15 years ago, on August 10, 1999, white supremacist Buford O’Neal Furrow Jr. opened fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. Using a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun to fire over 70 shots, he wounded 3 campers, a 16-year-old counselor, and an office worker. After leaving the community center, Furrow shot and killed Joseph Ileto, a Filipino-American postal worker.
Among the campers who were shot was 5-year-old Josh Stepakoff. Now, 15 years later, the 21-year-old admits that the shooting is “still something I deal with every single day.” Diagnosed with PTSD over five years ago, he feels that “no one really realizes the long-term effects of gun violence.” In an effort to prevent further gun violence, Stepakoff serves as a board member for Women Against Gun Violence and often lobbies for more gun sense laws. His mother, Loren Lieb also works to decrease gun violence: directly after the shooting, she helped to organize the Million Mom March and now serves as an active member San Fernando Valley Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Likewise, Mindy Finkelstein, the 16-year-old camp counselor who was wounded during the shooting and also has been diagnosed with PSTD, now works as a consultant for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. She believes that “unfortunately, there are a lot of mass shootings taking place. Not just mass shootings, daily shootings … We’ve made some strong impact in the last 15 years, but we have a long way to go.”