On August 20, 1982, a teacher named Carl Robert Brown went on a shooting rampage in a Miami, Florida welding shop. He killed 8 people and injured another 3.
He cycled away from the scene, heading to the middle school he once taught at, but was fatally run down by 2 witnesses.
Brown was originally from Chicago Illinois, born there in 1930. He did a stint in the Navy and was honorably discharged in 1954, but even once he was out, people close to him said that he was never exactly the same, acting quite "militaristic". In 1955, he moved to Florida and graduated from the University of Miami in 1964. He went to North Carolina to earn his Master's in education and then moved back to Florida.
After briefly working at a realty company, he got a full-time job as a history teacher in a high school in 1962, and worked nights at Miami-Dade Community College as an accounting instructor from 1964 to 1970.
In his personal life, Brown was married twice. His first wife died and his second marriage failed because he refused to seek psychological help, according to his second wife, Sylvia. His deteriorating mental health resulted in disheveled and gaunt appearances and self-isolation. Neighbors said he looked like he was 80.
He had 3 children, and reportedly, one of them tried to have him hospitalized, but it didn't work.
As such, his career began to suffer. Allegedly, he was a bigot who hated everyone. When he had applied to become a teacher in 1961, he said that he enjoyed being with younger people and thought that he could benefit the youth with his knowledge and abilities. He had been considered a good, competent teacher for a long time, but over the years, more and more complaints were filed against him.
Students would refuse to sit in his class because he would incoherently ramble about his personal problems. He would start weird conversations, stringing together completely unrelated topics. Because they were high school students and didn't want to do anything, they would ask him a question to make him ramble about nothing for the entire period. He would make threatening remarks to and insult anyone who wasn't white.
During his time teaching high school, he wrote a letter to the principal, discussing the misbehavior of his students who had been subjected to his odd rants, that was, in essence, just one of those odd rants but on paper. He claimed that children up to the age of 18 could do anything they want, including abuse, and get away with it, and the interfering adult would be held accountable.
He was transferred to a new school, a predominantly black middle school, which was apparently the school's solution for a nutty, racist teacher with deteriorating mental health. Great. He got into an argument with 2 of the kids once, and during the argument, he began to describe his sex life with his girlfriend and chased the offending boys with a stapler. The school board's director of personnel control, Pat Gray, described the incident as one where "Mr. Brown demonstrated a significant lack of adult judgement."
Another review of Mr. Brown revealed that the principal was concerned for the safety of the children in his class, partially because of his behavior, but partially because his classroom was complete and utter chaos.
In January of 1982, he was evaluated by a psychologist, who determined that he suffered from severe anxiety and paranoia. He believed that he could continue working if he was treated properly, and that he was not a danger to himself or others. But on March 3, 1982, he was relieved of his teaching duties so he could seek further psychological help from his psychiatrist. "Dr. Wainger wants to study me, that's all," Brown said in a meeting with Gray. "I can cure Dr. Wainger. I will treat him. I will change his seeds."
Away from work, neighbors claimed he was quiet, kind and helpful. However, they weren't able to look past his super bizarre behaviors. For instance, he would walk into other people's yards in the morning and wake them up by yelling "United States!" Shots were also heard from his house during the nights, a pellet gun once breaking a window. He also "picked grapefruit from a neighbor's tree wearing only his underwear". But... yeah. Quiet, kind, and helpful...
According to his second wife, he had asked to return to teaching 2 days before the shooting, but his request was denied.
On the day before the shooting, thus the day after his return to work was denied, Brown got into a heated argument with Jorge Castalleda, an employee at a local welding services company, over a $20 bill for the repair of a lawnmower engine he wanted to put on his bike. He claimed the work was done poorly, and was also angry because his traveler's check was denied. In a rage, he left the shop, saying he would kill everybody. However, nobody took him seriously.
The next morning, he went to a gun store a few blocks away from his home and purchased 2 shot guns, a semi-automatic rifle, and ammunition. An hour before he left, he asked his 10-year-old son if he'd like to join him in killing a lot of people, telling him they would end at Hialeah Junior High, his previous employer.
Before 11 AM, he arrived at the welding shop that had scorned him on his bike, with one of his shotguns slung over his shoulder. He entered through a side door and began shooting. He yelled that he would send everybody to Germany.
He walked through the building, methodically shooting everyone. Most were shot at close range, and many were shot twice.
The object of Brown's rage, the man who he had gotten into an argument with the day before, escaped the carnage unhurt. He ran as soon as Brown announced his presence and intentions. Of course, he would have also been an innocent victim had he been shot, but all of the people he killed weren't even involved in the dispute.
Nelson Barrios, 46 // welder
Lonie Jeffries, 53 // crane operator
Carl Lee, 47 // manager and bookkeeper
Ernestine Moore, 67 // the shop owner's mother
Mangum Moore, 78 // the shop owner's uncle
Martha Steelman, 29 // secretary
Juan Ramon Trespalacios, 38 // machinist
Pedro Vasques, 44 // shop foreman
The 3 wounded employees were a machinist, Carlos Vazquez, 42, his 17-year-old son Carlos who helped out at the shop, and Eduardo Lima, 30, a machinist. After being shot, they ran for their lives as Brown pedaled away "slowly, like he was taking a Sunday ride".
Brown left only because his gun was out of ammunition. He hopped on his bicycle and started pedaling toward the middle school.
The injured jumped into the car of Mac Edwards, a passing motorist. 2 of the bleeding men were screaming, while the third was crying. They, thankfully, all survived.
52-year-old crane operator Curtis Edwards said he saw everybody running. "Then I saw Nelson, lying there dead. I walked into the welding shop. Pedro was dead in his office. I went into the machine shop and there was another guy dead on the floor. I saw my brother-in-law, Carl Lee, sitting there dead in his chair and I didn't go any further."
Rufus Nelson, a worker across the street, came to the scene. He saw a man lying outside, shot in the head. He didn't find any survivors inside. "A man named Perdo was on the floor in the office. A fat guy who ran the place was sitting up in his chair. Dead. A woman wearing white slacks was lying on her side behind her desk. A man was lying on the floor with a hole in his head and his brains coming out. His arm was shot off. Only a little piece of skin held it together."
He ran back to his company in hysterics, which alerted owner Mike Kram, who grabbed his gun to go find the perpetrator. He picked up Ernset Hammett, who was trying to flag down cars, in attempt to alert them of the massacre. Hammett got into Kram's car in pursuit of the killer.
They caught up with Brown, and allegedly, shot a warning shot over his head. However, the bullet had hit him in the back and was his ultimate cause of death. When Brown turned to aim his shotgun at them, they ran him over, crashing him into a light pole. He died shortly after. Kram was not charged in relation to Brown's death.
Part of me has an ounce of sympathy for Brown. He was suffering greatly from some mental condition, and though it was taken somewhat seriously, it was taken seriously too late. He should have been forced into some psychological help when all of the complaints were being lodged against him at the high school, but instead, he was just transferred, where the problem got worse. It seems that he was pretty much incapacitated, and those around him, while concerned, didn't do anything actionable to help him. (Is that their responsibility? Tough to say.) But regardless, part of me feels bad.
But that part evaporates when I think not only about the 8 people he murdered in cold blood, but also all of the people who could have died had he made it to his destination of the middle school. It seemed like the welding shop was just a stop on the way to his ultimate goal. I shudder to think of the children who could have been killed if he hadn't been stopped. It is horrifying to think about.
8 people were killed that day, but with all shootings, those weren't the only people forever affected by his massacre. Bob Moore survived, but his mother and uncle were murdered in front of him. Jorge Castalleda had to live with the knowledge that his interaction with Brown lead to the killings of his coworkers, and he escaped unharmed. 3 people were injured, but will certainly always feel the effects, especially the man who watched his teenage son get shot. The motorist who picked up 3 terrified, bleeding, screaming men. The neighboring company employees who came by and saw death everywhere. The surviving employees who ran and heard the screams of their coworkers. The man who had to run over another human being. The families of those who died who will never understand why their loved one went to work that morning and didn't come home. The psychiatrist and teachers and school board who know that their decisions could have prevented this. The list goes on and on and on.
I always hate writing about shootings, and especially shootings that happened a long time ago. It really sucks to say, "this happened in 1982, 38 years ago!" and not being able to follow up with "and luckily, things like this don't happen anymore." There was no waiting period for the guns he purchased, but police said that the gun he used for the massacre had no sporting usage and was considered a riot gun. Why was a mentally ill man who had been let go from his job under the suspicion of being dangerous able to purchase 3 guns at a moment's notice? And why have these laws barely changed in 38 years?
Maybe 38 years from now, the shootings of today and yesterday and years past will be a distant memory, something that we nipped in the bud and never let happen again. But this story, so long ago, could have been written about something that happened today. And that sucks.
And we need to do something to stop things like this from happening so regularly in the U.S.