04/02/2003

Biblical Commandment Leads to Confession

Suspect Thought 4 Slain Immigrants Were Middle Eastern

NEW YORK (AP) -- Police said the Bible's admonition against murder apparently persuaded a man with a history of mental problems to confess to fatally shooting four immigrants, three of them out of anti-Arab anger.

Larme Price told a detective that he shot three victims -- one Guyanese, one Indian and one Yemeni -- because he believed each was of Middle Eastern descent, a criminal complaint said. He said he shot a Russian-born man because he "felt bad vibes" about him, the complaint added.

Price, 30, was ordered held without bail following his arraignment Monday on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon. He was placed on suicide watch at the request of his attorney, John Youngblood.

The defendant's relatives refused to comment as they left the courthouse. Police said the gunman wanted to exact revenge for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The killings began on February 8 with the shooting of John Freddy, 40, a Guyana native drinking coffee at a convenience store. A surveillance camera showed a man in a dark coat, baseball cap and hooded sweat shirt shooting Freddy behind the ear.

About two hours later, Indian immigrant Sukhjit Khajala, 50, was fatally shot in the face with the same .40-caliber revolver used in Freddy's killing, authorities said. Police said $169 was taken from the cash register by a man who shot Khajala after a brief conversation, then walked away slowly.

Russian-born laundry manager Albert Kotlyar, 32, was killed March 10. Ten days later, Mohammed Ali Nassir, 54, was shot and killed while sitting near the door of the Stop II Food Market. Another employee was wounded.

Police said Price, who has two children and a pregnant girlfriend, apparently began having second thoughts about the shootings after reading the Sixth Commandment in the Bible: "Thou shall not kill."

"He was reading the Bible and he wanted to help the police end this," said Deputy Inspector Vito Spano, who headed the police task force. "He was not happy with what he was doing."

Price walked into a police precinct Friday and offered to help track down the suspect, police said. Within a day, police said, they obtained Price's confession.

Price's mother, Leatha Price, said her son struggled with drug abuse and had mental problems that were exacerbated by the terrorist attacks. She said she tried unsuccessfully to have him admitted to Woodhull Hospital.

Woodhull records reportedly show that he was treated at the hospital's Non-Urgent Care Center on March 9 and released.

Police said they matched a pistol recovered from the home of Price's girlfriend to the shooting of Nassir. They also recovered a baseball cap, hooded sweat shirt and jacket they believe Price wore during the shootings.

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