Buford O. Furrow, a balding, bespectacled 37-year-old, surrendered to FBI officials in Las Vegas. An FBI source says Furrow told investigators "he wanted this to be a wake-up call to America to kill Jews."
Authorities say Furrow was out on probation for an assault charge in Seattle.
Furrow, who lives in California and Washington state, is suspected of opening fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. Five people were wounded in the shootout, including three young boys.
Authorities have charged Furrow in the shooting death of a postal worker just a few blocks from the community center.
In the van he abandoned not far from the community center, Furrow left more clues to his motives in the shootings, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.
In addition to boxes of ammunition and some survival gear, there was a book in the van written by a leader of the racist Christian identity movement. That same author wrote what has become the hate handbook for violent anti-Semitic zealots who call themselves the Phineas Priests.
Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Furrow "was motivated by Christian identity, which calls for the elimination of Jews -- Jews who are satanic."
Furrow may have first come in contact with Christian identity groups as a member of the Neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. He was reportedly a lieutenant in that group's security force in 1995.
Furrow also has a connection to one of the most violent hate groups, The Order. He recently lived with the widow of that group's founder, Robert Mathews. Mathews was killed in a shoot-out with federal agents in 1984.
Former neo-Nazi Tom Leydon remembers seeing Furrow teach hand-to-hand combat at a recruiting rally marking Hitler's birthday in 1996.
Leydon says Furrow's specialty "was training people with knives."
Potok says people like Furrow "are often individuals who are sociopathic, but who are pulled into these groups because the groups speak so violently and offer them a highfalutin moral justification for the murders that they really want to commit."
Last year, Furrow reportedly tried to commit himself to a psychiatric hospital in western Washington, but ended up spending time in jail after pulling a knife on the hospital staff.
Court records show Furrow was charged with felony assault on Nov. 2, 1998, just three days after the hospital had obtained an anti-harassment restraining order against him.
Furrow pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced to five months in the King County Jail. He was released on probation.
And more than six months before the shooting spree in California, Furrow gave a chilling warning. He told a sheriff's deputy, "Sometims I feel like I could just lose it and kill people."