Worst workplace shooting rampage in US history

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed Dec 27 09:12:18 MST 2000


[I expect the full ramifications of this story to unfold over the next few
days. I will only state at this point that pressures in such consulting
companies where the shooting took place are among the greatest in American
business, much worse than the Post Office where such shootings have
generated the term "going postal". The pressures are particularly great on
older workers such as the shooter. One Columbia co-worker took a job at one
such firm about 5 years ago for a $10,000 per year increase. He returned
within 6 months because he couldn't take the stress. In a macabre footnote,
I learned that our own good Jim Farmelant interviewed at the firm where the
shooting took place 18 months ago. Thank god that he did not end up working
there.]

NY Times, December 27, 2000

7 Die in Workplace Rampage; Co-Worker of Victims Arrested

By CAREY GOLDBERG

WAKEFIELD, Mass., Dec. 26 — A software tester at an Internet consulting
company here came to work as usual today, talked with his co- workers and
then, the authorities said, took out a semiautomatic rifle and a shotgun
and killed seven of them.

The police, responding to emergency calls about 11 a.m., said they found
the employee, 42-year-old Michael McDermott, sitting silent and
unresponsive with his loaded weapons in the lobby of the company, Edgewater
Technology Inc., and arrested him without resistance.

[The Associated Press reported that Mr. McDermott was denied bail Wednesday
after pleading innocent to seven counts of murder.]

The authorities said tonight that they were investigating whether Mr.
McDermott might have been upset about the company's plans to comply with an
Internal Revenue Service request that his wages be garnisheed to pay back
taxes he owed. Of those killed, two were in the company's reception area,
and five were in its accounting section, the Middlesex County district
attorney, Martha Coakley, said tonight. All were killed by multiple gunshot
wounds, Ms. Coakley said, and no one else was wounded in the incident.

Ms. Coakley said that only about 80 of the office's 150 employees were at
work today because of the holidays and that some managed to leave the
building while others managed to stay safe. The shooting did not appear to
be random, she said, but it was copious. "There is an enormous amount of
bullets and casings in the building," she said. "There was an enormous
amount of firepower that occurred in the building today."

Still, Mike Stanley, a team leader at Edgewater, said today that the
shooting "seems like such a random, ridiculous thing." The victims were not
Mr. McDermott's bosses, he said, and with one or two exceptions, "he had
nothing to do with any of them."

"There were receptionists, for God's sake!" he said.

Mr. Stanley described Mr. McDermott as 6-foot-2, over 300 pounds and "with
a big huge beard." He said that Mr. McDermott, who was nicknamed Mucko,
seemed amiable, but that he had also seemed peculiar, "a bit of spaceshot,"
who worked well when he worked but had repeatedly come in late. "He gave
the impression he was a bit strange, that's all," Mr. Stanley said, but
added he had never appeared threatening.

The shooting was the worst rampage in an American workplace since Nov. 2,
1999, when Brian Uyesugi, a 40-year-old copier repairman, shot seven people
dead at the Xerox Corporation in Honolulu. He is serving a life sentence.
Just over three months earlier, a 44-year-old former day trader named Mark
Barton killed nine people in brokerage offices in Atlanta. He subsequently
committed suicide.

Ms. Coakley said tonight that it was not clear what had made Mr. McDermott
stop shooting and sit passively until the police arrived.

She said that full details on the victims were not yet available, but that
they were four women and three men: Janis Hagerty, Cheryl Troy, Louis
Javelle, Craig Wood, Jennifer Bragg Capobianco, Rose Manfredi and Paul
Marceau, as identified and spelled by the district attorney's office. One
victim, Ms. Troy, was identified on the company's Web site as its vice
president for human resources.

All were at their work stations today when the shooting began, Ms. Coakley
said, and as best as can be determined after about 60 interviews with
witnesses and other employees, Mr. McDermott came to work this morning at
around 9, had some conversations with his co-workers, and only at about 11
did he take up the semiautomatic rifle and shotgun he used, along with a
semiautomatic handgun that he apparently did not use. The shooting itself
lasted no more than 5 or 10 minutes, Ms. Coakley said.

The police are still investigating how Mr. McDermott obtained the weapons,
Ms. Coakley said. Mr. McDermott had been working at Edgewater about a year,
she said, and had apparently been told that he could have a grace period on
the garnisheeing of his wages until after the holidays; thus, she said, the
fact that today was the day after Christmas could have been what set him off.

The authorities said Mr. McDermott lived in Haverhill, Mass. Marjorie
Richardson, one of Mr. McDermott's neighbors, said he had only been living
in the neighborhood for a couple of months and did not seem to have settled
in yet.

"He wasn't here very long," she said. "He just said hello and goodbye."

Today's shooting struck at what is normally a very stable Internet company,
which has about 150 employees in Wakefield, a town of about 25,000 people
10 miles north of Boston. Edgewater has been consistently profitable since
1994, and it is still growing, officials say. In April 1999, an
Arkansas-based company in the business of providing temporary workers,
StaffMark Inc., bought Edgewater for an undisclosed sum. The merger created
a company with 2,000 employees and $1.2 billion in sales.

Through the modern windows set in the 19th-century brick of a refurbished
mill complex called Harvard Mills, Edgewater's Wakefield office looked
today like thousands of other Internet companies: a warren of cubicles
mixed with the occasional windowed office or conference room; bottles of
spring water and Diet Coke scattered about; white boards and ergonomically
correct chairs.

But it conveyed the eerie sense of having been abandoned in great haste. A
laptop sat half-opened on one desk; on another desk lay some headphones, as
if torn off when it became clear something was terribly wrong.

Mr. Stanley and another employee, Nancy Pecjo, said Edgewater was normally
a wonderful place to work. Its style was extremely relaxed, Mr. Stanley
said, though there was also a high level of stress for those who worked
hard. The company also has offices in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Alabama and
Arkansas.

The company's chief executive, Shirley Singleton, issued a statement
tonight saying: "Everyone at Edgewater Technology is shocked and devastated
by the loss of our friends. We extend our deepest sympathies to the
victims' families at this tragic time." The company will be closed for the
rest of the week, Ms. Coakley said.

Mr. McDermott was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, and Ms. Coakley
said he would be charged with seven counts of murder. She said he did not
appear to have permits for any of the weapons. His lawyer spoke with him
tonight but then declined to talk with reporters.

One victim, Ms. Hagerty, had just moved to her suburban residence at in
Stoneham, Mass., about a year and a half ago, said Jim Keegan, a man who
lived across the street from her.

Mr. Keegan said the neighborhood was only a few miles away from Ms.
Hagerty's workplace. He said he had only spoken with Ms. Hagerty twice
since she moved in and rarely saw her.

"She seemed to be very much a pleasant person, very bubbly and outgoing,"
said Mr. Keegan, who last saw Ms. Hagerty about two or three months ago.

Several neighbors near where Mr. McDermott lived, in an apartment in a
Victorian house in nearby Haverhill, said they did not know him well,
because he had moved in only recently, and could cast little light onto his
character.

Ms. Coakley said Mr. McDermott did not appear to have an arrest record.

Co-workers and the authorities said they believed, but were not sure, that
Mr. McDermott lived alone and was single.

Louis Proyect
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