV when I saw him and noted the name there was some recognition this might be the same guy. Certainly the Ferguson I had encountered was a mean spirited guy who glared at people and had been part of every bad incident of a divisive nature on campus the last year i was there.
But then there were things that made me doubt it could be the same person. For one thing you just don’t think you would ever know a spree killer despite statistics that suggest otherwise. I guess the other side of the coin is ‘Spree killers live in the real world and therefore will simply know people one of whom may well be you.’ I also suppose Nassau County New York, next to the outer borough’s of New York City, is something of a curve breaking statistical anomaly. You’re gonna know a lot more people just from living in a concentrated population center. Its not Saginaw, Michigan. It’s almost part of New York City. For reference; you can drive from the most eastern part of Nassau County to the New York City line in maybe 25 minutes (if its not rush hour).
He was described as being a lot older than I had been aware he was. Like 10 years older. He was about 30 when i encountered him. I had assumed he was no older than 21 based on his being in junior college.
Describing him as 6 feet tall was another confusing detail. I’m not sure if its Ferguson’s observably bad posture or if they simply made a mistake measuring him. In most pictures he’s far shorter than the cops and lawyers around him. So there was some doubt and no internet yet to check it out. Not to mention the whole thing was horrible and you just wouldn’t want to ruminate on it. Who wants to think about that too deeply? Like most people I turned away in horror.
An Early Conspiracy Theorist
Colin Ferguson was a man whose entire worldview seems to be wrapped up in a complex Conspiracy Theory view of racism. He seems to have embraced it so deeply he became repulsive and isolated. I dont recall anyone ever saying they were his friend. Usually when there would be a horrible crime the people who knew the perpetrator would be stunned and surprised and you’d hear “Quiet guy, kept to himself. Last thing you’d expect him to do.” Instead this was a guy everyone could tell had his fuse lit and a screw loose.
Sadly the investigation into Ferguson didn’t extend that deeply into his personal life, so we don’t know a great deal about what he was reading or listening to to enhance his anger. The police would have been probably derided for wasting resources and I don’t think the FBI ever bothered to profile him.
Who could blame them really? Here they had a criminal caught by the people he was victimizing. There were hundreds of witnesses. He was such an aberration no one was able to seriously believe that there was any value in doing a criminal profile. Conspiracy Theories were mostly confined to the movies. There were no Moon Landing Deniers and no Internet.
At the moment he went to trial Ferguson was guilty as sin and people just rightly wanted him thrown into the darkest hole New York has, if not executed. There was no need to delve into motivations when he was so damn guilty with so many witnesses.
The racism he saw was often real. He was reacting to a real thing. It was the warped way he dealt with adversity and injustice that puts him on a bad path.
Ferguson’s misinterpretation of reality seemed unique. Most people rise to the occasion or at least weather the storm. Not Ferguson. He didn’t just go write a great song or throw himself into his studies to try to overcome the real forces that really do stand against black people as well as women and other minorities. He didnt make a sign and go to a protest. He didnt write his congressman. He resorted to violence.
I think he developed a sort of “Hate Filter” or prism which he viewed all things through.
Maybe when he found out he wasn’t quite up to college intellectually he started blaming people through a Reverse Racist ‘logic’ rather than just study more and get some extra help? He did have some had some true things to validate his feelings. He completely misinterprets them, but the racism he saw wasn’t a delusion, just the way he processed it. Unlike everyone else Ferguson overtly and violently acted on his delusion in a way that’s similar to the Conspiracy Theorists so common now.
Then when Ferguson started acting as his own lawyer the old saying “If your opponent is destroying themselves do nothing” came to be the prosecution’s motto. Who can blame them? Especially 8 years before 9-11 and the explosion of conspiracy theories.
He’s probably a sociopath and was definitely deeply angry about his lot in life, which was rough but not awful. Somewhere after the correct decision to get an education every other instinct is wrong. In fact if not for his own actions life for Colin Ferguson may have been okay.
I’m No Expert, but—
Some of the decisions Ferguson made seem to show good planning and decent judgement.
First off, had Ferguson stuck to his life plan of getting an education to broaden his mind and possibilities he’d probably have been just fine. That didn’t happen though.
Instead he decided to do something awful. It’s possible he had hopes of sparking a race war. So he’s a bit of a charisma-less Manson-type as far as goals.
The point is he sometimes made logical plans. If anything he impeded his ability to see things in a broad enough way to be a decent student. He had an obsession on nonsense that didn’t make very happy.
Maybe not everyone can get out of college with all A’s but he probably could have pulled off a junior college degree and by now be in the middle rung of a career somewhere planning his retirement. There are people as dumb who do get by. Ferguson’s problem is he’s pathologically hateful.
I’m not a shrink or any kind of doctor. I dont have to be. Colin Ferguson is a textbook case of insanity and hatred. You dont have to be a rocket scientist to point at the moon anymore than you need to be a doctor to know Ferguson suffers from a malignant personality disorder of some kind. Its my personal belief he can form a knowing criminal intent.
My opinion is that Ferguson is a very stupid man who likely scalded himself in the shower every morning by mistake. He was purposeful however, showing some capacity for logical forethought and made some relatively rational decisions in some aspects of his life.
His failed relocation to California was not insane, it was bad luck and his own personality that doomed that effort. It wasn’t ill conceived, he was trying to better himself.
While living in Long Beach he acquired the gun allegedly because he was afraid. This is also rational as Long Beach and Compton are apparently Hell Hole Ghetto’s according to actual statistics as well as every rap song ever written.
He was also purposeful in his methodical planning and highly effective in enacting his Hate Crime.
An Early Spree Shooter with a Conspiracist Outlook
As an early spree shooter he was the guy who ushered the nation on its first few
steps down a trail of tears that leads from Merillon Avenue in New Hyde Park to Columbine, to Aurora, to an Amish School outside York, Pennsylvania, to a mall in Arizona and earlier this week to another mall in Seattle and is now weaving past the Sandy Hook School in Newtown Connecticut. It’s a six chambered highway to nowhere that America is still stuck on nearly 20 years later.
Many are motivated by conspiracies and all are due to easy access to guns and often military technology too.
America decided to learn nothing from Ferguson or his crimes. The Conspiracist Mindsets become prevalent….as have Spree Killings.
Ferguson cultivated a willfully ignorant view of the world that revolved around Reverse Racism. Reverse Racism is a technical term of art used by Sociologists to specifically refer to minorities who hate white people in a way as completely misguided and ridiculous as Old School ‘original racism’.
‘Racism’, technically, is a specific term of art for British and Spanish Colonial whites hatred of the non white races. These seem largely rooted in the 15th through 17th century Era of European Expansion and mercantilism in general.
At this point it should be pointed out that technically, Colin Ferguson is not African American. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica in January of 1958. He was 11 years older than a typical college seniors.
At the end of the day a reverse racist is just a different kind of Racist.
Every major credible representative of the black community, including the Rev Jesse Jackson and the Rev Al Sharpton denounced Ferguson immediately and repeatedly. In layman’s terms Colin Ferguson was just a violent dangerous jerk. He had his own carefully thought out reasons for his spree of murders. He was able to articulate it to a degree. Fortunately, no one endorsed it.
In a rare moment of national unity the nature of his ideas and actions spurred a condemnatory reaction across the country.
The condemnation ran across the racial spectrum that may have created an environment of heightened tolerance rather than the race war Ferguson was hoping for.
To be clear, Colin Ferguson was equally despised by members of all races even before his crimes. He was a creepy guy.
A Fool for a Client-In His Own Defense
The judge was in a tough spot with Ferguson. He wasn’t quite sane, but he wasn’t legally crazy. When he demanded to act as his own lawyer forbidding him to do so would have shown the judge was somewhat unsure of Ferguson’s capacity and no one wanted him getting off with insanity. So the un-thinkable happened, a brutal, dumb but not legally insane man got to act as his own lawyer.
When I saw this on TV I was captivated by the level of grandiose deluison Ferguson was displaying as he revictimized the surviving witnesses.
At this point, it should be noted, he had fired William Kunstler and Ron Kuby, two highly regarded lawyers, who were representing him for free. William Kunstler had a reputation par excellence in the upper echelons of New York State and even national legal community. This was a shockingly stupid thing to do.
The court proceedings were just the worst. Ferguson referred to himself in the third person in a way that came off as a sort of “Royal Plural”. Witnesses were given pretty wide latitude to respond because he was pointlessly harassing them and burying himself legally. He was just really stupid and a terrible liar. He also loved the attention.
To say Ferguson mocked his victims is an understatement. He basically continued to be despicable and exhibit deep race hate and Conspiracy Theory Obsession.
Ferguson actively defended himself in a courtroom spectacle that would have been the story of the decade had OJ Simpson not stolen Ferguson’s thunder by committing the Crime of the Century. (Note-My Theory- OJ= Guilty AND Framed). It was televised live and was an early courtroom TV experiment that ran collateral to the Simpson Case fiasco.
As the easy to find video of the court proceedings show his demeanor and beliefs were sort of like those of a Jamaican Alex Jones on very bad acid.
Sometimes it was so crazy it seemed like he had to be faking it. Or he was just a truly inspired paranoid guy who decided to ‘get them first”. Was he acting? I couldn’t tell. even when he claimed (unconvincingly) on live TV that the CIA had implanted a chip in his brain among other things.
Maybe he’s listening to and misinterpreting someone like a Farrakhan? Having bad reaction to Hate-Listening to Rush Limbaugh may have been involved, that show was around already. Sadly, we’ll never know. There was not a lot of talk about motivation at the trial. He had done what he had done. No one cared why.
Among other things Ferguson was woefully unsuccessful in academic pursuits at Adelphi, a local college where people were completely freaked out by him. Not
much more than a long walk away at Nassau Community College, where he later enrolled, he sought to insinuate himself into several different crews. All rejected him.
I think his intolerance was a real turnoff to members of all races. He was over focused on race and overwhelmingly negative by all published and personally related accounts, so there’s no surprise he was plain old unlikable. After they got to know him these crews as well as all others shunned and avoided Ferguson for the same reasons everyone else did. He was a dimwitted mean abrasive delusional guy.
Incarcerated until 5,000 years after the second coming (okay actually 315 years) I would assume a guy like Ferguson is most likely forcibly medicated.
Whatever they are doing to him he has never apologized, which is something you may actually have gotten from a truly insane person with remorse capacity were they to be medicated. I can’t see him ever being able to be among the General Population.
A Memorable Display of Anger
This was a standout experience because of the display of a protracted level of sustained anger. It was not a very long time unless you are watching someone freakout.
It was probably somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes tops because no one really had time to react. He seemed like he was a problem best left alone as he was always stomping away not really breaking his stride. That said he covered a lot of the same ground twice. It was only a little scary when he came back up the stairs to the third floor for a briefer second foray.
Many of his remarks were addressed at no one in particular. This may have been why it went on so long. There was no real targeting of anyone specific. He was on a verbal rant about perceived unfairness. It took a little longer than you might think for people to get unnerved.
It was a little like a really pissed off baseball manager getting his money’s worth after getting thrown out of the game. He may never have stopped walking. That aspect stands out to me. Also noteworthy is that he simply obeyed without much resistance when a campus security guard told him to leave or be detained. He kept yelling stuff but stomped out.
Probably evidence of some sort of OCD-like thing that speaks to his later methods. Physical manifestation of overwhelming frustration is something you see in someone whose adopted a hateful worldview. It was an aggressive form of pacing which had the self-perpetuating aspect of ‘where do you go from losing it?’ if you don’t actually follow through and leave.
Although his police description says he was 6 feet tall his posture made him seem smaller. Most pictures show him slouching, its hard to tell.
The Colin Ferguson I encountered seemed more like 5-10. Then again just looking at video’s inclined just slightly forward at times as he walks around. In my recollection from school it sometimes looked like an invisible string is pulling him as his focus seemed elsewhere.
He had and still apparently does have an unusual posture and gait. His shoulders aren’t squared, he had an intensity. It was a bit like the way some people play Shakespeare’s Richard III but without the underlying intensity of evil genius, just overt anger.
The tantrum, which is what it was, had began over the refusal of an unreasonable request. Ferguson tried to submit an opinion piece to the school paper, which is how people know it’s him. Based on what we’ve seen it easy to guess a hundred reasons why the faculty adviser for the school paper told him his opinions weren’t going to make it into print.
At this point everyone who I have subsequently spoken to it about confirmed he lost it on an administrator who had the unenviable task of driving home that his hate screed or whatever would not be published.
He snapped and started his little episode by storming out of the faculty member’s College Union Office, pausing at the door to shout some more. I was on the same (third) floor of the Union building as he walked down the hall yelling and gesturing at people shouting angry blameful remarks I either couldn’t follow or can’t recall. He was shouting and ranting real good though.
He had a pretty odd gait. He was doing some manic pacing of sorts going between floors and blowing out people verbally here and there. He had a lot of blame for his fellow African Americans and everyone he encountered. My friend Krissie is a blonde white girl and we recalled he made some hateful statements specific to that. He viewed things through race exclusively I guess. People were simply tuning him out as best they could and he got a lot of “geez buddy chill out” comments in his wake that he simply didn’t react to. He was spineless in the sense he only made eye contact until he began yelling. When speaking he seemed to only look down or away. He was enthralled in his performance and basically called out the world for not living up to his warped standards.
Maybe he was prone to ‘taking it on the road’ with a kind of frantic pacing when he freaked. It fits the methodology of his attack and may have foreshadowed how he decided to attack about 20 to 25 months later. He was impersonal and having what I can only call an ‘anger orgasm’. He was not ever going to be a remote sniper, he was too taken with himself not to get instant feedback on his actions.
He was only taking in enough visual feedback as he needed to made his remarks and negotiate the hallway and stairs. He was dressed neat but uptight with his top shirt button buttoned. This was slightly more fashionable in the early 1990’s but still a poor and unpopular fashion statement. His rant is largely forgotten and was a rambling mess at the time anyway. When talking to specific people his constantly gazing elsewhere was more unsettling than anything else. He had a bad too tight haircut and a small, ironically somewhat Hitler-like mustache. As I recall it he seemed somewhat slighter of build than when he later appeared in court. He had an earth tone brown jacket and slacks. He was wearing loafers. He had a sweater over his shirt and dressed in a way that could be described as collegiate. Most people looked like late teens in early 80’s would. Converse, a swatch,a pre-ironic Rolling Stones or Ramones t-shirt, etc. Everyone had crazy 80’s hair. Not Ferguson. He was distinctively, neatly dressed by comparison. He was the kind of person who tucked in a polo shirt.
Most specifically unsettling is he has unique irises of his eyes. He is of a relatively light complexion with skin not quite brown and his eyes were a coppery gold kind of hazel. I have seen it in other people before and since but it seems to be pretty rare. I clearly remember the look in his eyes. They were not so much glaring as reflective to light and were not a window to his soul. This was a willingly impulsive angry guy who lacked both self-control and the courage of his convictions. Perhaps he was just an angry depressive. Low self-worth seems obvious now looking back and might have been a part of how he developed his world view.
Colin Ferguson changed American society by virtue of his hate crime. Sensationalistic “wall to wall” Cable News coverage was in its infancy but let everyone in America and the world in on Ferguson’s deeds. His threshold level of sanity is more or less the watermark for competency, so his capacity will always be somewhat questionable by definition.
He will never see the light of day and is being punished, not reformed. Everyone seems to be in accord on how things worked out for Ferguson. No one would change a thing. He is treated with far greater humanity than he showed his victims. There’s no campaign to mitigate his treatment or free him and he is not revered or seen as a martyr by anyone. Ferguson is largely forgotten and will die a prisoner. He’s notable only for his evil deeds. No one empathizes with his motives at all.
The outrage over his crime sparked passage of a National Assault Weapons Ban that lasted 10 years (1994-2004) and probably should have been made permanent. Long Island nurse Carolyn McCarthy unseated the fool who represented Mineola in the House of Representatives handily when he inexplicably voted against that Ban as though nothing had ever happened in his district to justify it. She remains there to this day, a rare Long Island Democrat who is a constant crusader for sensible gun laws.
His only contribution to society is to the English Language and it’s an ugly one at that. We now have the term “Spree Killer”, which was popularized by his actions.
This seems to be because “Serial Killer” didn’t fit and “Mass Murderer” was too all-encompassing.
The term Spree Killer has become all too familiar ever since.
Ferguson is distinct from most other Spree Killers in the sense that he seems to have intended to survive his crime. He had reason to think he might get away with it. There were almost no cell phones out there in 1993, even in New York. It was a longshot he would get away with it, but not a delusion. With a better plan he might have eluded capture for awhile.
This also speaks to his sanity. Most Spree Killers Cheat the Hangman by taking their own lives before being brought to justice. Ferguson was not suicidal in his endeavor. He valued his own life. He knew what he was taking from these people. He has never tried to take his own life in prison either.
He’s a quintessential Hate Crime perpetrator and a textbook example of a man with an unjustifiable, conspiracist grudge against society.
His Behavior in Prison
He’s been described as ‘A problem from day one.” He still has the same issues. He hates white folks, cops of all race and obsesses on dates that bring pain to mind.
I’ll say it in so many words, he’s an asshole.
To this end in 2011 he was charged with crimes as a prisoner for trying to stoke a prison riot on the anniversary of 9-11. They may have added to his 315 years sentence or simply have taken away some privileges in jail. So maybe I was wrong about them forcibly medicating him. Or he’s found a way to subvert it. Or there’s not enough pills in the world to Un-Crazy his mind anymore. Lets face it, he has a tendency for violence at his core.
Should He Have Been Executed?
Colin Ferguson always has been and always will be a dumb but probably not legally incompetent violent idiot who, thankfully, will never walk free. He’s also a highly debatable case regarding the Death Penalty.
The best (and maybe only) case Against Execution would be “He’s so close to having diminished capacity we, as a society, should be better than killing him.”
UPDATE – The Frootloops podcast used this post as part of their coverage of Colin Ferguson, heres a link to the episode