2 killed, 2 wounded in Jeep plant shooting as worker guns down supervisor, takes own life
Toledo Police Department investigators today are continuing to investigate why a Jeep worker armed with a double-barreled shotgun shot three supervisors last night in an office area at DaimlerChrysler’s North Toledo assembly plant, fatally wounding one and injuring two others.
The gunman was identified as Myles Meyers, 54, of East Rowland Road. He was pronounced dead in the office area of the body shop after shooting himself in the head. He fatally wounded Roy Thacker, 50, of Oregon, who died at 9:20 p.m. about 40 minutes after the shooting.
Wounded were Paul Medlen, 41, of Toledo, who is in critical condition at St. Vincent’s Mercy Medical Center, and Michael Toney, 45, of Toledo, who is in fair condition at St. Vincent’s.
workers were in the plant at the time of the shootings. Many fled when shots
rang out; others were evacuated.
All were sent home shortly after the plant was secured.
“I have been here 30 years. This is the worst day of my life,” said Mike DeYoung of Bedford Township.
A company spokesman today said Meyers was suppose to be at work yesterday, but he did not report. Then, he arrived at the plant mid-shift with a 20-gauge, double-barreled shotgun, police said.
Police Chief Mike Navarre said that based on initial interviews with witnesses, the assailant walked into a long narrow office along the body shop on the west side of the plant about 8:40 p.m. He spoke to a woman there, telling her he would not hurt her, but, pointing a shotgun at her, told her to call two men and a woman to the office.
Chief Navarre said
Meyers pointed a shotgun at the head of a female office worker and said he was
there to shoot the supervisors and team leader. He then ordered her to contact
one of the men. The supervisor asked her if the matter could wait 10 minutes,
and she said “now,” that he had to come right away.
But before that man arrived, another man entered the office and was shot by Meyers. That was the first shot fired.
Meyers remained in the office, walking past a long row of cubicles, and fired more shots at two people just outside the office.
Chief Navarre credited the woman’s decision to use her walkie-talkie to alert other supervisors not to come to the office area as preventing wider injury.
About 15 police crews were at the plant within a few minutes, the chief said.
“It was pretty chaotic for the first 20 to 25 minutes,” Chief Navarre said. “The problem was we thought we still had an active shooter. We didn’t know that he was already dead.”
Officers found people running far from the plant. One person even made it to a parking area where semi trailers were stored, and a few officers thought that person may have been the assailant making an escape.
“Officers saw people fleeing the plant and fleeing inside the plant, so they couldn’t tell where he was. We didn’t have a description,” Chief Navarre said.
Even when Meyers
was found dead inside the cubicle, it wasn’t immediately clear whether he was
the gunman or a victim. The shotgun was nearby, but the assailant may have had
another weapon, Chief Navarre said.
At one point, 25 crews were within the plant.
“Upon inspecting him, we discovered the wires on the inside of his clothing. We called the bomb squad,” Chief Navarre said.
Wires around his leg and the trunk of his body were fashioned into a sling used to conceal the weapon to get in the plant, the chief said.
Meyers fired at least five shots, and he had other ammunition on him, the chief said.
Richard Wohlgamuth, 54, of Sylvania Township said: “I don’t know what really happened, [but] I know Myles. I’ve known him for 30 years. He seemed like a nice guy.”
Mr. Wohlgamuth said Meyers was called to a meeting Tuesday night with union representatives and managers. “We saw him leave at 11 o’clock [Tuesday night] with his jacket on,” Mr. Wohlgamuth said. The shift did not end until after 1 a.m.
“It was scary because you didn’t know where he was at and how much ammo he had,” Mr. Wohlgamuth said.
Norm Reithmeier, a 21-year Jeep plant employee, said he was working in the vicinity of the shooting but did not see it happen. He knew Meyers — they both started work making Jeeps about the same time.
Mr. Reithmeier said there had been friction recently between Meyers and a supervisor, and a verbal argument on Tuesday resulted in a written three-day suspension for Meyers.
But at the plant, suspended employees work during their suspensions, with a record of their discipline placed in their personnel file. Accumulated suspensions result in termination.
“I know Myles.
Myles was a good dude. He didn’t have to go out like that, but when you get
pushed. … Roy [Thacker] was a good guy. He didn’t need to go out that way,
either,” Mr. Reithmeier said.
Mr. Wohlgamuth was at lunch last night with co-workers when they heard screams coming from their team leader’s two-way radio. “We heard, ‘He’s got a gun.’ We waited a couple minutes. ‘He shot somebody.’” said Mr. Wohlgamuth, a Jeep worker for 33 years.”
Alarms did not sound for workers to leave the building for at least 20 minutes, he said.
The shooting occurred in the plant where the popular Liberty vehicles are made. The factory is next to one where the Libertys are painted and is adjacent to factories on Stickney Avenue where Jeep Wranglers are partly assembled.
But employees, some of whom would not give their names, said tensions at the plant have been high.
Employees are urged to find ways to lower production costs, he said. As a result, plant supervision will sometimes reduce the size of work groups, said one employee, who would not give his name.
“You eliminate a job in a group, and everything is going OK
for a while,” he said. “Then they want to eliminate another job. It is like
trying to squeeze every drop of blood out.”
Mr. Reithmeier said he hopes that the incident will result in a change in employer-employee relations. “I think they need to rethink their policy about how they handle people,” he said.
Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, first received a call from his sister, who saw reports of the shootings on television.
“Two seconds later, I got about 15 phone calls,” Mr. Baumhower said.
He went to the plant and met briefly with Jeep Unit Chairman Dan Henneman.
Mr. Baumhower then went to St. Vincent to be with the three families. Mr. Thacker was a former member, he said.
“It’s the worst nightmare,” Mr. Baumhower said. “You’ve heard of these in other plants and other workplaces, and you never think it’s going to happen in your own. It’s as tragic as anyone can imagine. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.”
“We’re going to have counseling, obviously for our members,” Mr. Baumhower said. “We’re trying to do the best we can with it.” He would not respond to members’ reports of increasing workplace pressures.
“It’s just shocking, shocking, shocking,” Mr. Baumhower said. “Right now we’re in prayer mode.”
Mr. Baumhower said the entire plant would be closed today according to DaimlerChrysler management.