Video Vault | Insurance building attacked by man who was denied claims for on-job injury
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
When a truck plowed into a Christmas Market in Berlin last month, it may have sparked some memories for longtime Las Vegans about an incident that happened here 24 years ago.
But the truck into a crowded building here wasn't terrorism – it was frustration.
"I pulled up there, and I lost it," the driver told News 3's Denise Rosch a year later when he was awaiting trial.
"Do you remember?" asked Rosch.
"No. I remember about one-third of it."
"Did someone say something to you that, that was it?"
"No ma'am. It's just, like I didn't have no control over it. So much anger you know, and aggravation.”
"So did you have any intention when you went to SIIS to kill someone?"
Jim Forrester had been denied claims for an on-the-job injury that had left him unable to work.
On July 7, 1993, his frustration and anger boiled over and Forrester drove his truck to the State Industrial Insurance System building on Charleston at Shadow Lane armed with a shotgun, a pistol and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
After taking a couple of shots at the building from outside, Forrester got back into the truck and drove directly into the buildings front doors, smashing them and coming to a stop in the lobby. He then exited the vehicle and started firing.
"I believe Mister Forrester was trying to kill me," SIIS employee John Datian told News 3. "Because, at the time, he looked at me directly when his vehicle was pointed towards me. Two shotgun blasts emitted from his direction to me, at me. Then he smiled and drove the vehicle at me. I did a somersault and avoided the vehicle."
Only the walls were hit by the gunfire. Meanwhile SIIS Fraud Agent David Kincer pulled out his gun and fired twice, with the second shot striking Forrester in the head, wounding him and ending the attack.
"Fortunately, yesterday everything went into place just right," Kincer told News 3 in the aftermath. "Nobody got killed, including Mr. Forrester."
Forrester remembered it differently a year later: "I got out of the truck when I was inside the building trying to figure out where I was at. I was going to back out to leave because I didn't know what was going on. And when I started to back out, I heard a pistol shot."
"Apparently sometime in March, Forrester wrote a letter to the governor detailing his problems with the SIIS," News 3's Katie Harris told viewers as she walked past the thousands of case files. "That letter is on file somewhere, protected by confidentiality. That letter is one of many SIIS gets every year."
News 3's Rikki Cheese followed up by interviewing other frustrated SIIS claimants.
"I've been down here for the last 10 years trying to get people to reopen my claim," said Alva McLemore.
"What's hurting me is they cut my checks off again," added Kenneth Bower.
"The SIIS is supposed to help, and instead they reject and say, ‘Oh well. You know, we don't have time for you,’ ” summed up Reny West.
"While you're waiting for a specialist to be appointed, you're not getting any benefits?" Inquired Cheese.
"No Ma'am. Not one dime whatsoever," came the response.
"I'm sorry that he got shot," said an angry McLemore, referring to Forrester. "He should have killed everybody in there."
Cooler heads prevailed as Nevada Gov. Bob Miller toured the damage and spoke with both employees and claimants.
"Well, I get some threats, too," said Miller. "It's a situation where you have people who are unhappy. And I think those threats are common. But, obviously, actions like this are not.”
The head wound healed, but Forrester still suffered from the on-the-job injury that led him to file an SIIS claim in the first place. He was in pain as he spoke to News 3 about the upcoming trial.
"The state could give a dang less how much you're hurting or anything else. But for this prison thing, I don't know if I can take it or not," he said.
Forrester offered qualified remorse.
"I would say to the people down at the State, I'm sorry it happened,” he said. “But they have to take some credit for their own doings also. Somebody down there should come and say, 'Yeah, we treated him wrong.'
“But I don't see any of that happening. So who's in the wrong, who's in the right? But I do apologize for it.
Forrester waived his right to a jury trial, and Judge Mark Gibbons sentenced him to six years in prison.
"This is a case that a judge shouldn't have decided, but a jury should have decided." Forrester's attorney Michael Cherry told News 3. "I mean, you didn't hear the prosecutor screaming for prison in this case. And what we have is a recommendation that comes down because of the nature of the offense. Now had he hurt somebody ... had he physically hurt somebody, it would have been different."
Forrester went to prison. His appeals were denied, but he was paroled in 1998, telling the parole board he intended to find work despite his ongoing pain.
Jim Forrester passed away in 2009. SIIS no longer exists, having been privatized in 2001. The building where the attack occurred is now home to the UNLV Dental School.