Wednesday, April 25, 2012

101 Sniper & La Brea Tar Pits

Forty-seven years ago today, on April 25, 1965, teenage sniper Michael Andrew Clark (above) killed three and wounded six others shooting from a hilltop along Highway 101 just south of Santa Maria, California.

Late on the night of April 24, 1965 Michael Andrew Clark, a seemingly normal 16-year old boy living in Long Beach, California had left home in his parents' car, without their permission. In the back of the car, he had a Swedish Mauser military rifle equipped with telescopic sight and a pistol he had removed from his father's locked gun safe along with a large quantity of ammunition. Early the next Sunday morning, he climbed to the top of a hill overlooking a stretch of US Highway 101, just south of Orcutt, California.

(Orcutt is named for William Warren Orcutt, the manager of the Geological, Land and Engineering Departments of the Union Oil Company. Known as the “Dean of Petroleum Geologists" Orcutt is credited with discovering fossilized prehistoric animal bones preserved in pools of asphalt on the Hancock Ranch. Orcutt's home, Rancho Sombra del Roble, Spanish for "Ranch of the Shaded Oak", was originally a 210-acre cattle ranch and citrus orchard at the foot of the Simi HillsVisitors are surprised to find that the design of the home prominently incorporates bas-relief Swastika architectural decoration. Mary Orcutt, William's wife, chose the symbol due to its connection with Native American traditions, and did so before the Nazis turned it into a symbol of anti-semitism and genocide. Orcutt's prehistoric bone finds would be the first of many fossils excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits. In commemoration of Orcutt’s initial discovery, paleontologists named the La Brea coyote in W.W. Orcutt’s honor, Canis orcutti.)

The violence left in evidence in the area's tar pits would be revisited on the landscape of modern times.

Early on the Sunday morning of April 25, 1965, cars traveling along Highway 101 just south of Orcutt, California were hit by gunfire from a nearby hilltop. These were the first shots fired by teenage sniper Michael Andrew Clark, who would kill three that day.

Two were killed and six more wounded as the shooting continued for hours before Santa Barbara County sheriff deputies rushed the hill and Clark died by suicide as they closed in. A five year old boy wounded in the head died a day later of his wound bringing the total to three dead for the rampage.

Reportedly the two men killed at the scene of the shooting were attempting to assist others who were trapped in a vehicle which had been hit by the gunfire.

A lawsuit was eventually brought to the courts by victims William, Lucille, and Kim Reida, complaining that parents Forest and Joyce Clark were negligent in two counts: “failure of the Clarks to train, control, and supervise son Michael” and also, “failure of Forest Clark to keep the rifle out of Michael’s hands. The case was decided in favor of the Clarks and generally upheld on appeal, although the appeals court found negligence on the part of father Forest Clark for not adequately securing the weapons.

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