Should U.S. Postal Employees Have Guns?

Current Death Toll

41 Dead

16 Wounded

What is going on in the United States Postal Service? What drives people to such anger and rage that they will walk in and start shooting people? If this was a large corporation, such as UPS, Microsoft or K-Mart that had 41 dead employees over 12 years, you can be sure that the Government would be interrogating their management practices to find out why these incidents were occuring. Actually, that number may actually be higher, I stopped counting when I had enough data to make my point here.

In fact shootings at post offices have been so frequent in recent years that it has given rise to terminology that denotes a high degree of anger and frustration - "going Postal". Some tell me it's the plodding slowness of the civil-service system, others tell me that it's the relentless harassment of employees by management and a grievance system that doesn't work. Whatever it is, it seems to be manufacturing too many psychotics! Here's a sampling of news stories about our USPS.

The 1st "Official" Postal Incident

On August 20, 1986, in Edmond, Oklahoma, a man named Patrick Sherrill shot and killed 15 fellow postal employees in less than 10 minutes.

Patrick Sherrill reported to work that morning at the Edmond post office dressed in his regular blue uniform and mail bag. Except this time, he was carrying two .45 caliber pistols and a .22 caliber handgun plus over 300 rounds of ammunition.

His first victim was his shift supervisor, Richard Esser, Jr. It was reported that Sherrill calmly walked up to him and let him have it in the chest at close range. He then proceeded to get off more than 50 rounds into 14 other employees. It ended when Sherrill made himself the final target and committed suicide.

Patrick Sherrill has been credited with starting the concept known as "Going Postal"

Hartford Postal Worker Wounds Three Cops with Semi-automatic Rifle

( Sep 4, 1998)
After a neighbor accused Hartford Connecticut Postal worker, Edward Premo, 40 of vandalizing her car, Police showed up to investigate, but Premo was waiting in his yard and opened fire with two handguns. The officers wearing bulletproof vests returned fire. A third police officer was shot while still in his squad car by Premo who despite having been shot was able to procure a semi-automatic rifle to get busy on the newly arriving backups. After apphrehending Premo, The bomb squad searched Premo's trailer and discovered several homemade explosives. None of the officers injuries, nor Premo's, appeared to be life-threatening.

1 killed in postal shooting in Dallas

( April 17, 1998)
DALLAS (CNN) -- A postal clerk was shot to death at a post office in northwest Dallas on Friday, officials said. A co-worker was reportedly detained by police.

Postal inspector Linda Kirksey said the shooting happened shortly before noon.

Local broadcast reports said the victim was a woman who had worked for the USPS for 13 years, and that the alleged shooter was a part-time letter carrier who had worked there less than a year. Officials have not released the victim's identity.

The alleged shooter was wearing a uniform at the time of the incident, broadcast reports said. Customers may not have seen the shooting because the incident took place at the back of the building, according to a police officer. No one else was wounded in the attack, the officer said.

Miami Postal Worker Shoots Two, Kills Self.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla., Sept. 2, 1997(UPI)
Two women are improving in Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with gunshot wounds suffered in a Post Office shooting at Miami Beach. The conditions of 62-year-old Manuela Acosta and 55-year-old Mirna Mendoza, both of Miami Beach, were upgraded to serious today.

Investigators say it took just three shots for Jesus Antonio Tamayo to critically wound his ex-wife and her friend and then kill himself. Relatives say Acosta had gone to the Post Office with her friend to complain that Tamayo, her ex-husband, had been stealing her mail.

Investigators say they aren't sure what triggered Tamayo's explosion, despite relatives' comments about the mail. People who were in the Post Office said not a word was spoken as he approached the two women and opened fire.

Afterwards he walked out of the building lobby and around to the back. He tried to enter through a rear door, but someone inside had quickly locked it. Witnesses said he then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Postal Worker Turned Killer Faces 23 Years in Prison

LOS ANGELES--A former postal worker pleaded guilty to killing his supervisor, shooting the man twice while co-workers ran for cover. Bruce William Clark, 59, entered his plea to a federal charge of second-degree murder Friday in exchange for a sentence of 22 1/2 years for the July 9 shooting death of James Whooper III in a postal substation. He could have faced life in prison on the original charge of first-degree murder.

Authorities said the confrontation began when Clark punched Whooper in the back of the head at a mail processing center in the suburban town of Industry, then left and returned with a paper bag. When Whooper asked what was in the bag, Clark pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and shot Whooper twice, in the upper body and face, deputies said. Some of the 75 people in the building dove under desks or ran. Two of them grabbed Clark. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Donahue said Clark told police he was only targeting Whooper. Formal sentencing is scheduled for May 6.

Man Guilty of Slaying Highlighted by Letter to Landers

By Leef Smith - Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30 1997; Page D03 The Washington Post

A Southwest Virginia man who wrote Ann Landers a letter saying that he had killed his estranged wife was found guilty of first-degree murder yesterday. The Montgomery County, Va., jury recommended that he be sentenced to life plus 81 years in prison when the judge sentences him in July.

After five hours of deliberation over two days, the jurors found Michael Knowles, 48, guilty of the March 1996 shotgun slaying of Angie Knowles. He also was convicted of attempted capital murder for shooting at a sheriff's deputy who went to Angie Knowles's home the night of the murder. On Wednesday, minutes before the jury was to begin deliberating, Knowles, a former postal worker, stood up in court and tried to cut his throat with a disposable razor.

"He stood up and said he was a prophet of God and then started hacking away at his neck," said Montgomery Commonwealth's Attorney Phillip Keith.

Knowles was subdued by a bailiff and led out of the courtroom before he could hurt himself, officials said. His lawyer, Max Jenkins, said it was his client's mental instability that got him into trouble. Jenkins says his client is a paranoid schizophrenic, and during the trial, Knowles told the court that he talks with angels.

Mail handler kills supervisor who testified against him

Associated Press Friday Dec 20 '96 Las Vegas

A postal supervisor described as "the most non-confrontational guy in the world" was shot to death in the the parking lot Thursday, allegedly by a fired mail handler he had testified against. Charles Jennings, 41, surrendered a half-hour later, telling an officer he came upon: "I just murdered someone." James Brown, 59, senior labor relations supervisor for the main post office was gunned down as he arrived for work. Brown had represented the post office in arbitration hearings after Jennings' firing last May. The hearings upheld the firing.

Run for your Life! It's the Weird Guy!

On December 7, in Denver, Colo., postal clerk John Pitney, 50, having arrived at work wearing a dress and exhibiting "some bizarre behavior," according to a co-worker, was put on administrative leave and ordered out of the building. However, he attempted to come back in two more times--having augmented his wardrobe with a gorilla mask and a strap-on sexual device-- and was arrested. Police found several guns in his truck. [AP wirecopy, 12-12-95]

This paraphrased story has been taken from June 1995 issue of Oregon Cycling.

Postal Worker Menaces Cyclist

Apparantly, a local cyclist had a bit of trouble with a dog that ran off someone's porch and chased him down. He had a few words with the dog's owner and left. Later, he returned to take down the address of the house to file a formal complaint. When he returned, another person came out of the house with a gun. The cyclist fled as the person fired a couple of shots into the air.

A year and a half later, the case finally came to trial and the gun-toting person was found guily of menacing. The cyclist said that the person probably did NOT help their case by:

2 hit in postal service shooting

Associated Press

PALATINE, Ill. -- An employee walked into a Postal Service mail processing center [Tues Aug 29] and opened fire on coworkers, wounding two people, authorities said. The suspect was later arrested at his home.

The gunman shot one person in the lobby of the U.S. Postal Service building in this northwestern Chicago suburb, walked to the second floor and shot another man in the postal sorting area, police Cmdr. Jim Haider said.

One man was in critical condition. All three workers were postal clerks, said plant manager Mark Tovey. Worker Cynthia Murray said she heard two quick shots, then saw panic break out among the roughly 200 employees at the sprawling glass and steel building.

Clerk Maude Kelly said she's worked with both the victims and the gunman for about 20 years. All were friends, she said. ``I can't figure out why he did it. We've been here for a long time. (The gunman) was just a beautiful guy. We would joke and laugh together.''

The suspect was arrested 20 miles away at his home in the suburb of Northlake, police said. His name was not released. A recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that murder was the second leading cause of death on the job for postal workers, and third for all workers.

On July 9, a postal worker was accused of killing his boss at a mail processing center in City of Industry, Calif. On March 21, a former postal worker killed four people and wounded another at Montclair, N.J.

Postal Worker Shoots Two

August 29, 1995 (Guns of August)

Dorsey S. Thomas, 53, shot two co-workers, with whom he frequently "joked and had lunch." He had been a postal worker for 20 years with a spotless record. There is no known motive. The incident was in Palatine, Illinois. The two victims were hospitalized in stable condition.

Short Takes On Other Shootings

July 9, 1995
A postal worker walks up to his boss in a processing center in City of Industry, CA, and shoots him to death, authorities say. Bruce William Clark, 58, is arrested.

March 21, 1995
Christopher Green, 29, a former postal worker deeply in debt, kills four people and wounds one during a holdup at the Monclair, NJ post office. He pleads guilty to murder.

May 6, 1993 was a busy day for armed postal workers!

May 6, 1993 (Technically, he killed two...)
From the Dearborn Press & Guide --

Postal worker Lawrence Jasion led a deadly rampage in the garage area of the Dearborn MI post office, killing one and wounding two others. Another employee was injured after he fell while running out of the building for safety. The disgruntled parts clerk had opened fire with a .38 caliber revolver and carefully picked his victims, before turning the gun on himself. Afterwards employees hoped the tragedy would lead to a change in the post office's authoritarian structure.

May 6, 1993
Fired postal employee Mark Richard Hilburn shoots two workers, one fatally, in a Dana Point, CA, post office.

November 14, 1991
Fired postal worker Thomas McIlvane kills four supervisors and wounds five employees at his former post office in Royal Oak, MI, then kills himself.

October 10, 1991 (A delivery not worth being home for...)
Fired postal worker Joseph M. Harris allegedly kills a former supervisor and her boyfriend at their home in Wayne, NJ, then goes to the Ridgewood post office and kills two employees.

August 10, 1989

Postal worker John Merlin Taylor of Escondido, CA, kills his wife at their home, then drives to the Orange Glen post office, where he shoots two colleagues to death and wounds another before killing himself.

August 20, 1986

Patrick Henry Sherrill, a part-time letter carrier in Edmond, OK, kills 14 people in the post office before taking his own life. He had a history of work problems and faced the possibility of being fired.

Montclair NJ - Ex postal employee Kills several postal workers in post office robbery - he used to work at that office. He needed $5,000.

Return to Taking On Gun Control