Seminole tribe attorney shot at home
By JEFF TESTERMAN and KATHRYN WEXLER
Jim Shore, who is blind, was on a sofa at his Emerald Hills home when he was hit by shots fired though a sliding glass door leading to his blue-tiled pool. Shore, 56, managed to dial 911 about 10:30 p.m. and open a door for paramedics. He was taken to a hospital for surgery and was in critical condition Thursday.
Almost immediately, Hollywood police said Shore had been "targeted."
That left the tight-knit, 2,800-member Seminole community wondering if Shore had been shot because of his efforts to help redirect tribal government while a federal task force investigates ousted Chairman James E. Billie.
"This has all the appearance of an attempted hit or assassination," said attorney Donald Orlovsky, who does work for the tribe. "If that's the case, then it clearly appears to be an effort to destabilize the government and the business enterprises Mr. Shore advises."
Police officers barred nontribal members from the tribe's four-story corporate headquarters in Hollywood after the shooting, and tribal members were encouraged to travel in groups.
"We're watching out for each other now," said tribal member Jo Motlow North.
FBI agents involved in a months-long corruption probe of the tribe arrived at Seminole corporate headquarters Thursday morning to conduct interviews. The FBI also went to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, where Shore was being treated.
Shore's hospital room and his home were being guarded by an officer from the Seminole Department of Law Enforcement.
"I think it's fair to say this was not a random act of violence," said Lt. Tony Rode, Hollywood police spokesman. "We have no suspects, no witnesses. We can only surmise.
"The gossip is going crazy around here and probably some of it is true."
Some of it focused on Billie, the songwriter and alligator wrestler who brought gambling halls -- and a new prosperity -- to the tribe after being elected chairman in 1979. Billie ruled until last year, when tribal council colleagues suspended him indefinitely and took him off the payroll.
Shore, blinded in a car accident in 1970, played a big part in keeping him off.
When Billie got a Bureau of Indian Affairs opinion in September that suggested he had been illegally removed, Shore fired an angry letter back to the BIA noting, "Mr. Billie's numerous acts of misconduct" that had brought "disgrace to the tribe and threatened its financial stability."
Shore also told the BIA that a federal grand jury was investigating Billie in connection with possible violations of federal laws concerning embezzlement and theft of grant money.
The BIA reversed its opinion. Billie stayed suspended.
Several weeks later, at a Nov. 27 community meeting, Billie railed at Shore, characterizing him as "an attorney who can't see and says you can't do this and that."
According to a videotape of the tribal meeting, Billie also said he had thought about violence toward those responsible for throwing him off the council.
"The first thing I wanted to do was get me a machine gun and kill 'em down, mow 'em all down," Billie told his audience. "But you can't do that. This is the United States. We're not exactly the mafia."
Billie's attorney, Robert Saunooke, said he knew nothing of Billie's fiery talk and had no comment.
"I feel very bad for Mr. Shore," Saunooke said of the shooting. "That's a very unfortunate situation."
Among the last to speak with Shore before Wednesday's shooting was Christine O'Donnell, a former tribal administrator whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Billie was the rationale used by the tribal council to suspend him.
O'Donnell said in a federal suit and later in a complaint in state court that Billie got her pregnant, forced her to get an abortion, fired her and then paid her off with $100,000 worth of phony sick time.
Wednesday night, O'Donnell was at a Davie steak house when she phoned Shore and asked if he wanted dinner. Shore, who is divorced, lives alone and does not like to cook, asked O'Donnell to bring him a New York strip steak, a baked potato and corn on the cob.
O'Donnell, who lives about a mile from Shore, said she delivered the meal about 7:15 p.m.
"We talked a little about the lawsuits, about council business," O'Donnell said. "We'd joked about safety before and mentioned that Jim should have additional security.
"He's been extremely influential and instrumental in getting the tribal council back on track. But he's made some people angry doing it."
O'Donnell said she called Shore again about 9:30 p.m. An hour later, Shore was shot above the waist by several bullets that somehow missed all his vital organs.
"I'm blind, and I don't know what's happened," Shore said in his 911 call. "I don't know if I've been shot or electrocuted or what. . . . I feel some bleeding. I heard something that sounded like shots."
Because of Shore's role as an intermediary between the tribe and the FBI, Orlovsky said he expected the shooting would become "a high priority" for federal investigators.
The FBI had asked Coconut Grove lawyer Marc Sarnoff about Shore at the outset of its corruption investigation. Sarnoff had pressed several civil lawsuits against the tribe and put together theories of tribal corruption and money laundering.
The FBI called on Sarnoff and asked to read his files. Before agents left, they took 4,000 pages of court papers, and an opinion of Jim Shore.
"The FBI came to me over a year ago and said can we trust Jim Shore," Sarnoff recalled. "I said he was really the only guy there you could trust."
Sarnoff said Shore had the courage to break ranks with the tribe, offering testimony about tribal casino employment policy that ended up helping Sarnoff's client.
"I thought he was one of the most decent people I've ever met," Sarnoff said.
But Shore's forthrightness ruffled feathers, especially after Billie's ouster.
With Shore's advice and the consent of a reconstituted tribal council, Billie's empire was being taken apart piece by piece.
The council fired the staff of Billie's newspaper, the Seminole Tribune. It fired his attorney, Saunooke, and his handpicked administrator, Tim Cox. It moved to take over a Nicaraguan hotel that Billie and Cox had bought with tribal money. It killed a deal to borrow $50-million to buy a 96-foot Gulfstream jet.
It voted to close Billie's prized Micco aircraft plant in Fort Pierce, where more than $25-million in investment had resulted in just $3-million in airplane sales.
Behind the scenes, Shore also was working to make sure the tribe's gambling casinos were being run honestly.
Under Billie's watch, the National Indian Gaming Commission had levied fines totalling $6.4-million against the tribe for a pair of illegal contracts with casino management companies.
Shore had recently helped arrange for a consultant to review the operation of each bingo hall to make sure the games and the accounting were above board.
Shore and the council were also near a critical decision to walk away from a deal that had the tribe paying businessman Gary Fears and his partners $18-million a year for a lease at the tribe's Coconut Creek casino, Shore said.
Shore also had been looking for professional civil servants to fill a staff previously filled with political cronies. He had tried to hire away an administrator and a police chief from the city of Coconut Creek.
"Shore told me he was trying to clean up the tribe's image," said Coconut Creek City Manager John Kelly. "He said in the past it had all been political, but it wasn't going to be that way any more."
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