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Tracking the killers dark mind

William Covington | 7/25/2012, 5 p.m.

Upon entering the house, the Los Angeles police found the body of a man they said was the sniper. They identified him as Tyrone Mitchell, 28 years old. Mitchell reportedly died from self-inflicted wounds.

The New York Times reported that Mitchell was a member of the People's Temple and had been in Guyana the day that hundreds of Jim Jones followers perished in mass murders and suicides in November 1978. He reportedly escaped death at Jonestown by traveleing to Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, when the deaths occurred. But his parents and at least two other close relatives were believed to have died in the massacre.

Jones had opened the People Temples Church at 1336 S. Alvarado St. in Los Angeles in hopes of attracting Blacks from Watts, South Central Los Angeles, and Compton, according to a spokesperson from the Southern California Association of Seventh-day Adventists, which had leased the building to the People's Temple.

Mitchell caused two fatalities--10-year-old female student Shala Eubanks and 24-year-old male playground supervisor Carlos Lopez. The injured included nine children and two adults (Lopez being one. He died about six weeks later, on April 13,1984), according to LAPD Public Information Officer Lyle Knight. Many in the media believed Mitchell chose to begin shooting as pupils were leaving for the day to ensure adequate targets. Police said Mitchell had a reputation as a habitual PCP user, and that relatives had told them he was under the influence of drugs the day of the shooting.

In an odd way, the Mitchells had been the envy of many kids at 49th Street School. During the 1960s when they were growing up, their home, although humble, was across the street from the school. If they forgot their homework or lunch they could retrieve them within minutes. They could get home early to catch afterschool cartoons, and they could avoid the older neighborhood jackers who would shake you down for money while enroute to and from school.

Growing up in the early '70s, Mitchell could be identified by his cross country flats--a lightweight, cushionless black-cloth running shoe--and his very large afro, known back then as a blowout. He was very popular, according to Carver Junior High and Jefferson High classmate Anthony Brooks. He was known throughout the neighborhood for his speed, and was a member of the Thomas Jefferson High School cross country team.

Brooks also remembers having a conversation with Mitchell at Tams Burgers located on 51st Street and Central Avenue one or two weeks before the shooting rampage.

Brooks said he muttered and at times his speech was inaudible. "It appeared he was complaining about how Mexicans had taken over the neighborhood," Brooks said. (The San Ysidro McDonald's massacre followed five months later. Its shooter James Oliver Huberty also targeted an area that was frequented by Mexican Americans.)

Even before the shooting, according to Reginald Smith, Mitchell had developed a bizarre, threatening behavior, and was known by friends and relatives to keep an arsenal of weapons in his home. Smith thinks Mitchell purchased his first rifle for protection--he was dating a girl whose former boyfriend was gang-affiliated.