MIAMI — Some people called Mark Kram a hero, others a vigilante. Twenty-one years ago, the scrap metal dealer took the law into his hands and fatally shot a deranged teacher who was riding away on a bike after killing eight machine shop employees.
Kram buried the most compelling moment from his past, not even sharing it with his two teenage children until this year. In his first interview about the case in two decades, Kram told The Miami Herald about the mass carnage and the aftereffects.
Kram was working nearby when Carl Brown, who was on psychiatric leave from school, fumed about the shop’s refusal to accept a traveler’s check for a $20 repair on his lawn mower motor.
Brown mowed down 11 employees at Bob Moore’s Welding and Machine Shop, killing eight, and pedaled away with his 12-gauge shotgun slung over his left shoulder Aug. 20, 1982.
Kram stepped out of his shop. A hysterical Ernest Hammett, who worked across the street, ran toward him, shouting, “A bunch of people just got killed at Bob’s!”
Kram ran to his office and grabbed two guns. Both men jumped in Kram’s car.
Six blocks away, Brown was moving at a leisurely pace. As Kram pulled alongside, he said Brown moved as if he were about to fire again.
From the back seat, Hammett pointed the .38-caliber revolver out the driver’s window. Kram grabbed the gun to steady Hammett’s hand. They fired what was meant to be a warning shot.
“I have to tell you that both our hands were on that gun when it went off. I don’t know whose finger was on the trigger,” Kram said.
The bullet hit Brown in the back and severed his aorta, but he kept going. Kram swerved into Brown to stop him.
“I never felt like a hero. I did what I thought was right at that moment, but the truth is I set out to stop Brown, not kill him,” Kram said. “Taking a life this way is a terrible thing. Unless you’ve done it or served in Vietnam or something like that, you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Kram, now 52, said his children were surprised to learn of the media onslaught that engulfed their father. “I took out my scrapbook and let them read all the newspaper articles from the time,” said Kram. “My 17-year-old daughter said: ‘You did the right thing, Dad. It sounds just like you. You don’t like to see people hurt.”‘
His 14-year-old son asked, “Dad, you did that?”
Kram has been haunted all these years by one question: Did he do the right thing in playing judge and jury?
“If you had received the letters full of venom I did, you’d understand,” Kram said. “I took the law into my own hands and some people have a big problem with that, and I understand it.”
Kram said he has found his own answer.
“What goes around, comes around,” he said. “If what I did was wrong, I figured I would have been punished. But I’ve had a good life.”
As then-State Attorney Janet Reno weighed whether to charge Brown’s killers, Hammett, a black man, worried about being involved in the death of a white man.
“They’re gonna fry me,” Hammett, who died in 1989, kept telling Kram. “Those were very scary days.”
Reno ruled Brown’s killing justifiable to prevent imminent death or injury to others.
Bob Moore, who ran the shop with his mother, was in the Bahamas on the day of the shooting. Brown’s victims included Moore’s mother Ernestine, 67, and uncle Mangum Moore, 78.
“If I had been in the office that day, I would not be talking to you today,” said Moore, now 66. “I’m glad Mark did what he did. He should have gotten a bunch of medals. … I would have hated to have that guy sit in prison costing taxpayers money.”