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The LIRR Massacre: 20 Years Later

Remembering the victims

On December 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson opened fire with a handgun while on board a Long Island Rail Road train in Garden City; when he was finally subdued by surviving passengers, the hateful and mentally unbalanced man had claimed the lives of six people and injured 19 others, tearing countless lives asunder in the process.

Ferguson was convicted for his crimes, which sparked a national debate on gun control at the time, and is currently serving a sentence of 315 years and 8 months to life in a New York correctional facility; his earliest possible parole date is in 2309, thus ensuring that he will never hurt another innocent soul again.

With the 20 year anniversary of that horrific incident fast approaching, Manhasset Hills and filmmaker Charlie Minn is determined to give its victims a voice to a new generation of people with his documentary entitled Long Island Railroad Massacre, lest they forget the tragic lessons offered by the past.

“I want to give the victims a voice,” he said. “Whenever we see a crime, we tend to glorify the killer, and we don’t really know who the victims are. This film, I think, specifically gives the victims a voice....if I had to describe this film, I would have to say that it is victim-driven.”

Minn, formerly of New Hyde Park, was born in Boston, but moved with his family to Long Island when he was in kindergarten. He began seriously making true-crime documentaries about four years ago; Since then, he has filmed 12 of them, even selling one entitled A Nightmare In Las Cruces, documenting the 1990 Las Cruces, New Mexico bowling alley massacre, to LionsGate Films.

“I was teetering between broadcast news and filmmaking and broadcast, but I kept getting fired as a broadcaster because I wasn’t politically correct,” he said. “But if you own your own company and make your own films, it’s I guess kind of hard to fire yourself.”

Creating a documentary on the infamous LIRR Massacre was a labor of passion for Minn; he grew up a mere 10 minutes from where the shootings took place, and even lost a Herricks classmate in the incident.

“This film is beyond personal,” he said.

Minn said that the documentary, which has been sold to Investigation Discovery and is scheduled for a limited local theatrical run starting Nov. 15, is a combination of interviews with victims, Nassau County Police Detectives who worked the case, and archive video, including footage from the Ferguson trial itself.

Mineola resident Joyce Gorycki’s husband James of 15 years, lost his life at the hands of Ferguson that fateful day 20 years ago.

“I heard about the shooting in Garden City, and I realized that was the train station that my husband gets off at...I started calling hotlines, hospitals, but nobody knew about my husband,” she said. “I didn’t hear anything for hours, and finally at 10:30 p.m. there was a knock at my door. It was two detectives, and I knew right away why they were there...and I collapsed.”

Gorycki eventually became a staunch advocate of gun control, a cause she continues to actively support to this very day, and she feels that Minn’s documentary is a poignant way to address this important issue and the way it impacts people each and every day.

“I think that this movie is very touching,” she said. “It’s an excellent film to show what happens after a shooting...what happens to the families and how they go on. There are just countless shootings in this country, and every one of us is a target. People need to be more active and say that enough is enough.”

Kevin Zaleskie, a survivor of Ferguson’s rampage and a featured interviewee in Minn’s film, currently resides in Glen Head; however, at the time of the LIRR shootings, he was living in New Hyde Park, and was on his way home from work when the shooting started.

“I was about 15 feet away from Ferguson when he opened fire...I saw a number of people get shot,” he said. “I took cover on the floor...when I saw Ferguson stop to reload, I was hoping that they would open the door at the train station so I could get out, but they didn’t open the doors. In the meantime, he reloaded and walked past me shooting. But I didn’t get hit, thankfully.”

While Zaleskie has moved on, he says that a part of that day will remain forever with him; he finds it especially heartbreaking that some aspects of what drove Ferguson to his crimes have been overlooked in the years since the incident, allowing history to repeat itself again and again.

“You try to put it behind you, but it’s always there...it’s hard to forget,” he said. “It’s sad to see that other events like this, more shootings, occurred afterwards. I know you’re not going to get all the guns off the street, but I personally feel it’s more of a mental health issue. You get people who have nothing left to lose in their life, like Ferguson, and they go out and shoot people. That’s what we need to address.”

If you want to find out more about Director Charlie Minn and his film, Long Island Railroad Massacre, please visit www.lirrmassacre.com.