Note: This article covers workplace violence incidents from 2019. For a more up-to-date free briefing on significant workplace violence incidents for the past few years, see our free report on Notable Workplace Violence Incidents, updated annually.
There are few things as frightening in the work environment as an incident involving workplace violence. Incidents ranging from disgruntled employees, to armed robberies, to fatal incidents can have long-lasting impacts on employees, customers, and your organizations’ reputation.
At Bryghtpath, we’re often asked to give examples of recent notable workplace violence incidents as a part of the process to justify a threat management program.
We’ve pulled together this list of several notable workplace violence incidents from 2017 that may help you within your organization as you seek to establish or mature a threat management & workplace violence prevention program.
The incidents we selected aren’t always the ones that made headlines, but they represent a cross-section of real incidents that each of us is likely to face during our careers.
North Park Elementary School
Last month in San Bernardino, CA, a man entered a special needs classroom at a local elementary school and opened fire. He was the estranged husband of a teacher there, and the classroom was hers. In his rage, he shot her to death and two young students also were shot. One of the two students, a boy who was only eight years old, died after he was admitted to the emergency room. After opening fire on the classroom, the man turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
You don’t need to worry about just your employees and patrons. If somebody is having problems at home, or has a reason to believe that somebody could be upset with them, it’s important to encourage them to alert you and any necessary personnel. This shooter, for example, checked into the school’s front office and appeared to have followed all of their procedures.
Had they been alerted that this person was an estranged husband and no longer a loving spouse, they may have had the necessary knowledge to deny him access and take other actions.
Dignity Team Health
Another incident last month occurred in an office tower located in Dallas, Texas. A 60-year-old man entered his workplace, pulled out a gun, and shot his supervisor to death. The victim had just been married and was a mother to seven children. The perpetrator didn’t have any criminal history and there wasn’t any indication that he was going to commit a crime or had any issues with his supervisor.
This illustrates exactly how difficult it is to predict a violent workplace incident. An older gentleman without a criminal history and no apparent issues with his supervisor doesn’t seem likely to be a shooter. In order to truly protect ourselves and our employees, we must remain vigilant at all times and always be prepared to take action against violence whenever necessary.
Jordan’s Fish & Chicken
Less than a week into 2017, one of the year’s first violent workplace incidents happened at a Jordan’s Fish & Chicken restaurant in Indianapolis, IN. Early in the morning just after 1 a.m., officers were called into the restaurant and found two men dead. Surveillance footage shows two armed robbers entered the restaurant, hopped over the food counter and then shot the two men in the back of the kitchen. They completed the robbery and immediately left the store.
In this case, it’s difficult to say whether or not training could have prevented violence. Even then, it’s important to train any employees dealing directly with money and the public on how to handle robberies. It’s important to give the robbers what they ask for and never place yourself in any danger. By simply handing them whatever they want and remaining submissive, you’ll pose less of a threat and mitigate the chance of unnecessary violence.
Jared the Galleria of Jewelry
Later this January, a lady was shot in a jewelry store located in Henderson, NV. An armed robber entered the store and was confronted by an armed security guard employed by the store. He aimed and fired at the robber, but his shot missed and instead hit an employee. She was rushed to the hospital but tragically passed away shortly after. The security guard did not face any charges. Instead, the robber, if caught, will face the murder charges as it was their act that caused the incident.
This is especially tragic as an innocent life was taken by somebody who was only trying to do the right thing. While this guard might not have been at fault, it’s critically important to keep in mind the safety of employees and innocent bystanders when hiring and training security staff. If they are too aggressive, they can put even more lives at risk.
Yanfeng Automotive Interiors
Only a couple weeks ago in Fountain Inn, SC, a man fired gunshots in an automotive plant. Two employees there had an argument and one man pulled out a gun and fired multiple shots. The man struck two employees, but neither had fatal wounds. The shooter had a criminal background that includes involuntary manslaughter and a prison term of 15 years.
It’s important to have a management team, supported by a threat response team and process, that is able to identify potential conflicts and de-escalate them quickly. In this instance, the shooter was involved in a workplace argument, which escalated into violence. Given his history shows a propensity for violence, a proper threat management process could have helped nip the incident in the bud.
Pine Kirk Care Center
At the very beginning of May, a police chief and two hostages were killed at Pine Kirk Care Center in Kirkersville, OH. The shooter took two hostages in an alley behind the care center and eventually killed both of them along with the police chief during the incident. He later turned the gun and shot himself. Both of the hostage victims worked as nurses at the care center.
Situations like this are difficult to control and almost impossible to predict. The best thing you can do is prepare your staff to act the right way in any potentially violent situation through strong planning and regular exercises.
UPS Warehouse – San Francisco, California
One of the most prolific workplace violence incidents this year occurred at a San Francisco UPS warehouse facility in June. Just before 9:00 a.m. local time, a driver in full uniform opened fire on his co-workers, killing three and injuring five. When police arrived on the scene, he turned the gun and shot himself. Although no definitive motive has been agreed upon, the gentleman apparently felt disrespected by his fellow employees, which could have led to the violent outburst. Employees who were interviewed later stated how surprised they were, that the man never displayed any prior violent tendencies.
It’s important to remember that strong workplace violence policies are important for every single company. Even if you don’t believe anything like this could happen at your office, or your warehouse, there might not be any warning signs or they could be hard to miss. Proper policies and procedures allow you to minimize the impact of incidents that nobody sees coming.
Fiamma – Orlando, Florida
Another violent incident occurred earlier this year in Orlando when a former employee returned to his old factory and opened fire, killing four males and one female. He also shot himself before law enforcement was able to subdue him. This particular employee had a history of violence, having gotten into a physical altercation with another employee in 2014. In this case, the shooting was premeditated, as he planned on singling out and killing specific people. At least one of those was somebody he reportedly had a bad relationship with, although it was not the gentleman he had previously gotten into an altercation with.
While there might not have been any signs that violence of this nature was to occur, it’s a good reminder that workplace violence must be dealt with completely. Terminating employees who get into physical altercations is a good idea, and you should consider alerting authorities or improving security immediately after the termination. If a non-fireable incident occurs, ensure that all necessary parties receive the help they need, both professionally and for their own well-being.
Dotcom Computers – Raynham, Massachusetts
This September, an employee in Raynham, MA was arrested for attempted murder after stabbing his supervisor in the neck following an apparent argument. Medical personnel arrived on the scene quickly and the supervisor was able to survive without any permanent complications.
The employees at Dotcom Computers were commended by Raynham’s Chief of Police for their efforts in detaining the attacker and alerting authorities immediately. He said, “Despite the dangerous situation, they intervened immediately to prevent further harm to the victim.”. This is an excellent lesson – proper workplace violence training can literally be the difference between life and death.
Iowa Medical Classification Center – Des Moines, Iowa
On the day after Thanksgiving, a nurse was attacked by a patient. The patient walked into her office and struck her repeatedly with a closed fist. Her fellow staff and correctional offices overheard the commotion and quickly rushed to her aid. She was treated and released without sustaining any major injuries.
When it comes to workplace violence, nurses are especially vulnerable. They are extremely accessible, often working alone with patients, who might be experiencing physical or emotional trauma and taking a variety of medications. For medical facilities, workplace violence strategies are absolutely vital to the safety of their employees.
Mercy Hospital – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Another violent incident occurred involving a nurse this October in Minneapolis. A female patient carved a message for her nurse into the hospital wall, hid behind a door and punched him when he entered the room before attempting to escape. He was struck near his glasses, but sustained only two very minor cuts on his face.
This is another example of how important it is to protect medical professionals (and all employees), whether male or female. In this case, a female patient attacked a male nurse, and could have caused great harm if she continued the assault instead of fleeing.
Fox Pizza & Subs – Greensboro, North Carolina
Earlier this month, an angry customer attacked a pizzeria employee in Greensboro because he believed the pizza that was delivered to his house was too cold.The gentleman entered the establishment angrily and even forced his way into the kitchen before being calmed down and offered a free pizza. However, as he waited outside he decided to enter the restaurant again, and after arguing with the manager. After the cashier attempted to intervene, he knocked her down and drug her across the floor, striking her several times.
It’s not just nurses, of course. Any employees who deal with the public on a daily basis are at risk of dealing with violent situations. In this case, a cold pizza was all it took for a customer to assault an innocent cashier. In this case, proper training could have led the staff to alert the authorities when the man first became hostile, ensuring it didn’t escalate any further. Additionally, training may have allowed the employees to successfully diffuse the situation or prohibited the vulnerable cashier from inserting herself into an already tense incident.
Pittsburgh King Elementary School – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In October, a fourth-grade teacher was attacked by a parent after confiscating her daughter’s cell phone according to school policy. The student bit her teacher as she was confiscating the phone, causing the teacher to call her mother and request a conference. At the meeting later that day, the student alleged she had been choked by her teacher, and her mother vowed that the teacher would “get it later”. Along with her boyfriend, she followed the teacher as she sought medical treatment for the bite and threw a brick at her, knocking a tooth out and causing facial injuries.
As horrifying as this incident is, it’s a perfect reminder of how critical it is that employees report any threats of violence, no matter who it’s from. After her student’s mother threatened she would get it later, an appropriate report might have provided safety from the threat, either with the authority’s intervention or simply a quick escort home.
Our final example of workplace violence in 2017 occurred in Brooklyn this September at a local chicken take-out joint. A robber arrived at the restaurant at about 9:15 a.m. and crept behind the counter while an employee was in the bathroom. When the 78-year-old cashier emerged, they attempted to subdue the robber and was violently thrown to the ground. Luckily, he sustained no major injuries.
- Establish a strong workplace violence prevention & threat management program, consisting of the following at a minimum:
- A clear policy at a corporate level
- A method to report threats of workplace violence
- An individual or team responsible for managing threats
- Establish a method to document all reported threats & acts of workplace violence.
- Put into place a trained, cross-functional team that will assess threats and take action to mitigate the likelihood of escalation to an actual incident. The team’s focus should be on taking actions that protect the organization and your employees and customers.
- Publish regular reporting to stakeholders across the organization of the number of threats and workplace violence incidents.
- Directly connect your threat assessment process to your method of managing a crisis situation so that there is a smooth transition in the event of a major incident.
- Partner with an external consultant, such as Bryghtpath, where needed to help establish, grow, and mature your program.
Can we help you?
As always, if we can be of any assistance to you as you build, grow, and mature your program – we’re always here to help. Just drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at +1.612.235.6435.