FBI Releases Note Written by Burke to Boss
CAYUCOS, Calif. (AP) _ A fired airline worker furious over his dismissal boarded a jet carrying a gun - and possibly explosives - to kill his supervisor and wrote him a death message on an airsickness bag, the FBI and court documents disclosed Thursday.
″Hi Ray, I think its sort of ironical that we end up like this,″ read the unsigned message, which authorities say was written by David Burke to Raymond Thomson. ″I asked for some leniency for my family, remember. Well I got none and you’ll get none.″
Investigators found the chilling message written on an airsickness bag at the site where Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 crashed on Monday, Los Angeles FBI Special Agent In Charge Richard Bretzing said.
A .44-caliber Magnum pistol found Wednesday at the crash site was linked on Thursday to Burke.
Officials also said additional evidence indicates an explosion as well as gunfire may have destroyed the plane as it crashed while bound from Los Angeles to San Francisco, killing all 43 aboard.
A multipart affidavit filed in Los Angeles Federal Court before and after a search warrant was obtained for the Long Beach home of Burke, 35, concludes that ″there is evidence to believe that David Burke was involved in the destruction of PSA Flight 1771.″
Burke worked 14 years for USAir, parent company of PSA, but he was fired as a Los Angeles customer service agent on Nov. 19 after he was filmed by a hidden camera while allegedly stealing less than $100 from flight cocktail sales.
In a visit to San Francisco on an unspecified November date, Burke borrowed from friend and fellow USAir worker Joseph Drabik a .44-caliber Magnum Smith and Wesson handgun and 12 rounds of ammunition. FBI agents traced the gun back to Drabik, who said he had loaned it to Burke, the affidavit states.
The affidavit by FBI Special Agent Kevin D. Kelly, alleged ″Burke harbored resentment against the USAir station manager Raymond Thomson regarding his dismissal by Thomson,″ and that the men had a meeting at 12:30 p.m. the day of the crash. After that meeting, Burke bought a one-way ticket for the PSA flight.
Both Burke and Thomson died in the crash. Burke was identified Thursday by a print taken from a finger found at the crash site.
Bretzing said that if Burke had survived the crash, he would have faced charges of air piracy and murder.
Experts have said that it was unlikely a handgun could cause enough damage to bring down the airliner unless the crew were disabled.
But Kelly stated in his affidavit that while the exact cause of the crash is not known, Don Llorente of the National Transportation Safety Board had told another FBI agent that ″on the basis of the dispersal of charred documents from PSA Flight 1771 spread over a seven-mile swath, the probability exists that the aircraft came apart at a higher altitude due to possible explosion, which would not have originated from a bullet.″
Detonators and explosive devices were among the FBI agents’ list of things to look for when searching Burke’s home, but the affidavit says no such items were recovered.
″There is no evidence that there were any problems with the plane or the engines,″ NTSB spokeswoman Rachel Halterman said Thursday as the agency began pulling its crews from the crash site.
Halterman said plane’s flight data recorder was extensively damaged and it was not yet known what information could be obtained from it. The recorder could provide information on airspeed, engine performance, and movement of aircraft control mechanisms.
Also Thursday, CBS News quoted sources as saying the cockpit voice recording for the doomed PSA flight quoted a flight attendant as saying: ″We’ve got a problem here.″
Another voice then responded, ″I’m the problem,″ the network said.
The exchange occurred after pilot Gregg N. Lindamood reported to air traffic controllers that there were gunshots in the passenger compartment, the Los Angeles Times reported. It is followed, according to sources familiar with the tape, by sounds of a tremendous scuffle, including ″a groan and a gasp″ from a man believed to be the pilot, as the doomed plane plunged nose-first from 22,000 feet.
″There’s a lot of commotion,″ the source told the newspaper, ″thumping, crashing, and struggling - that kind of thing.″ The source said ″it is a matter of conjecture″ whether shots in the cockpit can be heard on the tape.
The FBI has determined that all six bullets had been fired from the gun, and discovered what may be a bullet hole in the pilot’s seat, the Times said.
In another development, less than a week before the flight, it was disclosed that Burke inquired about investing in a transmission repair franchise operation, saying he had $50,000 in cash. In addition to the cash, Burke said owned property valued at $126,000.
Bill Grimm, national marketing director for the Gibraltar Transmission company in New York, said that during the Dec. 2 conversation Burke said he was ″currently unemployed.″
Burke told him he had 16 years experience as a supervisor with the airlines. After Grimm advised Burke it would take about $100,000 to invest in a franchise, the former airline employee ″responded that he had approximately $50,000 in cash,″ he said, but did not specify the source. Grimm said the FBI wanted to interview him.
In San Francisco, meanwhile, attorney Melvin Belli said he had filed lawsuits seeking unspecified damages in Superior Court on behalf of the estates of two crash victims, Camile Scafire and Karin Krom, against the airline and the city of Los Angeles, which is accused of improperly maintaining security gates.
In his affidavit, Kelly strung together the events leading up to Burke’s boarding of Flight 1771, saying Burke ″had been allowed to bypass security screeing as a familiar airline employee and therefore was not screened for weapons or destructive devices″ before boarding the plane.
An inventory list filed Thursday in Los Angeles Federal Court stated that agents seized two wills from Burke’s home, including one dated Dec. 2, and an insurance beneficiary designation dated Nov. 30. The FBI did not identify the designee.
Also taken from the home were four brown men’s wallets containing several photographs, miscellaneous papers and cards and a typewriter ribbon.
Agents also said they found an application for USAir Inc. and various, undescribed insurance policies.
The agents said in their affidavit to search Burke’s home they were looking for ″suicide notes, farewell messages, papers reflecting final disposition of property, any last will and testament,″ as well as any ammunition, detonators or fuses. No weapons or explosives were listed among the seized property.
Burke was believed to have used Drabik’s gun on Dec. 4 to briefly abduct his ex-girlfriend Jacqueline Camacho and drive the woman and her child on a drive around Camacho’s hometown of Hawthorne while having a talk with her. She reported the incident to police, but did not file charges.