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franklin county times

Killings leave vivid memories

By Staff
TIGHT SECURITY A new 8-foot fence topped with barbed wire and a secured entrance for employees and visitors surrounds the Lockheed Martin plant in Lauderdale County almost one year after one of the deadliest workplace shootings in
Mississippi history left eight company employees wounded and seven dead. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
July 7, 2004
Brenda Dubose doesn't want to talk.
She doesn't want to discuss the fellow worker who burst through the door. The loaded shotgun he held. The buckshot that grazed her head and hand. The blood that streamed down her face.
She doesn't want to talk about the stacked chairs and tables she and others hid behind. Or the flannel shirt she took off and used to stop a co-worker's wound from bleeding.
Dubose, who takes medication to help ease the pain of her memories, even declined an interview at the last minute to talk about the past year.
Nevertheless, Dubose and others will mark the first anniversary Thursday of the day Lockheed Martin employee Doug Williams opened fire on workers in the plant at the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Industrial Park
The sudden violence, which left seven dead and eight injured, was one of the worst workplace shootings in state history and left many Lockheed workers still grieving and living in fear.
While many have since returned to work at Lockheed, some find the shootings too painful to remember and discuss. It's better not to talk about the incident at all, they say.
Plant workers
Today, 140 people work at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Inc. in Lauderdale County a national defense contractor that primarily produces components for F-22 fighter jets used by the U.S. Navy.
The only noticeable changes to the plant, just outside Meridian city limits, are a new 8-foot fence topped with barbed wire and a secured entrance for employees and visitors.
The Lockheed plant has other changes. But company spokesman Joe Stout, who works for Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, said Lockheed will not discuss specifics about its new security system.
Stout and other Lockheed officials never replied to repeated requests last month for tours of the Lauderdale County plant and interviews with plant management and its employees.
While there has been some turnover at the plant in the past year, Stout said, the changes are "no more than we would normally expect to see in a workforce of this size during a 12-month period."
Tragic events
July 8, 2003, began like any normal work day.
Although recent interviews and Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department investigation reports shed few new details about the day, they nevertheless painted a picture of fear, mayhem and death.
Williams, Dubose and 10 other co-workers were attending a mandatory ethics awareness training class that began at 9 a.m. in a training trailer connected to the main plant by a breezeway.
Williams was the sixth of 12 employees to sign in for the class.
After the class split into three groups, Williams abruptly left. He walked into the plant, stopped by his girlfriend, fellow employee Shirley J. Price, and told her he didn't like someone with whom he was grouped.
Williams then talked with his Lockheed supervisor about why he left the ethics class and then exited the plant.
Minutes later, he re-entered the main building. He walked down a hallway and through a breezeway that connected the plant and the training trailer.
He carried a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands and had a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle strapped to his back. A bandoleer of shotgun shells was draped across his chest just like Sylvester Stallone in "Rambo."
Williams suddenly burst through the door of the training trailer, grabbed his shotgun and pumped it. Dubose and others crawled on the floor and used desks and chairs as cover as they tried to hide.
Ethics class
Steve Cobb, the plant manager who was teaching the ethics class, stepped from behind the podium.
Then, witnesses said, Williams spoke.
Williams fired at Cobb, striking him in the arm.
Williams hit and killed Sam Cockrell and Mickey Fitzgerald. DeLois Bailey, Charles Scott and Al Collier were seriously injured. Cobb, Brad Bynum, Chuck McReynolds and Dubose were struck by bullet fragments.
Buckshot grazed Dubose's head and hand, sending blood streaming down her face. Dubose moaned as she feverishly crawled for cover.
Then, Dubose said, Williams looked down at her.
Williams then left the training room. Cobb and Lockheed employee Jack Johns locked the training room door and barricaded it with chairs and tables.
Once the shootings ended, Dubose tried to use her flannel shirt to stop Bailey from bleeding. Bailey died a week later in a local hospital.
Main plant
The trailer was the first place Williams hit.
Minutes later, he returned to the main plant. Once he entered, several employees tried to stop him. Pete Threatt, a union steward, pleaded with Williams to stop. Threatt then tried to grab the barrel of Williams' gun.
But Threatt said he was tossed away "like a rag doll." Williams leveled the gun at Threatt and threatened to shoot him if he didn't move out of his way.
Williams walked up behind Lynette McCall, Thomas Willis and the Rev. Charles J. Miller, killing them point-blank as they worked. Some were still wearing ear plugs to filter the plant's noise.
Henry Odom and Randy Wright also were struck and injured by bullet fragments.
Williams was eventually confronted by Price, his girlfriend. He then turned the gun around, pressed it against his torso and shot himself.
In the end, many people wanted to know what made Williams snap.
Some said Williams had anger problems. Some blamed Williams' use of Zoloft and other medications. Others claimed race, saying Williams, who was white, was a known racist.
Of the six people Williams killed, two of them were white and the rest were black. Of the eight Williams injured, five of them were white and three were black.
Inconclusive probe
A lengthy investigation the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department closed in December was inconclusive. Sheriff Billy Sollie said no one "will ever know the true reason Williams did what he did."
Since the shootings, the Lockheed Martin plant has resumed production of parts for fighter jets and other aircraft. Some employees who were injured have returned to work, others have not.
Meanwhile, some, like Brenda Dubose, are just trying to move on.
Dubose began working at Lockheed Martin more than 20 years ago after being hired March 5, 1984. Ironically, Doug Williams also began working at the plant the same say she did.
In an interview after last year's shootings, Dubose described Williams as angry following his 1988 divorce. She said he had seemed calmer since he began dating Shirley J. Price.
During the days leading up to the shooting, Dubose said she and Williams had a normal working relationship. She said, "I spoke to Doug and he spoke back to me."
In fact, the day of the shooting also seemed normal. When Williams burst into the training trailer that day, Dubose said she almost shouted "Here comes Dougie."
Then, she said, she noticed he had a gun and "brought the gun off of his shoulder and he pumped the gun" and began shooting.