mission: A police helicopter carries a 
sniper to the roof of a building on the navy yard complex, where 12 died on Monday. *AFP photo
mission: A police helicopter carries a sniper to the roof of a building on the navy yard complex, where 12 died on Monday. *AFP photo

The massacre that left 12 people dead at a navy yard in Washington this week has stirred poignant memories of a little-known chapter in Bermuda’s history.

It was in March, 1960 when an airman at the Kindley Air Force Base ‘went berserk’ and opened fire on comrades with a sub-machine gun, killing two and injuring a third.

Some islanders, and especially those living in the east end with close links to the base, can still vividly recall the day Bill Cook went on his rampage. He would later be court martialed and jailed for 33 years.

ZBM radio host David Lopes  triggered a lively response when he mentioned the story on air yesterday morning. 

St David’s Islander Ronnie Chameau told the Sun: “It was kept pretty hush-hush at the time...” 


The shocking and tragic events that unfolded at a US military base yesterday may have occurred thousands of miles off our shores.


But for some islanders the ruthless shooting at the Washington DC Navy Installation that left 12 dead was a stark reminder of a similarly-shocking crime that occurred at the Kindley Air Force Base in 1960.

Many, especially those living in the East End with close links to the Base, can still vividly recall the day air policeman Bill Cook ‘went berserk’ and shot two US airman dead and injured a third.

Eyewitness reports of the shooting describe how Cook ‘shot up the Base’ and ‘sprayed bullets everywhere’.

St David’s islander, Ronnie Chameau, told the Sun: “It was kept pretty hush-hush at the time but people who lived close to the base or knew anyone on the base heard about what happened.

“When I heard about what had happened in Washington it reminded me what had happened in Bermuda all those years ago. 

“It was horrific crime, but very few details were released because it happened on the Base and they dealt with it internally.

“If you were to ask people in Bermuda about the Kindley shooting today I doubt many would have even heard about it.”

While ZBM broadcaster David Lopes, who mentioned the shooting on his radio show yesterday, added: “I was a teenager at Mount St Agnes at the time and I can still recall what happened quite clearly.

“There was a girl in my class who had dated this guy Bill Cook and I remember her coming into school being very upset after news had broke of what happened.

“She had to be comforted by all her friends, and it was only later that we realized why she was so upset.

“I think people in Bermuda knew about what happened at Kindley back then, but there were not a lot of details released about the shooting.

“I’m sure when people in Bermuda saw what happened in Washington yesterday they thought how shocking it was and how something like that could never happen here, but it did.”

Cook, who hailed from the Bronx, opened fire on his colleagues in March of 1960 at the Base in St David’s.

US news reports at the time describe how he opened fire with a sub-machine gun in the Base’s police headquarters while colleagues ran for their lives and hid under their desks.

His shocking outburst left two men, Sgt Irby McNeill and Sgt Dino Martelli, dead and a third man, Sgt George Baxter seriously injured.

Eyewitness accounts that have been posted on the Forbes Welcome to Bermuda site describe the utter chaos that descended on the Base during the shooting.

Wes Pleasant recalled: “I was right next door, just down the hill from the AP HQ at the commissary when it happened.

“I was putting some groceries in the saddlebags on my bike when all hell broke loose just up the hill from me. Last I heard they shipped the guy back to Walter Reed in a straight jacket.”

While Doug Selander who was also based at Kindley added: “I heard the automatic weapon being fired from down the hill from our Rescue dorms above.

“I went out on the lawn and a guy came running up from below and screamed ‘somebody’s shooting up the place down there’.

AP Cook was being disciplined when it all started — he had to clean his weapon in the armoury located in basement of the HQ.

“That’s when he went berserk and starting shooting up AP’s and everything else. 

“He fired at one sergeant at the front desk but the sarge ducked under the desk.

“Cook reached over and raked the floor next to him with bullets but missed him by inches.

“Cook went outside on the lawn firing until he ran out of ammo. He went back inside and down into the armoury to reload — that’s when another AP grabbed him.

“I saw Cook afterwards — they had him down on the back of an open, wood stake, ton-and a-half truck with AP’s all over him shortly after they got him.”

It is believed that Cook was brought back to the US and court martialed where he was sentenced to 33 years at the US disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.