Human beings who simmer with uncontrollable anger can be deadly. That was again proven last Saturday in Tucson. It was also proven in Paso Robles in 1987.
In Tucson on Saturday, six people were killed and 14 wounded. In Paso Robles in 1987, two people were killed and two wounded.
In Paso Robles there were actually two angry people, a couple from Cayucos: Michael Anthony Rachelli, 24, and Barbara Gabrielle Veilleux, 44.
They had a history of harassing neighbors with shouted, telephoned and gestured insults and with written threats.
Rachelli had recently been charged with making harassing phone calls. Both were charged with violating a restraining order. They failed to show up for trial, and the judge issued an arrest order.
For a time, their lawyer had been Fred Metzger, 73, of Atascadero. He had become a target of their hatred.
They’d learned he’d be in what was then the Paso Robles Municipal Court on March 2, 1987.
Also, presiding there that day was the same judge who’d arraigned them on criminal charges — Donald Umhofer, whom they also hated.
The court was then a one-story building on 10th Street. Next to it was a senior citizens’ apartment building. Some upper-floor senior tenants could see into the courthouse’s rear parking lot.
About 5:30 p.m., one tenant saw Rachelli and Veilleux hustling Metzger toward a motor home and heard Metzger refuse to sign papers.
Another tenant said Rachelli and Veilleux held guns and that she kicked the lawyer and said something like “anti-Christ" and “kill all Jews.”
The court bailiff heard the commotion and called the police. Soon police, sheriff’s deputies and CHP officers were concealed behind the parking lot fence.
I was behind bushes with a distant view of the trio in the parking lot. They shouted for Umhofer to come out, but the police evacuated him through the front door.
The couple kept trying to push Metzger to their motor home; he kept resisting. Finally, about 6:30 p.m. one of them shot him in the abdomen. There followed a few, short, noisy seconds of pistol and shotgun fire.
Then three people lay on the parking lot pavement: Rachelli was dead. Veilleux was to die in surgery four hours later. Metzger required a period of intensive care at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, but recovered. Sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Gray survived a serious gunshot wound to one arm.
In ancient times, we’d have said Rachelli and Veilleux were possessed by demons. Today, we say they were mentally ill, but do we still really understand?
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.