Thingish Things

Satan Shows His Face Again

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jul• 24•12

On a frigid Valentine’s Day morning in 1977, when I was an eighth-grade student at Pelham Memorial High School, a man named Fred Cowan walked into the Neptune Moving Co. warehouse in neighboring New Rochelle and began shooting up the place.

He was armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle, two .45-caliber pistols, two 9 mm automatics, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in bandoleers that formed an X across his chest. Strapped to his leg was a large hunting knife in case the ammo ran out. Cowan donned a cap bearing a Nazi SS insignia as he fired at Neptune employees, and, later, police officers.

The incident happened out of the blue, just as all mass shootings seem to do. When it was over, almost seven hours after it began, 10 victims had been shot; six died — five on scene and one weeks later in a hospital bed. Cowan, who had worked at Neptune and at a local service station where my parents often bought gas, was the seventh casualty. He put a bullet in his head to end the standoff.

The rumor at school, where classmates had fathers on the scene as police officers, was that the shooter had booby trapped his body with hand grenades before dispatching himself to hell. I can find no record today of that actually occurring, but it’s an integral part of the narrative I recall. For eighth-grade boys it served to punctuate the rage a single man had just inexplicably unleashed.

The Neptune building is gone today. A Home Depot stands on the site, in and out of which hundreds of shoppers pass each day with no knowledge of the massacre that once occurred there, or that a self-described neo-Nazi named Fred Cowan ever — existed at all, for that matter. Whatever fame Cowan achieved was short-lived. I had to Google the incident to recall his name. And the name didn’t ring a bell when I reread it all these years later.

Another shooter has now stepped forward seeking infamy.

The rest of this column is available at Newsday Westchester.  Thanks for reading!

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