NEW YORK - Next week marks 30 years since one of the nation's first public mass shootings, and it happened on a Long Island Rail Road train.
Friday night, CBS New York looks back at the tragedy with the hour-long documentary "The 5:33 - Legacy of the LIRR Massacre."
CBS New York's Carolyn Gusoff was one of the reporters there that night, 30 years ago at the Merillon Avenue train station in Garden City. The suburban community was shattered by what was then unthinkable.
In creating the documentary, Gusoff asked the 18 participants why is it important that this mass shooting be revisited, when we've had so many since then. Each and every one of them, including the jury foreman in his first extensive interview, said we have to face up to the fact that, in his words, we are in a worse place three decades later.
Thirty years ago, on Dec. 7, 1993, a Brooklyn resident boarded the 5:33 p.m. train from Penn Station. Colin Ferguson opened fire on innocent commuters, killing six and injuring 19 of them.
"I saw someone get up and take the gun and start shooting everyone from right to left, and it was chaos," survivor Elizabeth Aviles-Manco said.
Law enforcement, the public and journalists rushed to the Merillon Avenue station, where the train stopped after three passengers tackled the gunman.
Gusoff arrived at a scene of carnage.
"It was horrible. It was a massacre. It's the first time in my career that I actually smelled blood," Bill Bambrick said. He was the first detective on the scene
"The person who committed this crime is an animal who turned that railroad car into a death chamber. He is a fellow by the name of Colin Ferguson," Tom Gulotta said at the time, when he was Nassau County Executive.
Ferguson then had the audacity to claim he had fallen asleep, and someone else was the shooter. In his trial, he cross-examined his own victims. Watching the absurdity was jury foreman Delton Dove.
"It was cruel, cruel and hurtful for the witnesses to look you dead in the face, at the person who shot you. That was really torment. He actually hurt them more. He shot them. He killed them. Now he is hurting them mentally," Dove told Gusoff.
What took the jury 10 hours to find Ferguson guilty after he was identified by a parade of his victims?
"We weren't looking at the clock. Basically, a man's life was in our hands, making the decision of whether he should get life or he should be free. We wanted to make sure that all the victims got their justice," Dove said.
Thirty years later, Dove is disillusioned.
"We are at a worse place with guns, people with mental illness getting ahold of guns. There is a lot of anger in the United States and people are taking their frustrations out on innocent people," Dove said.
Dove and the others raised some of the most challenging questions of our times: How do we recognize red flags before these mass shootings? How do we stop an onslaught of violence which has only gotten worse since Dec. 7, 1993?
The survivors and victims' relatives shared what they wanted to see happen. Some were adamant and active fighting for gun control. But others, most notably Frank Barker, who was shot five times and is now a grandfather of 19, made the point there's violence in our society in general, not just gun violence. He feels we have not done enough to address mental health in our society.
Some of the survivors interviewed in the documentary were telling their stories for the first time. All felt it was important to remember the victims 30 years later, so that the names don't just blur together in an endless string of tragedies.
"The 5:33 - Legacy of the LIRR Massacre" premieres Friday night at 8 p.m., streaming on CBS News New York and airing on New York 55. It will also air on WCBS-TV Saturday at midnight.
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