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Title: The Private War of Benjamin Smith

Source: www.time.com, July 6th, 1999

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The Private War of Benjamin Smith

Racist shooter was just another slogan-spewing malcontent –- until something set him off

Two days after he ended a three-day shooting spree by gunning himself down in a carjacked minivan, police are still piecing together the life of Benjamin Smith, looking for closure. One almost hopes they find something original and horrible about the 21-year-old Smith, something to assure us there are few out there like him.  Because so far, the scariest thing about Benjamin Smith is that he sounds quite common. 

Rich kid from the Chicago suburbs. Six feet tall, 135 pounds, chip on his shoulder. Played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and scrawled "Sic Semper Tyrannis" –- the stale John Wilkes Booth motto –- in his high school yearbook.  Insisted on going by "August" because Benjamin sounded too Jewish, and told the cops once to call him "Erwin Rommel." Distributed racist and anti-Semitic literature at home and at school, had a girlfriend who does not remember him fondly.  Scary? Sure. But he could have been on "Seinfeld," too. As a malcontent, Smith was little more than a caricature –- until he set out in his light blue Ford last week for the places where the ones he hated lived, with two guns and plenty of bullets. Until then, not many people would have called him special at all. 

-- FRANK PELLEGRINI 

Copyright 1999 Time Inc. New Media. 

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