According to the National Safety Council, the fourth leading cause of deaths at work is from assaults. In 2017, there were 18,400 workplace violence incidents involving assault. Of those, 458 people died. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as “any threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior” at a work site. Employers, employees and customers alike should be concerned about workplace violence. When someone who is upset with a co-worker or his or her boss, that person may assault anyone in his or her way, including shooting people in their sights.
In order to illustrate how serious workplace violence should be taken within your organization, here are 9 significant workplace violence incidents from 2019.
1. Henry Pratt Shooting, Aurora, Illinois (U.S.)
An industrial warehouse employee, Gary Martin, killed five people and injured one unidentified person and five police officers when he went on a shooting rampage after being fired from his job. Martin had worked at the plant for 15 years. Police stated that they were shot at as soon as they arrived on the scene, which was about 4 minutes after the first 911 calls. All of the fatalities were men. All of the police officers suffered injuries that were not life-threatening. The disgruntled employee was told he was being fired that day. During the meeting, Martin pulled out a gun and started firing and continued shooting as he moved through the plant.
More and more, we hear about people who are fired or laid off shooting up the workplace, whether the firing was the result of the employee’s actions or because of cut-backs or other administrative lay-offs.
2. Disgruntled Employee Kills 12 at Virginia Beach City Building (U.S.)
DeWayne Craddock shot up Building 2 in Virginia Beach’s municipal center and killed 12 people. Craddock was a public utility worker. He died after a long gunfight with police officers. In addition to killing 12 people, he critically injured three and another person was in fair condition as of the writing of the news report. An officer was also shot but survived because he was wearing a ballistic vest. The FBI also responded to the incident. At the time of the news report, police had not found a motive for the shooting.
Sometimes, employees shoot up a workplace and there is no obvious motive. An employee could go off the deep end for no apparent reason, such as a firing or lay-off.
3. Southaven, Mississippi Walmart Employee Kills Two (U.S.)
While this town is in Mississippi, it is actually a suburb of Memphis, TN. Martez Tarrell Abram was suspended from the Walmart, pending the outcome of an investigation. Tarrell walked into the store in the early morning and shot and killed two managers. Two police officers were also engaged by the shooter in the parking lot. One of the officers was shot by Tarrell, but his vest saved him from being killed. Tarrell was taken to the hospital for the gunshot wound. A suspicious package was also found, and the bomb squad was on scene hours after the shooting, still examining the package.
Workplace violence doesn’t always involve guns. Sometimes, it’s guns and another form of violence, such as a bomb. Though in this case, NBC News did not update their story as to whether the suspicious package contained a bomb, it’s a good idea to report all suspicious packages in a workplace violence incident.
4. San Antonio, Texas Moving Company Shooting (U.S.)
Kwenton Thomas shot and injured several people at a moving company, allegedly because he had a disagreement with staff members – his co-workers. Thomas shot people in the office and continued shooting in the parking lot as he left the premises on foot. Of the victims, only one was in critical condition. The police caught up with Thomas and arrested him on five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. MySA did not say whether the shooter had a motive or just decided to shoot up the place.
Whether the shooter intended to kill anyone, he still injured several people. It is unknown as to whether the shooter had a disagreement with someone on the job or if he was fired.
5. Three Killed at Ford Dealership in San Francisco Bay Area (U.S.)
A former employee who was not named in the USA Today article, killed three people at a Ford dealership in San Francisco. The former employee was fired from his job. After shooting three employees, the shooter shot and killed himself. The man had just been fired by his boss, the service and parts director. Two of the people who were killed were the man’s boss and the parts manager.
Employers could lessen the risk of workplace violence by taking several steps, including doing criminal background checks, having a zero-tolerance policy for threats and violence at the workplace, implementing active shooter drills and encouraging people to say something if they see something off about other employees.
6. Jocelyn V. Johnson Municipal Services Center Shooting (U.S.)
Steven Haizlip worked for the City of Winston Salem for 12 years. As far as witnesses could tell, he had a long-standing feud with one of the victims. Haizlip shot and killed one employee – the person he allegedly had a feud with – and injured another employee and a police officer. The police officer was engaged in a gunfight with the suspect and the suspect tried to leave the building and started shooting at police. Police believe the shooting was targeted against the person who was killed because of the feud and because no other employees in the area of the deceased were shot.
Even if people are not fired or laid off, they tend to bring weapons into the workplace as if shooting someone will solve their problems. The day before the shooting, the victim and the offender were in an altercation. Unfortunately, that altercation was not reported to the employer. Instructing employees to say something about altercations, whether between the employee and someone, or the employee witnesses it, could help curb workplace violence.
7. Fatal Shooting at Dart Container Corp. in Conyers, Georgia (U.S.)
Camron Golden was arrested about 170 miles away from Dart Container Corp. in Conyers, Georgia after shooting one person. The victim was taken to the hospital but died from the injuries. Golden was a temporary worker at the foodservice plant. At the time USA Today published the story, the paper had very little information, other than that the shooter was being charged with murder.
People could go off at next to nothing – or what seems like nothing to most. It is possible that Golden had a grudge against someone or maybe his temporary employment was ending. This information was not known at the time of publishing the story.
8. Postal Worker Almost Accosted in Detroit, Michigan (U.S.)
Workplace violence doesn’t just happen in buildings. In Detroit, a red van with at least two men in it was following a postal worker. They did stop her and ask if she had any change of address forms. When the postal worker said she didn’t, the men demanded that she go to her truck to get them one. Instead, the female postal worker asked someone at a nearby home to please let her in – the homeowner saw the carrier visibly shaking on her Ring doorbell video. If the homeowner had not let the postal carrier in, the men who were following her as she went on her route could have injured or killed her.
9. Chicago McDonald’s Restaurants Subject of Workplace Violence (Illinois, U.S.)
Thirteen McDonald’s restaurants are named in a lawsuit by 17 employees who suffered workplace violence and alleged that managers at the stores did not do anything about the violence and did not call the police. Some incidents include:
- One restaurant lowered the counters, which then allowed customers to jump over them and assault workers;
- Workers often suffer from verbal threats by customers;
- A customer waved a gun at the employees;
- A man threatened to kill a female employee, left, then returned to abuse the worker and her co-worker verbally;
- A customer sprayed a worker with pepper spray;
- Multiple gun threats at different times and different stores; and
- A dead body found in one McDonald’s bathroom, along with tons of blood.
Workplace violence isn’t necessarily between co-workers – it could come from anyone who walks through the door, whether that person is a customer or not.
Can we help you?
Bryghtpath has developed workplace violence programs, threat management teams, and crisis plans for many Fortune 500 organizations. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Our expertise includes crisis communications and emergency procedures, and we’d love to help empower your management to handle challenging workplace violence situations safely.
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