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Clifton McCREE





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge "to punish some of the cowardly, racist devils" - Fired two years ago after failing a drug test
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: February 9, 1996
Date of birth: 1955
Victims profile: Former co-workers
Method of murder: Shooting (9mm Glock pistol)
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day

A fired city employee returned to his workplace and opened fire on former co-workers, killing five and wounding a sixth.

Turned a gun on himself and committed suicide.


Man massacres city workers

February 9, 1996

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. A fired city employee who threatened to return to his workplace and "do things" opened fire on former co-workers today, killing five and wounding a sixth before killing himself, police and witnesses said.

Clifton McCree, 41, was fired two years ago after failing a drug test, police said.


Fired Fla. employee kills 5, then self

Number of supervisors killed at work has doubled since 1985, report says

Akron Beacon Journal

February 10, 1996

He burst through the door and the workers knew they were in trouble. "Everyone's going to die," Clifton McCree said. He pulled out a 9mm Glock pistol. They ran for the exits. He squeezed off 10 shots. Slapped in another clip. Fired again.

When it was over, as the sun rose over Fort Lauderdale's beach, five men lay dead, another dying, another critically wounded. The most gravely wounded died later.


Man takes revenge; kills 5, then self

Fired in 1994, floridian had 'made threats to came back, do things'

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

February 10, 1996

More than a year after being fired and vowing revenge, a one-time member of the city's beach cleanup detail returned with two guns and shot five former co-workers to death Friday, police said. The man, Clifton McCree, 41, then turned a gun on himself and committed suicide, they said.

McCree barged into the small blue-and-white municipal trailer where he had once worked at 5 a.m. Friday and said, "All of you (expletive) are going to die," according to Nancy Ellers, who barely escaped.


Fired city beach worker keeps vow of revenge, kills 5, self in Florida

St. Paul Pioneer Press

February 10, 1996

For 18 years, Clifton McCree cleaned beaches for the city, working in the fresh air and enjoying the landscape so attractive to tourists. Friends and neighbors say they never saw him with a beer, much less a gun.

But when he was fired in 1994 for being rude to the public, threatening co-workers and failing a drug test, the former Marine vowed revenge.


More workers turning to violence

Fired employee in Florida kills five, commits suicide

San Jose Mercury News

February 10, 1996

It's a worker's worst nightmare - more frightening than any layoff, pay cut or demotion.

Friday, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., beach crew maintenance man, fired for failing a drug test, methodically sprayed his former co-workers with bullets, killing five and seriously injuring a sixth before committing suicide, police said.

The shooting was the second this week in which a disgruntled ex-employee used a gun to vent his rage over being dismissed.


Killer had 2 weapons, but used only the Glock

The Miami Herald

February 10, 1996

Clifton McCree was carrying two guns when he went on his shooting rampage Friday morning.

The first was a loaded six-shot .32-caliber revolver that he never took out of its holster.


Records reflect personality shift

The Miami Herald

February 11, 1996

For most of his 18 years with Fort Lauderdale, Clifton McCree rated an A for attitude and relations with his co- workers.

Little in his personnel file indicates he was anything other than an above-average employee. He was suspended twice for tardiness and absenteeism, but hadn't been in serious trouble since a 1977 fight.


Behind Florida killings: Anger, racism, despair

Haunted by a lost job, Clifton McCree slew 5 ex-coworkers and himself

Philadelphia Enquirer

February 11, 1996

He was out of work. No one would cut him a break, he was sure. Now the water heater was broken, and he was living alone, a hermit stewing about how people were cheating him out of his due.

He couldn't get over having been fired from his city beach-cleaning job of 18 years. He flunked a drug test and was canned just before Christmas 1994. Last week, he was fired again, this time from a part-time security job.


Disgruntled worker cited racism in note

Killer's note says 'I'm glad I did it'

The State

February 11, 1996

A man killed five former co-workers "to punish some of the cowardly, racist devils'' responsible for firing him from his city job, according to a suicide note released Saturday.

Clifton McCree, who was black, fired at least 13 bullets into an all-white group of parks employees Friday, then killed himself with a bullet to his head, police said.


Shooter takes revenge over "racist" '94 firing

February 11, 1996

A black Florida man shoots five white co-workers to death and then commits suicide because he thought his '94 firing was racially motivated.

A man killed five former co-workers "to punish some of the cowardly, racist devils'' responsible for firing him from his city job, according to a suicide note released Saturday.

Clifton McCree, who was black, fired at least 13 bullets into an all-white group of parks employees Friday, then killed himself.


Man who killed 5 had history of making threats

February 12, 1996

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. A man who fatally shot five park employees and himself Friday had long shown signs of erratic, threatening behavior, according to his disciplinary file.

City officials said Saturday that they first became aware of Clifton McCree's behavioral problems in October 1994, when workers began complaining about him. That and a failed drug test led them to fire McCree from his beach-cleaning job on Dec. 9 of that year.


Additional test to pinpoint when killer used marijuana

The Miami Herald

February 13, 1996

Clifton McCree had marijuana in his system when he gunned down five people and then killed himself, but no sign of stronger drugs or alcohol, toxicology tests reveal.


Probing the mind of multiple killer

McCree likely sane, experts say

The Miami Herald

February 14, 1996

There was a deliberate method to Clifton McCree's madness. Nothing random about his targets. An orchestrated ambush. A carefully worded suicide note in the pocket of his pants.


McCree's rage unchallenged for years

The Miami Herald

February 15, 1996

Clifton McCree seems to have had plenty of second chances. The first time he threatened to kill Joe Zankovitch, a co- worker on the Fort Lauderdale beach cleanup crew, Zankovitch didn't turn him in to the boss.


A chilling glimpse at the mind of a murderer

The Miami Herald

February 18, 1996

In an emotional appeal to win back his job as a beach cleanup worker, Clifton McCree told supervisors his problems at work were rooted in problems at home -- an extramarital affair, a threatened divorce, and the potential loss of his family.


Clifton McCree

A fired Fort Lauderdale, Florida, beach maintenance crew worker, Cliff returned a year later to extract revenge from his co-workers.

At 5:00 AM on February 9, 1996, Clifton returned to a temporary trailer office a block from the beach and systematically started firing on the beach cleaning crew he once worked with as they sat around a table preparing for work. McCree entered the trailer carrying a .9 mm semi-automatic handgun and said: "Everyone is going to die."

He then started shooting, killing five co-workers and wounding another who survived by playing dead. After the rampage, the gunman killed himself. When police arrived, they found an empty 10-round magazine, another partly loaded magazine in the gun next to his body and 12 spent shell casings. The killer also had a .32-caliber loaded pistol under his coat.

A longtime maintenance crew worker, McCree, 41, was fired after a 20-day suspension for failing a drug test, "threatening and harassing" his co-workers and making "insulting remarks" to tourists and residents on the beach. At the time he said his threats were a joke.

For a year his co-workers never heard from him until he showed up at the trailer at dawn. After the massacre his family expressed their condolences in a statement that said, "We knew he was distraught, but not to that extent."

In a semi-coherent suicide note he left behind, McCree said the shootings were "to punish some of the cowardly, racist devils" that got him fired. Nonetheless, by noon of the very day of the massacre the yellow crime-scene tape around the murder site was taken down to allow a fund-raising go-cart race to take place.


The life and death of Clifton McCree

McCree's seeds of rage were sown early angry loner had troubled childhood

The day he got married in 1979, Clifton McCree took his best man aside for a final goodbye.

"He just came out and told me to my face 'I ain't gonna see y'all no more,' " recalled Robert Hatcher. "I guess all he ever wanted was a wife and a family."

That day, McCree cast off his friend and his entire 25-year existence -- a teenage alcoholic mother, a father he never knew, a childhood bouncing from home to home.

He had three half-brothers less than 10 miles away that his wife didn't know existed. She never heard the story of his mother being shot, or his 3-year-old brother dying in her arms.

For almost two decades, he refused to discuss the childhood he was trying to forget.

Instead, he began constructing the family he never had. He bought a house, went to work at 5 a.m. every day for the Fort Lauderdale parks department, sat down to dinner each night with his wife and three children. He imposed ironclad rules about homework and bedtime and the exact distance the children could ride their bikes from the house. His wife wore a two-inch gold charm around her neck that McCree bought for her. It read: T-A- K-E-N.

In the end, he was a man defined by family -- by the one he never had as a child, and the one he clung so tightly to as a man.

But his rigidly controlled existence began to crack about two years ago. He'd had an affair. His wife was threatening divorce. His occasional pot smoking became a constant haze. His angry and profane outbursts at work became more frequent and he lost the city parks job he'd held for 18 years.

Toward the end, the money ran out, job prospects dimmed, and by late January even his family was gone -- they moved out after the water heater broke.

By the evening of Thursday, Feb. 8, McCree was again alone for the first time since his childhood. Life without his family, he told city officials in a tearful plea to regain his job, would be "a fate worse than death."

In his bright-blue house, with his memories and a box of Popeye's fried chicken that his wife had delivered, he worked out the final details of the worst mass murder in Fort Lauderdale history.

His rampage at dawn the following day left six men dead and and a city reeling.

A little more than a week later, after interviews with dozens of family members and acquaintances and reviewing hundreds of documents, a picture emerges of a man who struggled for years with suppressed rage.

As a child, he was forced to work the vegetable fields of Broward County. By age 14, he was living in an apartment on his own. Years later, he often told co-workers he was happiest alone on his seaweed truck. He adored his children, yet often closed
himself behind a bedroom door with a marijuana cigarette and his books.

True to his word, he never again spoke to his best man after his wedding. "I didn't see him for 18 years after that day," said Hatcher, 41. "Not until the other night when I turned on the TV."


Emily Lovetta McCree was one month shy of her 14th birthday when she gave birth to Clifton Levoid on Nov. 23, 1954, in Thomasville, Ga. Growing up, McCree knew little of his father, except that family described him as tough and mean and quick to a fight.

Emily had her own wild side and was known to abandon McCree for days and go with men on drinking binges.

When her son was 4, she married and moved to Pompano Beach, where she picked up the street nickname "Little Bit."

"There were times when she'd leave and not come home for two weeks at a time," said McCree's stepfather, who spoke to The Herald on the condition he not be named. "And I'm talking about when the kids were in diapers."

In 1961, the stepfather said he accidentally shot Emily when she stumbled home in the middle of the night after a binge. She later recovered.

Around the same time, the 7-year-old saw his younger brother, Curtis, die on the way to the hospital from a sudden intestinal disorder.

When McCree was 11, his mother left home one night and didn't return.

"Cliff grew up fast then," said the stepfather. He sent the boy to live with his step-grandfather, a crew chief who put him to work in the vegetable fields of northern Broward County.

When Emily's sister Edna learned of his fate a year later, she was outraged. She and her husband, Dewitt Watkins, went looking for him, plucked him off a dirt road, and put him on a bus to family in Thomasville where he lived for almost two years.

But McCree was always drawn to his mother. At 14, he returned to Fort Lauderdale and the Watkins' rented him a one- room apartment, where he lived on his own.

McCree enrolled himself in Dillard High in 1973, and by all accounts was an average student and football player who kept to
himself. He worked as a laborer at a paving company one summer, as a bag boy at the Pic-N-Pay the next.

"He was loner," said Dillard football coach Anderson Spince. "He was a quiet young man, very respectful, went to class."

After graduation, McCree tried a semester at a historically black college in North Carolina, but soon dropped out.

"He really could have made it for himself," Dewitt Watkins said. "But I think he quit because he didn't like to take handouts from anybody."

Becoming a pilot was his dream, but he failed the required Air Force tests and settled on the Marines.

He excelled during his two years at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, where he became an expert rifleman, a team leader with two soldiers under his command and earned a promotion from private to lance-corporal.

McCree came home in 1977 and got a part-time job in the city parks department. That turned full-time a year later and became his career for the next 18 years. His job evaluations glowed from the beginning, but there were early signs of an attitude problem.

Six months into his new job, police were called to Snyder Park to break up a fight with a co-worker over money one owed the other.

On his lunch hour one day in 1977, in a small restaurant across the street from Snyder Park he met Ezerma Barr. She was 16, he was 22.

They hit it off from the start.

"Once we met, that bond just came," Ezerma remembered. "All he needed was me. We've been together ever since."

They married in 1979, attended only by Ezerma's large family. Even Clifton's mother didn't show. And he didn't go to his mother's funeral. She died on May 25, 1982 at the age of 42.

Ezerma said anytime she tried to discuss his family, he turned sullen and silent.

"I just recently found out he had other family," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. "His uncle came to the house the other day. I wished I had known them."

In the next eight years, life seemed to go well. They had three kids, and bought a house in northwest Fort Lauderdale.

"It was work and family, and that was it," said Ezerma's sister Veronda Rhodes.

Joe Petty, a neighbor and close friend who spoke at McCree's funeral Friday, described McCree as a devoted father who worked a second job to make ends meet.

He was a strict father. Neighbors never saw the kids misbehave. They only rode their bikes to the edge of the next- door neighbor's house. It was in by 6 and to bed by 9 every night.

The children, noted neighbor Gloria Woodson, were "very welltrained."

They would go to Ezerma's mom's house after school each day until their mother, a chef, would come to pick them up.

"If 'Zerma was still here at 6, the phone would ring and we'd know it was Cliff," remembered Ezerma's sister, Veronda Rhodes. "He wanted them home for dinner and to do their homework."

But he also took them to the movies frequently, she recalled, and occasionally rented a hotel room on the beach for the weekend. And when he could he lavished them with gifts.

"I was always a budget-type person," Ezerma said. "And he was always coming home with things for those kids. I'd get on him about the money, and he'd say it's all right. I swear those kids have more expensive shoes than I do."

Through all those years, McCree got good marks from his bosses in his yearly evaluations. Co-workers said he could get belligerent when he smoked marijuana, but the occasional outbursts were overlooked.

Petty, in the apartment next door, frequently heard loud arguments through the walls. "I stayed my distance. He was very touchy," Petty said. "You didn't want to get too much in his business. He was very volatile.

"He enjoyed his family and didn't seem to need much else," Petty said.

The turning point in McCree's behavior came in the last two years, with an affair and increased drug use.

Always prone to fits of temper, he began calling his fellow workers Nazis and profane names. They said he sporadically became enraged out of proportion to events.

He referred often to guns, saying "If you mess with my job . . . it will be time to lock and load."

On many occasions, according to city documents, he said, "You can complain about me to the city but the city can't resurrect you."

And his outbursts -- often racially tinged -- weren't only at work.

On Sept. 13, 1994, the month before he was fired, he boarded a school bus bound for Rogers Middle School and chastised a group of boys who had been fighting with his son at the bus stop. He left when the bus driver asked him to. No charges were filed.

Whenever his supervisors confronted him, he blamed it on marital problems, or sometimes simply acknowledged he had been out of line.

Joe Zankovitch, a co-worker since 1986, said he initially got along with McCree and even considered him a friend -- when he wasn't stoned.

"He was a lot more OK when he didn't smoke marijuana. The last year and a half he smoked so much he got really paranoid . . . He'd always talked about people behind their backs but he started calling people white trash right to their faces."

McCree's wife and family acknowledge his sometimes quick temper, but say he wasn't capable of such behavior without being pushed. Yet he rarely talked about prejudice in the workplace, Ezerma McCree said.

Ezerma confirms their marriage was rocky at times and that troubles at home might have something to do with his attitude
shift, but she would not discuss the details.

In October 1994 -- with his outbursts and threats more frequent and his co-workers afraid of him -- he was fired after he failed a drug test.

The firing came after a series of increasingly serious threats of violence. The issue came to a head when workers overcame their fear of reporting McCree, at the same time the city announced a policy to address workplace violence.

By the time he was fired, McCree had become so paranoid he accused a dog of staring at him, screamed insults and racial slurs at tourists and threatened to exact revenge on any co- worker who reported his behavior.

He left the city officially on Dec. 9, 1994, with his lump sum pension payout -- $27,360.

After that, nobody saw much of Clifton McCree. Not Ezerma's family. Not Petty. Not the neighbors.

McCree tried to get work, applying to be a corrections officer with the Broward Sheriff's Office. But he was rejected
because of his firing by the city and drug use.

He told his family he was attending a six-month law- enforcement course at Broward Community College. "He was hitting those books really hard every night," Ezerma said. BCC has no record McCree ever attended.

Money dwindled fast, going toward credit-union loans, car payments, utility bills and schooling, McCree told his wife.

"That money was gone in six months, and that's when he started really getting depressed," Ezerma said. "After that, he started losing weight, sleeping all the time. He wouldn't come out of his room."

His depression affected his part-time security jobs as well.

A year after he lost his city job, he was working for a private security firm when police were called to a Coca-Cola plant in Pompano Beach. McCree's black supervisor there said he threatened to go home and return to the job site to "empty my gun in you."

He was fired again.

He stopped watching videos with the kids. Always a voracious reader, especially of black history, he locked himself in the bedroom to read and sleep.

He stopped watching his favorite soap opera, General Hospital. Stopped lifting weights. Stopped running. Stopped throwing the football with his son, Clifton Jr.

"He was losing it. I think back now and I can see it," Ezerma said.

Then last month, without the money to fix the water heater, Ezerma and the kids -- Clifton Jr., 10, Christina, 10, and Derek, 7 -- moved to her mother's house. McCree refused to come with them.

"That was his pride. He always wanted to do for himself," Ezerma said. "That was hard for him, thinking he couldn't provide for his family."

For the first time since his childhood, Clifton McCree was alone. The man who only wanted a family and a job had neither.

That Thursday, he made one last attempt to get his old job back in Fort Lauderdale. The rejection came hard.

He stormed the parks trailer the next morning and opened fire, killing -- Joseph Belotto, Kenneth Brunjes, Tim Clifford, Donald Moon and Mark Bretz. Lelan Brookins survived the massacre, but remains hospitalized.

Before McCree walked into the trailer, he penned a suicide note. "All the hope, effort and opportunity at employment only prove to be futile after being terminated by the city of Ft. Lauderdale," he wrote. "The economic lynching without regard or recourse was (is) something very evil. Since I couldn't continue to support my family, life became nothing."

Staff Writers Karen Rafinski, Ronnie Greene, Jackie Charles, Frank Fernandez, Steve Bousquet, Phil Long and Connie Prater contributed to this report.

Here's what Clifton McCree had to say about his troubled state of mind after he lost his 18-year city job, according to a tape of a hearing released Saturday.

In response to Parks Supervisor Thomas Tapp:

Tapp: Nationally, there's been people threatened and people who have been killed by workers and it's a scary situation, so joking about it and playing around with it is something we can't tolerate.

McCree: I'm really, I, I'm not that type of person. I feel like my, my, my whole character has just been -- you know -- trashed because I'm really, really, I'm not that type of person.

On threatening outbursts toward co-workers: "I don't understand when they say the guys was feeling menaced or threatened by me . . . One day I came into the trailer and stuff, I had a Frisbee and I had a toy water gun and I was following around. You know, joking around and stuff . . . and that was misunderstood, you know."

"I'm sick over the whole thing . . . Why would they, for years we've worked together and then all the sudden I've become this, this, some kind of monster or something. I don't, I don't understand."

"I don't understand, I don't know, someone getting mad with me -- but I don't figure they would fabricate or tell a lie on me or nothing."

On marijuana use: "I don't have a criminal record, you know, if you wanted to check. It's just not my nature. I've made a few mistakes, I'm not perfect or nothing. But that was the only time and a lot of things was going on and this and that and -- whoa, divorce -- and this and that and problem times but that's, that's, that's not me. I'm not a malicious person or nothing. That's just not my nature. I was misunderstood or just, I don't know. That's just not in me."

On whether he owned a gun: "No, I used to. Not now. You know, I can't understand. One of the guys got mad with me and I wouldn't believe they would just fabricate, you know, something like that."



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