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Gun violence in the US

Man who called Parkland school shooting suspect a ‘hero’ fires at passing cars before shooting himself

In handwritten documents, Rex Whitmire Harbour, 26, said alleged Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz gave him ‘courage and confidence’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 7:12am

Before he settled into brush with a pistol and took aim at passing cars on a Georgia highway, Rex Whitmire Harbour wrote about his admiration for the Parkland gunman who killed 17 people in February.

But the outcome was different for Harbour: he wounded three passing motorists in Gainesville on Friday with semi-automatic pistol fire before deputies pursued him in a high-speed chase, ending when he shot himself in the head while his car was still in motion.

Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch told reporters Saturday that a search of Harbour’s belongings revealed handwritten documents praising alleged Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz, calling him a “hero” who gave him “courage and confidence”.

Those revelations were disturbing and “hate-filled”, Couch said.

Harbour, a 26-year-old landscaper, died during a helicopter flight to a hospital. Two people were struck by gunfire in the town about 50 miles (80km) northeast of Atlanta.

A third motorist was struck by broken windscreen glass, though authorities said those injuries were not life-threatening.

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Investigators recovered an arms cache from the 2003 Buick Century driven by Harbour, including three 9mm semi-automatic pistols, a .22-calibre bolt-action rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and more than 3,400 rounds of ammunition that was mostly for the rifle, Couch said.

The victims were all struck by pistol fire, and authorities said they think it was the only weapon Harbour fired. A total of seven cars were struck by gunfire, authorities said.

Couch recounted the brief but terrifying few moments along Highway 365. A woman called 911 to report that her husband was shot while driving 12 minutes before noon, and other calls of gunfire hitting vehicles soon flooded in.

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A deputy questioning one victim saw Harbour’s beige Buick pull out, and ran toward it with a gun drawn. Harbour saw the deputy and sped away.

The pursuit by deputies and Georgia State Patrol was brief, with speeds up to 80 miles per hour (129 kmph).

Harbour put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger while the car was still moving. It continued on a driverless path for “quite some distance” before coming to a stop, Couch said.

A dash camera recorded the shooting, he said.

Harbour’s firing position alongside the road was probably chosen because it was isolated and concealed, authorities said. But a coincidence led them to detail his movements before authorities arrived. 

A trail camera strapped to a tree, probably left by a hunter to document paths of movement of game such as deer, was nearby and took photos of Harbour readying his position.

He wore two pistol holsters at that moment, Couch said. Authorities recovered 17 shell casings at the scene.

Couch said the gunman had no history of criminal or notable behaviour. His mother told authorities that Harbour was “mild-mannered and quiet”.

His Facebook page had no obvious disturbing content, Heavy.com said, with the most notable post being a photograph of pop singer Carrie Underwood with Harbour’s face crudely pasted onto the body of a man next to her.

Harbour wrote “Rex Harbour and Carrie Underwood Just Married!” in the comments. Friends replied with jokes, including a query about where they would go on their honeymoon. “We’re gonna have a blast in Bora Bora,” he wrote.

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Harbour’s motive for the shooting was unclear, authorities said, but Couch speculated that it was notoriety.

“He had the weapons, he had the ammunition, and obviously he had the will to inflict a lot of pain and a lot of hate,” Couch said.