Photos from the Vault

Taken hostage by a gunman in 1992, here’s how a SLO County woman survived

From her hospital bed, San Miguel beating victim Joey Morrow tells of her ordeal at the hands of killer Lynwood Drake III in 1992.
From her hospital bed, San Miguel beating victim Joey Morrow tells of her ordeal at the hands of killer Lynwood Drake III in 1992. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

When faced with an active shooter, the best three choices for potential targets are to flee, hide or fight.

If the first three options fail, negotiation is a last resort.

There is no guaranteed right choice, and the stakes are life or death.

All four paths were taken by the victims of Lynwood Drake III, an unstable actor and gambler, in 1992. Some survived. Others died.

As Danna Dykstra Coy wrote in The Tribune on Nov. 9, 1992, “Six people were murdered in the county this weekend by a man who lost his house, lost his girlfriend and lost at cards.

“Lynwood C. Drake III, 43, known to some as “Crazy Jim” and to others as “Snake,” took time out during his 11-hour rampage to write a note saying he did it to avenge his eviction from a Morro Bay house in May.

“The note was found in his pants pocket after he killed himself with a gunshot to the head about 5 a.m. Sunday inside the home of a San Miguel woman he was holding hostage.

“‘Damn the American family to hell. God forgive me,’ he wrote.

“Drake killed three men at two Morro Bay homes and shot a forth man in the arm. Later he appeared at a Paso Robles card room where he killed three more people.”

The first victim, deep sea diver Andy Zatko, was well liked. The Morro Bay man had won an award for rescuing 19 people from drowning.

He also salvaged and donated Morro Bay’s memorial anchor for fisherman lost at sea.

Zatko, 80, had rented an apartment to Drake as a favor.

1992 11-07 mb murder scene
Morro Bay police and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office converge at the house where Morro Bay resident Andy Zatko was shot and killed in November 1992. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Two victims were targeted for evicting Drake who failed to pay rent. One man tried to wrestle a gun away from the killer, while another man was wounded in the same struggle.

Three of the murder victims — two men and a woman — were dealers at the Paso Robles card room Drake had frequented.

I was on the sidelines of Cal Poly-Southern Utah football game when my pager went off, alerting me to the Morro Bay shooting. This was the era before cell phones were common.

It was disorienting to exit photographing sports event and arrive on the scene of a triple homicide.

Morro Bay police and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office had the unenviable task of identifying the gunman and try to anticipate the next move.

As I was driving home, Drake had driven across the county and was entering the Paso Robles cardroom. Law enforcement now had a new crime scene to investigate, and the clock kept ticking.

C. H. Bolcom wrote what happened next in a story published in The Tribune on Nov. 9, 1992:

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Hostage survives harrowing four hours

The blackjack slammed down on Joey Morrow’s head.

She woke up and tried to dodge the next blow. But the leather club smashed into her skull opening up a large gash.

Lynwood Drake III stopped and ordered Morrow to turn on the light.

Bleeding and terrified, Morrow flicked the light on.

Drake started swinging the blackjack again.

But this time, the bloody Morrow tucked her head underneath the bed before Drake could connect again.

Drake stopped.

Blood was everywhere.

Morrow, 60, asked Drake why he was hitting her.

“He said all he wanted to do was to knock me unconscious so he could spend the night,” Morrow said Sunday from her hospital bed at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.

“I said, ‘Why didn’t you just ask me?’ ”

Drake had rented a home from Morrow in October 1990. He stayed about eight months before Morrow asked him to leave.

“I wanted someone around to help out with the maintenance, make repairs and feed the dogs and cats when I was gone,” she said.

But Drake had no experience in home repairs, and soon Morrow was spending more time telling Drake what to do than managing her 55-acre vineyard.

“I just told him … it was taking me time to teach him the basics and I wanted to save time and have someone who already knew how to do things.”

The two parted ways without rancor.

“I was nice and he was nice,” she said.

He moved out quietly with his girlfriend and baby and Morrow didn’t see Drake again until early Sunday morning, just after midnight.

After driving onto Morrow’s property at 2980 Pleasant Road, Drake stopped at his old residence for a moment.

From his car, he stared at the bedroom window, said Ray Keith, who had been awakened by the commotion.

“He was eyeballing the curtains,” Keith said.

Drake proceeded to drive up the hill, where he spent the next four hours with his former landlady before taking his own life.

“He told me he had killed six or seven people,” Morrow said. “The first one he killed, he said because he had been evicted and left homeless on the streets.

“Then he said he had killed a 35-year-old man and one or two other men who had lunged at him.”

1992 11-8 oaks cardroom sho
Bullet holes can be seen in the door of the Oak’s Card Parlour in Paso Robles, where three people were murdered by Lynwood Drake III in 1992. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Drake never talked about shooting people at The Oak’s Card Parlour in Paso Robles, Morrow said.

“I asked him why tonight, why not next week or two weeks ago? He said it was because this 35-year-old man had told him he couldn’t come back and that he had no place to go.”

Knowing that in the past Drake had little money, Morrow asked Drake how he acquired a shotgun and small handgun.

Drake responded that he had used his welfare money to buy the weapons.

Still bleeding from her head, Morrow carefully chose her words. She realized Drake could kill her at any time.

“I was being very careful in what I said and did,” Morrow said. “He thought of taking my pickup and driving off to Big Sur.

“He said, ‘If I take your truck, I’ll have to kill you first.’ He wasn’t threatening about it. He was just saying it like that was the way it was going to be.”

Morrow encouraged Drake to give himself up throughout the early morning hours. But he refused.

“He said, ‘I don’t have a chance. I’ve killed six people. They’ll put me away forever.’”

Morrow said Drake then recalled a time he spent a couple days in jail.

“He said, ‘They didn’t feed me for two days. They beat me and left me naked in my cell.’ ”

By 5 a.m., sheriff’s deputies had tracked Drake to Morrow’s home.

Her phone rang. It was Lt. Bob Sherwood from the county Sheriff’s Department.

The answering machine clicked on and Sherwood started asking questions, even though Morrow hadn’t picked up the phone.

Eventually Sherwood hung up without making contact with Morrow or Drake.

After a few minutes, the phone rang again. This time Drake allowed Morrow to answer the phone.

“Are you OK?” Sherwood asked.

“Yes,” Morrow answered.

“Is he with you?” Sherwood asked.

“No,” Morrow responded. She was lying.

“I had to look to him for all the answers,” she said.

After a couple more questions, Drake grabbed the phone and told Sherwood he was holding Morrow hostage.

Sherwood asked if Drake would give himself up and come out to the driveway. Drake said he would think about it and “to call back in 10 minutes,” Morrow said.

Drake took his gun and checked the number of bullets he had left.

When the phone rang again a few minutes later, Drake fired his gun.

She raced out of the bedroom without turning around to look at what happened.

“I decided just in case he missed and he wanted to shoot me I better not be there,” Morrow said, “so I ran out to the driveway.”

Sheriff deputies entered the house and found Drake dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

“I kept having problems believing that he had really killed that many people,” Morrow said. “I didn’t think he was a violent person.”

Later Morrow started to cry.

“I just feel so sorry for all those nice people,” she said. “I’m so lucky.”

David Middlecamp is a photographer for The Tribune. 805-781-7942, dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com, @DavidMiddlecamp
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