James Edward Pough

Victims Unknown
James Edward Pough
February 16, 1948
Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Died June 18, 1990(1990-06-18) (aged 42)
Jacksonville, Florida
Date June 17–18, 1990
Criminal penalty Unknown


James Edward "Pop" Pough (February 16, 1948 – June 18, 1990) was an American spree killer, who, on June 18, 1990, killed nine people and wounded four others in a GMAC (now Ally Financial) car loan office in Jacksonville, Florida, before committing suicide. The day before, he had killed an innocent woman and man on Jacksonville’s Northside, wounded two teenagers, and robbed a convenience store.

The shooting at the GMAC office was the deadliest mass shooting committed by a lone gunman in Florida history, surpassing the murder of eight machine shop employees in Hialeah by Carl Robert Brown on August 20, 1982.

Early life

Pough, who was born on February 16, 1948, in Jacksonville, Florida and was the first of nine children, grew up in an area near Florida Community College at Jacksonville. As a child, Pough suffered from asthma and he had a close relationship to his mother, whom he helped out a lot after his father left the family in 1959. He attended a vocational school, but dropped out in his sophomore year. At the age of 18, he began working as a common laborer, which he remained as until his death.

During the last year of his life, he was doing construction maintenance at a brewery.

According to former schoolmates, Pough had affiliations with gangs during his time at school. He was arrested twice in 1965 for vagrancy, and twice again in 1966, once for attempted robbery and a second time for assault after he attacked a construction worker who owed him a quarter. In 1968, Pough was arrested for dangerously displaying a knife and was fined $75, and in July 1969, he was fined $10 after being charged for gambling. In 1970, he was arrested, but not prosecuted, for motor vehicle theft and vagrancy-prowling by auto.

1971 murder of David Lee Pender

On May 8, 1971, Pough got into an argument with his best friend, David Lee Pender, who had called his girlfriend a "bitch". In the following scuffle, Pough grabbed a .38-caliber revolver from his girlfriend's purse and shot Pender three times, who eventually died in a hospital. According to relatives, he never managed to get over the fact that he had killed his friend.

Pough was initially charged with murder, though the charge was later reduced to manslaughter. In the end, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to five years probation, but the judgment of his guilt was withheld by the court subject to the successful completion of probation.

Due to Pough's violent behavior in the past, it was also ruled that he should never be allowed to own a gun, though this was never forwarded to police. As a result, Pough was not considered a felon and therefore was able to purchase several handguns, among them the Röhm RG-31 .38-caliber revolver he later used to commit suicide, which was registered with the police on June 4, 1979. In 1977, Pough appeared twice in court for charges of bad debt, and there was also an outstanding warrant for his arrest in a 1982 employment compensation fraud case.

Life prior to the shootings

In December 1988, Pough traded his old car for a 1988 Pontiac Grand Am, though he soon had difficulties to make his payments. As a result, the car was voluntarily repossessed by GMAC in January 1990. He received a bill for $6,394 (around $13,200 as of 2021) of outstanding fees in March, and again on April 6, which was the last contact between him and the office. About two months prior to the shootings, Pough purchased a Universal Brand M1 carbine at a local pawnshop.

Pough, who was living in a rundown duplex in Jacksonville's Northwest Quadrant at the time, was known by his neighbors as a quiet and nice man who kept a regular and fixed schedule, but also as someone who would become angry fairly quickly and get engaged in enraged conversations, especially in matters concerning money and his car. Relatives described him as a recluse with no friends.

After the death of his mother three years prior to the shootings, Pough was said to have emotionally changed for the worse, saying that he had nothing left to live for and arguing that he would "take someone with him when he leaves this world". Frequently, he had violent outbursts, which were directed against his wife, Theresa, and twice he threatened her by putting a gun to her head. In January 1990, they separated, as Mrs. Pough feared for her safety, and on March 2, she was granted an injunction that disallowed Pough to get in contact with her for a year. As a consequence, he withdrew even more and rarely socialized.

The 1990 killing spree

First attacks

Pough started his killing spree in the night of June 17 at about 12:50 a.m. Armed with his blanket-wrapped M1 Carbine and not far from his home, he walked up to a group of men standing at a street corner in the northwest section of Jacksonville, and killed Louis Carl Bacon with two shots in the chest before fleeing. A couple of minutes later, he attacked Doretta Drake who was chatting with two other women in a vacant parking lot just two blocks from the first crime scene. After hitting Drake with his car, throwing her on the sidewalk, Pough stepped out of his Buick and killed her with a single shot to the head before driving away.

A short time later, Pough also shot and wounded two youths, 17 and 18 years of age, after asking them for directions. Later, on the morning of June 18, Pough entered a convenience store, threatened the clerk with a pistol and, stating that he didn't have anything to lose, demanded all of the money in the register. After getting the money, he left.

GMAC shooting

After robbing the convenience store, he visited his mother's grave one last time and then called his supervisor to state that he wouldn't be coming to work because he had something else to do. At about 10:44 a.m., Pough parked his car at the General Motors Acceptance Corporation office located at 7870 Baymeadows Way in Jacksonville. He entered the building through the front door, armed with his M1 Carbine, a Röhm RG-31 .38-caliber revolver, several loaded magazines, and ammunition packed in his pockets. Without saying a word he immediately began shooting with the M1 Carbine at two customers at the front counter, killing Julia Burgess and wounding David Hendrix with four shots. Walking through the open office he then systematically moved from desk to desk and shot at the GMAC workers, deliberately aiming at those hiding under their desks.

Drew Woods was the first to be shot at his desk, followed by Cynthia Perry and Barbara Holland nearby, as well as Phyllis Griggs, who was injured. When the GMAC employees realized what was going on, many of them escaped through a back door of the building while Pough started shooting at those ducking for cover. GMAC employees Janice David, Sharon Hall, Jewell Belote, Lee Simonton, Denise Highfill, Ron Echevarria, and Nancy Dill were also shot. He then put the .38-caliber revolver to his head and committed suicide. In just under two minutes Pough had fired at the least 28 rounds from his carbine; hitting 11 of the 85 workers in the office, as well as the two customers. Six of his victims died at the scene, while another three died at hospital, the last being Jewell Belote, who succumbed to her wounds nine days after the shooting.

When searching Pough's car police recovered a loaded 9mm semi-automatic machine pistol, two magazines, and ammunition, as well as twelve pieces of nylon rope, each having a length of 24 inches, which led police to the assumption that Pough initially might have intended to take hostages. When police arrived at Pough's home, it had been ransacked. They found a calendar with two dates circled in red: May 8, the day he killed his friend Pender, and June 18.



May 8, 1971

• David Lee Pender

June 17, 1990
  • Louis Carl Bacon, 39
  • Doretta Drake, 30
June 18, 1990
  • Julia White Burgess, 42, customer
  • Drew Woods, 38
  • Cynthia L. Perry, 30
  • Barbara Duckwall Holland, 45
  • Janice David, 40
  • Sharon Louise Hall, 45
  • Jewell Belote, 50, died on June 27
  • Lee Simonton, 33
  • Denise Sapp Highfill, 36


June 17, 1990
  • Unidentified teenager, 17
  • Unidentified teenager, 18
June 18, 1990
  • David Hendrix, 25, customer
  • Phyllis Griggs
  • Ron Echevarria
  • Nancy Dill