| Police sharpshooters take position on a rooftop adjacent to the Peter B. Lewis Building (left) in Cleveland. The swirling building filled with twisting corridors complicated the capture of Biswanath Halder. (AFP)
Washington, May 11: Armed to the teeth and seeking revenge, a 62-year-old Indian-American terrorised a placid university campus in Cleveland for seven hours on Friday, killing one student and injuring two others.
Biswanath Halder, who claims to have graduated from Calcutta University with a degree in electrical engineering in 1963, surrendered once police cornered him in a room after a firefight.
Halder emigrated to the US in 1969 and became an American citizen in 1980. In his resume, he claims to have served in the Indian Army’s Engineering Corps, attended its Officers’ Training School in Chennai and was at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun.
Armed with two handguns and wearing a bullet-proof vest, a wig and an army helmet of World War II vintage, Halder walked into the Peter B. Lewis Building of Case Western Reserve University on Friday, firing volleys of ammunition.
“There’s a trail of blood throughout,” police chief Edward Lohn said. “It was a cat-and-mouse game,” he added, referring to the chase inside the complicated structure of the building that houses the business school.
The university has some 9,500 students on its rolls, but was nearly deserted on Friday because classes had ended a week ago.
Halder’s attack trapped 93 people in the building. They hid in offices, classrooms and closets as he fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition at anything that moved.
Sachin Goel, an Indian student, said he was talking to two friends on the first floor outside the cafeteria of the five-storey building when the gunman approached and shot one of his friends.
Norman Wallace, a 30-year-old graduate student, was killed.
Himself a management graduate from Case Western Reserve University’s Business School, Halder apparently had a grudge against the university, which he accuses of ignoring his complaint against one of its employees.
He believes that the employee, a computer laboratory assistant named Shawn Miller, hacked into his website three years ago. Through his website, Halder was in the process of establishing an “electronic network of enterprising Indians”.
When the university and Cleveland police failed to respond to the complaints to Halder’s satisfaction, he went to the FBI and the judiciary committees of the US Senate and the House of Representatives.
Obsessed with Miller, he ultimately sued him, but lost the case. Last week, an appeals court refused a review.
In July last year, he warned the judge who was dealing with his lawsuit that “the end result of all of these outright evil actions will be that society will end up paying a severe price”.
Yesterday, Halder walked up to Miller’s work station in the university with guns blazing, but the computer laboratory assistant, who was in the building then, was able to escape during the armed stand-off without any injuries.
The picture that emerges of Halder from various sources is that of a man who pictured himself as someone who not only set out to save the world, but also believed he could make millions to finance his mission.
In the lawsuit against Miller, accusing him of destroying the website, Halder claimed that his business plan for an electronic network of enterprising Indians would “have an impact of billions of dollars a year on mankind”.
The reality, however, was that Halder had no steady job since 1990 and was in debt. He said in his deposition in the Miller case that his last job was in the late 1980s as a contract employee for IBM Corporation.
He lived on social security payment for disabilities and had an apartment in Cleveland’s “Little Italy”.
Neighbours quoted in Cleveland’s local media today described Halder as an unfriendly loner who would walk on the middle of the road instead of footpaths to avoid talking to people.
Long after he took his degree from Case Western Reserve University’s Business School, he continued to take courses off and on, only to maintain his access to the university’s computer laboratory.
Acquaintances were quoted today as saying that Halder was against the war in Iraq and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India.
Halder’s resume lists his experience, among other things, as a small business consultant, real estate broker, life insurance salesman, investment strategist, engineer and computer specialist.