Rampage in Camden
A Preconceived Plan
It seemed a petty grievance, but it was also a turning point. As soon as he saw the missing gate, just installed that day, he knew that his life would change. He had to take action now, no matter what the cost. Hed been plotting revenge for at least two years and now it was time to act on his preconceived plan.
Dressing up in a brown tropical-worsted suit, white shirt, and striped bow tie, the slender six-foot recluse picked up his 9-mm. German Luger and went outside. It was Tuesday, September 6, around 9:20 a.m. His mother had just left, so she was out of the way. He could have taken any number of guns from his collection, but he favored the Luger. Just in case, he also grabbed a six-inch knife and a tear gas pen with six shells.
Vaulting over a fence, he cut through some back streets and then stepped out into the road. A map drawn for the Philadelphia Inquirer that evening, which identified the shooter as the crazed man and the maniac, marks where this otherwise quiet World War II veteran went. (The exact sequence of the events that day differs from one newspaper to the next, but they all end up with the same result.)
The lean and quiet man was about to make history. He would become Americas first single-episode mass murderer.
In 1949, the Cramer Hill area of Camden, N.J. was generally quiet. But that day, for a mere twelve minutes, the shooter had made himself heard. For too long, he believed, people had been talking about him behind his back. It was time for revenge. No one was going to treat him like this! He put his lessons from the war to good use: he approached the target area from a route that no one would expect.
At the corner of Harrison and 32nd St. sat a bread delivery truck. Two kids played nearby. The driver appeared to be sorting through some papers. He would be the first. Shoving the Luger through the door, the shooter pulled the trigger. But the bread man was quick.
He missed me by inches, the unidentified driver later told reporter Roxy Di Marco. I was seated in my bread truck going over my records and he walked up and shoved a pistol through the door at me. I thought it was a holdup. I tumbled into the back of my truck among the breadboxes. He fired one shot and, thank God, it missed me.
The bread man saw the two children in the road, so he grabbed them and hid them in the truck. He then drove down the road to warn others, but it was too late.
The shooter walked along 32nd St. back toward the building where he lived on the second floor. He planned on making some stops before reaching home. He had enemies and he knew where they were. Entering a shoe repair shop, he aimed the gun at John Pilarchik, 27, the man inside bent over a childs shoe. The shooter walked within a yard of him and fired twice. A little boy ran for cover behind the counter, but the shooter ignored him. He now had his first kill of the day, with one bullet in the mans stomach and another in his head. Unlike the bread man, the shoemaker had been on his list. The barber was next.