First, let it be understood that this page is in no way an attempt to glorify Howard Unruh or the terrible things he did on September 7, 1949. If anything however, this page stands as evidence for each of us that "there but for the grace of God go I."

Howard Unruh has been, and unfortunately will continue to be, called America's first mass shooter. This is COMPLETELY UNTRUE.  There were several other similar incidents, including the one described below, where a sniper killed seven people before taking his own life in November of 1948 in Chester, Pennsylvania, than 24 miles away from Camden and only 10 months before Unruh's killings. 

Why was this incident forgotten, buried, and the Unruh killings publicized to the extent that they were? I believe that there are three reasons.

1> The shooter black, as were seven of the eight victims.

2> The New York Times did not get a reporter down to the scene of the crime while it was still taking place.

3> The Chester killings did not fit the "crazed veteran" narrative.

There were other incidents before this. In 1945, nine German POWs were killed and nineteen wounded in Utah when a deranged prison camp guard fired on them as the slept in tents. There were several other rampage nurders between 1900 and 1941, most of them taking place far from any of the big cities and big city newspapers.  

Phil Cohen
February 7, 2020


Camden Courier-Post
November 16, 1948