Black and white Sound Cloud icon Black and white YouTube icon Black and white LinkedIn icon Black and white Facebook icon

1999 North Valley Jewish Community Center Shooting

Lesson Learned from a Church Shooting

Man holding a gun in a church

An Article based on the Safety Member Certification training module "Active Shooter Response."[1]

From the Bible

And [Haman] thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai (Esther 3:6).

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel … (Ezekiel 3:17).


Hatred is a very destructive emotion. It destroys the hater from within. It also motivates the destruction of others. This was the case in August 1999, when a person who had learned to hate Jews, non-Whites, and the government itself attacked a Jewish community center in Los Angeles.

Videocast and Show Notes

Kris Moloney covers the subjects of articles in videocasts on the YouTube channel Sheepdog Church Security Academy. The audio is in a podcast on the SoundCloud channel Church Security Roll Call. The current videocast has a link to the Show Notes, a summary of the article covered. For a Church Shooting article this is a Lessons Learned Download. The link is below the video screen. You can subscribe to the videocasts and the podcasts. You can also put likes and comments on them.[2][3]

We also have a free resource to download. It's a two-page PDF, Active Shooter Situation. An "Active Shooter Situation Checklist" is on the second page. It can be printed and posed in every classroom.

A Burst of Bullets

It was Tuesday, August 10, 1999, a nice summer day in Granada Hills, California. A children's camp was in progress on the grounds of the North Valley Jewish Community Center (JCC). About 10:50 in the morning, a man walked past children playing outside and into the lobby of the JCC. There he pulled out a pistol version of the Israeli-made Uzi. He began firing the automatic weapon, sweeping from right to left, not aiming at anyone in particular. After firing 70 rounds (judging by the used shell casings), he turned and left. He had hit five people - three children, a teen camp counselor, and the JCC receptionist - believing that he had killed them.

The Chase

The attacker left in the van he had driven 1,000 miles from Washington, but only went a short distance to the next neighborhood. There he saw a letter carrier coming down the walkway from delivering mail to a house. As a ruse, he asked the postal worker if he could mail a letter for him. Instead of pulling out a letter, he pulled out a handgun and shot the carrier nine times, killing him. He thought the mailman was a Latino or an Asian. He was really a Filipino American. Leaving the van unattended, he hijacked a car and drove off.

Abandoning the stolen car, the suspect called a cab and paid for a trip to the Nevada state line. There he took another cab to Las Vegas. Sometime after arriving in Vegas, he walked to the FBI office. "I'm the one you're looking for," he said. "I shot those kids."

A Raging Radical

The 36-year-old shooter had an engineering degree and had worked for aerospace companies. He was also mentally-ill.


Less than 20 years before the shooting, the man had become involved with neo-Nazi groups. The founder of one organization had robbed banks and died in a shootout with federal marshals and FBI agents. The groups were based in the Idaho panhandle. The shooter left his job and went there to live. He found a machining job nearby in Washington. Meanwhile, he went deeper into Aryan White Supremacy and anti-government views. He read books that claimed that Aryan Whites were the lost tribes of Israel and that the Jews were begat by Satan with Eve. These books considered Jews as not worthy to live.

After a business downturn and a layoff, he moved from job to job. He was sent to a mental hospital for treatment. While there, he assaulted staff with a knife. Charged with assault, the court put him on probation and sent him to live with his parents in the Puget Sound area.

A Triggering Factor?

In June 1999, a pair of brothers firebombed three Jewish locations in Sacramento, California, including a synagogue. Then in July they murdered a pair of gay men. The news of this likely triggered a call to action for other radicals.

The shooter in our case took it as such. He took money he had somehow saved or acquired and bought a van. He also bought guns and ammo (just try that today with federal background checks). On August 7, he told his parents he had to get out for a while. Then he made the thousand-mile trip to L.A. His goal was "killing Jews" and inciting others to do so.

The suspect had three top targets in mind: the Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, the Skirball Cultural Center, and the American Jewish University. However, he saw that they had armed guards, and he wouldn't make it to his prey, so he looked for a softer target and found one in the San Fernando Valley, the North Valley JCC.

The Aftermath

The shooter told someone that he'd killed five Jews, but he was mistaken. All those he shot at the JCC survived. The youngest, 5 years old, was the most critically wounded. He arrived at the hospital with no pulse and no blood pressure, but the emergency doctors kept him alive and revived him. He visited the hospital 20 years later. He also met with the medics who saved his life.

North Valley JCC did what it could to heal and continue. When the investigation had ended and police allowed them to do so, they and volunteers came in to clean, repair, and repaint. The synagogue next door as well as the neighboring Episcopal church helped with supplies, work, and counseling preschoolers.

This also made JCCs more security conscious, counting the cost of security for these community organizations. The goal is hardening the target.

The North Valley JCC and three other JCCs closed more than ten years ago (before 2013). The next-door synagogue has also closed. A new JCC, Valley JCC, was formed to replace those three. Its listed address, and the one shown on a map, is Mail & Ship Hub, where they have a mail box. This may be a security measure to make it harder for bad actors to find their location.

Since the person killed was an on-duty federal employee and the JCC shooting was a hate crime, the shooter was tried in federal court. He changed his plea to guilty to avoid the death penalty. The sentence was life in prison with no possibility of parole. He later said he'd given up his Nazi views. He had always liked children, and the fact that he shot kids may have gotten to him.

It is no surprise that an early reaction was another call to ban or more tightly regulate firearms. There was also a call for better enforcement of laws already on the books. Along with this was a call to pay better attention to mental illness.

In 2008, families of the shooting victims sued the Washington State Department of Corrections for failure to properly supervise the shooter, since he was on parole from a state prison and mental hospital.

The shooting at North Valley JCC has not been forgotten in the Los Angeles Jewish community. Every few years, local news media report the memories of survivors, responders, and other affected persons.

Lesson Learned: Security Matters

When church security is mentioned to those in a church that is small and/or in an out-of-the-way area, the reaction may be, "We're too small" or "Nobody would come to this place for that." That would have been a description for several of the places in our coverage of deadly force attacks at places of worship.

Someone like Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:17) needs to take up the call to be a watcher for the church.

Another lesson is to be prepared to treat multiple injuries if a deadly-force attack does occur.


Regardless of your church's size or location, some level of security is needed to protect it against an armed killer.

Training Notes

"Active Shooter Response" is the second of eight training modules (classes) in the Safety Member Certification program:

  1. Safety Team Fundamentals
  2. Active Shooter Response
  3. Deescalating Disruptive Persons
  4. Protecting Children from Abuse
  5. Basic Use of Force Laws
  6. Arson and Fire Safety
  7. Storms and Disasters
  8. Mass Trauma Emergencies

Church Safety Teams should have all their members trained and certified. Training is available in three formats:

Additionally, drills and practices are essential. Also, teaching that adds to what they've already learned is beneficial. Some skills, such as self-defense, First Aid, and CPR, are best learned in person with the chance to actually practice what you're learning.

Another teaching medium is the Church Security Guide with nine articles that give a detailed overview of church safety & security.[4][5] The last one, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," relates to this article.

On Deck

The article on deck for next week is "Guardrails" (Policies and Procedures to Protect Children).


Sheepdog Church Security Resources

  1. Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube [].
  3. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud [].
  4. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  5. Kris Moloney, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].

News Accounts

  1. "Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting," Wikipedia [].
  2. "Sacramento synagogue firebombings," Wikipedia [].
  3. Charles Feldman, "Gunfire shatters another U.S. community: Possible connection to carjacking," CNN, August 10, 1999 [].
  4. Duncan Campbell. "Neo-Nazi surrenders after LA shooting," The Guardian, August 11, 1999 [].
  5. Dree DeClamecy, "Jewish Center gunman gets 2 life sentences," CNN, March 26, 2001 [].
  6. Marcy Oster, "Victim of LA JCC shooting attack, now 25, visits hospital which saved him," The Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2019 [].
  7. J. Correspondent, "JCC strives for normalcy after rampage," The Jewish News of Northern California, August 20, 1999 [].
  8. Brenda Gazzar, "Former L.A. police chief recalls Jewish Community Center shooting," Los Angeles Daily News, August 10, 2014, Updated, August 28, 2017 [].
  9. Marissa Wenzke and Jennifer McGraw, "Survivor of 1999 Attack on Granada Hills Jewish Center Reunites With Nurse and Paramedic Who Saved His Life," KTLA5, August 7, 2019 [].
  10. News Staff, "Victim Of 1999 Jewish Center Shooting Rampage Talks To KCAL9," KCAL News, July 20, 2012 [].
  11. Denise Dador, "Family of Joseph Ileto, victim of Jewish Community Center shooting, speaks out against hate," KABC, August 9, 2019 [].
  12. Brian Fishbach, "North Valley JCC Shooting Still Traumatizing," JEWISH JOURNAL, June 9, 2022 [].
  13. staff, "JCC shooting: 20 years later, community remembers victims of rampage at Granada Hills center," KABC, August 12, 2019 [].
  14. Anon, "Lawsuit Filed in Granada Hills Jewish Community Center Shooting," Jewish Journal, August 24, 2006 [].
  15. Staff, "Buford O'Neal Furrow." Register Number: 34225-048, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, undated [].
  16. "Our Story," Valley Jewish Community Center, no date [].