January 26, 1995 in Nation/World

Detective Plans Idaho Retreat Cop Roughs Up Photographer On Way Back To L.A. While His Credibility Is Being Questioned In L.A., Investigator Hunts For House In Sandpoint

Bill Morlin And Kevin Keating S Staff writer
 

Copyright 1995, The Spokesman-Review

On the day O.J. Simpson’s attorneys opened their attack on the prosecution’s case, lead Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman was house-hunting in North Idaho.

“I don’t care,” Fuhrman said after defense attorneys accused him and other police of overlooking and manufacturing evidence to convict the famed athlete.

“When I testify, I’ll testify,” the detective said. “I don’t need to sit around chewing my fingernails.”

Fuhrman was interviewed at Spokane International Airport after looking for a retirement home in Sandpoint. Before flying back to Los Angeles, he roughed up a newspaper photographer in a terminal hallway.

Fuhrman hit Dan McComb, a photographer for The Spokesman-Review, in the chest with a metal briefcase the detective was carrying.

The 28-year-old photographer continued snapping pictures as he was pushed to the ground in the airport terminal. He was not injured, but four buttons were ripped from his shirt.

“I was just doing my job and I told him that,” McComb said. “But he kept getting more and more upset until he grabbed me by the shirt and shoved me to the ground.”

Fuhrman, 43, was questioned but not arrested by airport police, who tried to track down a half-dozen witnesses.

A team of Simpson defense attorneys already has made an issue of Fuhrman’s demeanor. The attorneys contend Simpson might have been framed in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, even suggesting that Fuhrman planted a bloody glove found at Simpson’s estate.

“Get him out of my face,” Fuhrman shouted in the crowded terminal.

Only one onlooker recognized Fuhrman, a key police witness in the case against Simpson.

“I saw him push the photographer to the ground,” said another eyewitness, John C. Palmer, 32, of Tacoma. He was surprised to learn the assailant was the man who had helped put Simpson behind bars.

Before the assault, Fuhrman appeared stunned when approached in the airport rotunda.

“How did you know I was here?” he asked a reporter.

‘Word spreads,” responded Fuhrman’s wife, Caroline. Fuhrman bristled that people would find out he will be moving to Sandpoint when he retires later this year.

“Do you really think it’s that sensational that I can buy a house in the country?” he asked. “It might be sensational if I bought one in Cancun.”

The man who has been an L.A. cop for 20 years said he wants to move to North Idaho to get away from death threats and the hassle his life has become.

He would join a number of other California cops who have fled to the region for its rural lifestyle.

“I don’t need the glitz and the glamour and the neon and the fancy anythings,” Fuhrman said.

He complained that a lot of money is being made in the Simpson trial, but he isn’t getting any of it. “It’s costing me money.”

He said he was forced to sell his L.A. house at depressed prices to flee an area where he believes his life and those of his wife and children could be in danger.

“I wanted to buy property in a place that I can hunt and fish, my kids have good schools to go to and it’s a cultural area.”

“If I could afford it, I would buy 1,000 acres (in North Idaho) and put my house right dead-center,” Fuhrman said of his plans to move to Idaho.

Fuhrman flew to Spokane earlier this week and reportedly signed a deal to buy a house in Sandpoint. He dined with Sandpoint’s mayor before showing up in Spokane on Wednesday afternoon.

At the airport terminal, he and his wife were traveling alone. They were approached by a reporter after having a club sandwich and clam chowder at the airport restaurant.

Fuhrman said he’s convinced of Simpson’s guilt.

“This is not a racial issue,” said the detective, who also has been accused by Simpson’s attorneys of being a racist. “This is about a guy that murdered someone. And he was sloppy.”

Fuhrman was one of the first investigators to view the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

“I just … I did my job,” Fuhrman said, wearing a leather coat. “It irritates the defense the most because I did it right.”

Fuhrman said he will be retiring after the celebrity trial “whether I want to or not.” He declined to elaborate, saying, “I can’t talk to reporters. You’re catching me in a position here.”

Fuhrman said he used to live in Washington state before becoming an L.A. police officer in the 1970s. He lived in Spokane for a time as a small child. He wouldn’t identify his friends in this area, who reportedly include a Spokane contractor.

“I’m sorry, I really don’t want to be rude,” he said, “but eight months of this and it’s really wearing thin.”

“I don’t get paid for this,” he said. “I’m a cop. That’s all that I am.”

Fuhrman said he can’t even buy gasoline in Los Angeles without being recognized for his role in what some are calling the trial of the century.

“If you’re a big celebrity, you get money to be private,” he said. “I’m just a working stiff. I don’t get bodyguards or alarm systems and everything else.”

Fuhrman said that if he had wanted to be a celebrity, he would have gone into acting.

“You know if I wanted to be Robert DeNiro, I’d be an actor,” he said, “and I’d get $5 million and have four bodyguards escort you somewhere.”

“I’m trying to do something for my family and for me for the future,” he said of his move to Idaho. “I don’t really think it’s the public’s business where I’m going to live or anything that I do.”

In Sandpoint, Mayor Ron Chaney said his wife, Rose, showed Fuhrman homes in the area during a discreet visit this week.

“Sandpoint is very, very well-known in and around the L.A. police and fire departments,” Chaney said. “He said he will be retiring in a short time and has fallen in love with Sandpoint.”

Before leaving the town, the Fuhrmans tentatively agreed to buy a home on Sandpoint’s south side. The asking price wasn’t known.

The couple stayed at Sandpoint’s Lakeside Inn and apparently weren’t widely recognized.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito has ruled Simpson’s defense team can question Fuhrman about his alleged racial bias and whether he ever used the word “nigger.”

White supremacists and Aryan Nations leaders long have considered North Idaho a homeland for whites in flight. The Aryan Nations headquarters is at Hayden Lake, about 30 miles south of Sandpoint.

Just two weeks ago, The New York Times devoted its magazine cover story to Idaho, painting it as a haven for white people escaping the government and minority-filled cities.

However, Chaney said that is not why the Fuhrmans are moving to Sandpoint.

“That never entered his mind,” Chaney said. “We had the privilege of getting to know him, take him to dinner and had him in our home. You would know immediately he is not a racist. He’s just a very efficient homicide detective that does his job well.”

Sandpoint Human Rights Task Force member Buzz Arndt said Fuhrman’s trip may have been ill-timed with Idaho’s recent negative publicity.

Arndt said Fuhrman’s plan to move to North Idaho is a “non-event.”

“He has fame and notoriety, but I haven’t read anything that says he’s a racist,” Arndt said. “If I lived in L.A., I might want to get someplace like this. It doesn’t deserve its (racist) reputation.”

MEMO: Changed from the Idaho edition

Changed from the Idaho edition

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