September 6, 1949
Camden, New Jersey
Howard Unruh began a “Walk of Death” in which he shot at his neighbors while he leisurely walked down the street, killing 13 and wounding 3
Unruh became paranoid of his neighbors and kept a diary of all the things he believed they said against him. Next to some of the names in his book he wrote “retal.” for “retaliate.”
In the early hours of September 6, Unruh came home to discover someone had stolen his gate. He later told police “When I came home last night and found my gate had been stolen, I decided to kill them all.” Unruh went to sleep and awoke at 8am, put on his best suit, and had breakfast with his mother whom he at some point threatened with a wrench. Because of the threat, she left to go to a friend’s home.
At 9:20am, Unruh armed himself with a German Luger pistol. He strolled down the street shooting any he came across; though the shooting and targets were planned originally, Unruh seemed to settle for any in his path when he executed his plan. In 12 minutes, 13 people were dead and 3 injured. Amongst the dead were 3 children, ages 2, 6, and 9.
Upon hearing approaching sirens, Unruh retreated to his apartment where he and police entered a standoff. Over 60 officers surrounded the building and a shootout ensued. Unruh was apprehended after police used tear gas bombs to force Unruh out. While being arrested, an officer asked Unruh “What’s the matter with you? You a psycho?” to which he replied “I’m no psycho. I have a good mind.” During interrogation it was discovered Unruh had been shot in the thigh but had concealed this fact. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Unruh was diagnosed with schizophrenia by psychiatrists and thus immune to prosecution. He was sent to the New Jersey Hospital for the Insane where he lived the rest of his life in confinement where he died in 2009 at the age of 88. His last words to the public were made during an interview in which he was quoted as saying “I’d have killed a thousand if I had enough bullets.”