Benjamin Nathaniel Smith (March 22, 1978 – July 4, 1999) was a spree killer who targeted members of racial and ethnic minorities in random drive-by shootings in Illinois and Indiana, USA during the weekend of July 4, 1999.
Smith was born and raised in Illinois. He grew up in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette and attended New Trier High School in Winnetka. He didn't pose for a photograph in his senior yearbook, but in his class statement he wrote, "Sic semper tyrannis" (Thus always to tyrants). This phrase was allegedly shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. After graduating, Smith attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Smith dropped out of the university in 1998 after several conflicts with campus authorities. After dropping out, he transferred to Indiana University (Bloomington), where he studied criminal justice. Police reported that Smith was known for passing out hate-filled fliers against Jews, blacks and Asians on university campuses. In October 1998, Smith was the subject of a story on his university's public broadcasting station.
Smith was a follower of the white supremacist organization now known as the Creativity Movement, and was a devoted disciple of the group's leader Matthew Hale. Two days after Hale was denied a license to practice law in Illinois, Smith loaded his light blue Ford Taurus with guns and ammunition and ventured on a three-day, two-state shooting spree that killed two people and wounded nine others.
Beginning on the evening of Friday, July 2, Smith wounded six Orthodox Jews in drive-by shootings in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Smith then shot and killed former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American, in front of two of his three children while they were walking outside Byrdsong's Skokie, Illinois home. On Saturday, Smith traveled to Urbana, Springfield and later Decatur, where he shot and wounded an African-American minister. On Sunday, July 4, Smith traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, where he killed Won-Joon Yoon, a 26-year-old Korean doctoral student in computer science at Indiana University, who was on his way to the Korean United Methodist Church.
Smith also shot at but missed another nine people. On Sunday, July 4, while fleeing the police in a high-speed chase on a southern Illinois highway, Smith shot himself twice in the head and crashed his automobile into a metal post. He then shot himself again, in the heart, this time fatally. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
It is widely believed that Smith's crimes were related to his affiliation with the World Church of the Creator, which views him as a martyr. The group argued that Smith believed himself to be a soldier of the Racial Holy War movement.
- (July 6, 1999). Suspected shooter said his hate-filled leaflets spoke 'the truth'. CNN.
- Scharnberg, Kirsten (April 27, 2004). Double talk disguises call to arms. Chicago Tribune.