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Roland James SMITH Jr.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Overzealous black activist
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: December 8, 1995
Date of birth: 1944
Victims profile: Seven store employees
Method of murder: Smoke inhalation (set the store on fire)
Location: Harlem, New York City, New York, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 

 
 

On Friday, December 8, at 10:12 a.m., Roland James Smith, Jr., 51, a Harlem resident with a criminal record going back 30 years, walked into Freddy's Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned clothing store at 272 West 125th Street, pulled out a gun, ordered all the black customers to leave, spilled paint thinner on several bins of clothing and set them on fire -- a fire that resulted in killing 8 people including Smith.


Roland James Smith Jr.

On December 8, 1995, Roland Smith, an overzealous black activist, turned the white-owned Freddy's Fashion Mart across the street from Harlem's famous Apollo Theatre into a flaming grave for seven low-wage workers and himself.

Fueled by a bitter dispute stemming from the clothing store's planned expansion that would result in the eviction of the black-owned Record Shack next door Ron grew tired of picketing and decided to take matters into his own hand.

On that fateful morning he entered Freddy's with a .38-caliber revolver and a bag of lighter fluid, yelled for everyone to leave and started firing wildly wounding four people who managed to stumble out of the shop.

Then he proceeded to set up barricades trapping seven people inside. After exchanging gunfire with police the mad activist set several fires in the store.

Ronnie, who liked to call himself Abubunde Mulocko, feeling he had done his job for the cause, ended his morning rampage by putting a bullet in his head. The seven others trapped in the store burned to death. Police are still investigating the reasons for his attack.


8 Killed In Harlem -- Arson / Gunman among dead

By John Kifner - SFGate.com

December 09, 1995

New York -- Eight people in a Harlem clothing store were killed yesterday in a fierce blaze that police believe was deliberately set as part of bitter landlord-tenant dispute that led to angry protests in the neighborhood.

Among the dead was a man police suspect set fire to the store.

The fire consumed the building on Harlem's main thoroughfare 125th Street shortly after a tall gunman waving a revolver burst into Freddie's Fashion Mart across the street from the storied Apollo Theater.

Police said last night they believed the gunman was one of a group of demonstrators who had picketed the store in recent weeks in a dispute over the threatened eviction of a subtenant the Record Shack a neighborhood institution.

Police say the gunman whom they did not identify was found dead with a revolver in his hand reeking of accelerant a flammable liquid. Beside him was a white container that officials believe held the accelerant. Four other people were shot in the incident and escaped from the store before the fire enveloped it.

According to officials and residents of the neighborhood the fire followed a months-long dispute that involved the owner of the building a black Baptist congregation called the United House of Prayer; the owner of the clothing store Fred Harari; and Sikhulu Shange owner of the neighboring Record Shack.

Shange a South African black whose shop has specialized in blues Motown African and Caribbean music for more than 20 years was being evicted as a subtenant of Harari apparently at the instigation of the church according to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Boycott campaign

In the past several weeks there have been a dozen or so pickets outside Freddie's urging a boycott of the store because they believed it did not employ blacks and was behind the eviction of Shange's business.

The commander of the 28th Precinct Deputy Inspector Joyce Stephen said the Police Department in addition to sending uniformed officers to monitor the pickets had opened a racial bias investigation of an incident that arose during the protesting November 29.

Stephen said a security guard told the police that one of the demonstrators had said "We're going to burn and loot the Jews."

Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton rushed to the scene yesterday. The mayor while saying that the investigation focused on the protests against the clothing store also urged New Yorkers not to rush to judgments about the case.

Sharpton critical

At the same time the Rev. Al Sharpton who helped to sponsor the protests against the clothing store criticized the investigators for quickly linking the conflagration to the protests.

Because of the intensity of the fire it took more than two hours before firefighters could reach the inside of the gutted store.

Besides the gunman they found three bodies huddled together in a back room on the first floor and four more bodies clustered together in the basement.

The police and Medical Examiner's office said seven victims apparently died of smoke inhalation. But it was unclear whether the gunman died of smoke inhalation or the single bullet wound he suffered.

In the early moments of the confrontation police say the gunman fired on two police officers who arrived on the scene but Bratton said a preliminary check of the weapons of the police officers on the scene indicated that their guns had not been fired.

Of the four people wounded in the gunfire the police said three of them were listed in critical condition.

Possibly false ID

The police said the gunman was carrying an identification card with the name Aboudima Moulika and an address on Mount Morris Park West. But they are not sure whether that is his true identity. Detectives went to the address and said residents there had never heard of him and did not recognize the person in the photograph.

"We're confident he was not known at that location" said a detective involved in the investigation.

The day began like any other for the dozen or so workers in Freddie's. There were construction crews working on a store expansion and a $5 million renovation of the church.

Suddenly their ordinary world exploded into chaos and confusion gunfire flames and death. A man walked into the store kicked over a table sloshed the flammable liquid around shouted for people to get out and then began shooting.

At 10:12 a.m. Bratton said a passer-by on 125th Street told two officers from the 28th Precinct who were walking a regular patrol beat that a tall man with a gun had gone into the store.

Officer trapped

As they raced into the store the man was shooting. Three wounded people were helped out of the store but one of the officers was pinned down trapped inside. More police some from the neighboring 25th Precinct responded to the call for backup and they got the officer out unhurt the commissioner said.

At St. Luke's Hospital where the three badly wounded victims all men were taken Dr. Kevin V. Sanborn the associate director of anesthesiology said that one of them had said that "a man came into the store and started the fire right away and as people tried to escape the man started to fire at them."

Across the street Thomas Pierre a voter registration worker glanced out his third-floor office window when he heard sirens and shots and he saw police rushing up and man dressed like a construction worker staggering out of the building in pain.

"Suddenly the whole front went up in flames" Pierre said. "It started just like that."


Freddie's Fashion Mart

In 1995, a black Pentecostal Church, the United House of Prayer, which owned a retail property on 125th Street, asked Fred Harari, a Jewish tenant who operated Freddie's Fashion Mart, to evict his longtime subtenant, a black-owned record store called The Record Shack. Sharpton led a protest in Harlem against the planned eviction of The Record Shack. Sharpton told the protesters, "We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business."

On December 8, 1995, Roland J. Smith Jr., one of the protesters, entered Harari's store with a gun and flammable liquid, shot several customers and set the store on fire. The gunman fatally shot himself, and seven store employees died of smoke inhalation.

Fire Department officials discovered that the store's sprinkler had been shut down, in violation of the local fire code. Al Sharpton claimed that the perpetrator was an open critic of himself and his nonviolent tactics. Sharpton later expressed regret for making the racial remark, "white interloper," and denied responsibility for inflaming or provoking the violence.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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