|Anatomy of a
Tracing events of a tragic
|By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer|
A light fog hung over east Lauderdale County
minutes before sunrise Tuesday as Pete Threatt pulled up a
chair inside the Lockheed Martin plant to finish his Hardee’s
A few miles up the road in North
Meridian, Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie poured a cup
of coffee for his wife as he prepared for another day at the
In another part of the Lockheed
Martin plant, Doug Williams and his girlfriend, Shirley J.
Price, just finished eating their breakfast. They punched the
time clock and were ready to start work.
Three and a
half hours later, their lives changed forever — when Williams
opened fire on fellow workers with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing
five of them, injuring nine others and then taking his own
“It’s difficult,” said Threatt, who pleaded with
Williams to stop the shooting spree. “The images of my
co-workers being shot at point-blank range is something you
won’t ever get out of your mind.”
Since then, Sollie,
other law officers, Lockheed Martin officials and workers have
tried to piece together exactly what happened that day —
including what might have sparked Williams’
While people still search for a motive,
interviews with law enforcement officials and workers at the
plant show how an otherwise normal workday instantly turned
8:45 a.m.: Threatt
stopped and chatted with Williams after the plant’s 8:30 a.m.
break. The two had known each other since they started working
at Lockheed Martin in the early 1980s.
For the most
part, Threatt said, Williams was a likable guy, someone who
“you could hear laughing from across the plant.”
Threatt said, Williams was known to be battling depression
since a failed marriage in 1989. He also was known to snap at
other employees, including making racial comments.
Threatt said he knew Williams also was on two
antidepressants, Zoloft and Celexa.
Threatt and Williams talked about the voluntary overtime shift
the two worked two days before. Threatt said Williams “gave no
indications that anything was wrong.”
talking with Threatt, Williams passed by Brenda
DuBose worked near Williams assembling parts
for the F-22 Raptor jet. DuBose said she had worked alongside
Williams for years and was careful to be friendly to him
because he was known to have a violent temper.
reminded DuBose of a meeting the two were scheduled to
“He said, ‘Bren, you know we’ve got that
meeting,’” DuBose remembered. “I just looked at the clock and
said, ‘Is it that time already?’”
DuBose finished her
work, clocked out and headed for a training trailer connected
to the plant where she, Williams and about 15 others were
scheduled to attend a required annual business ethics
But Dubose said Williams stayed in the class for
a minute before he left, telling a few nearby employees “Y’all
can handle this.”
a.m.: Williams returned. He bolted through the classroom door
with a semi-automatic rifle strapped on his back, a bandoleer
draped across his chest and a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands
ready to fire.
One eyewitness said he looked like
Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo,” the violent, 1985 movie in
which Stallone used an arsenal of weapons to kill Vietnamese
and free American prisoners of war.
“He busted in the
door and said, ‘I told y’all to stop (expletive) with me.
Didn’t I tell y’all not to (expletive) with me?’” DuBose
Then Williams fired several shots, killing fellow
employees Sam Cockrell and Mickey Fitzgerald.
shots struck DeLois Bailey, Charles Scott and Al Collier,
seriously injuring them. Steve Cobb, the plant manager, Brad
Bynum, Chuck McReynolds and DuBose also were struck by bullet
A piece of buckshot grazed DuBose’s head and
hand, sending blood down her face. Some employees scampered
around the floor, taking cover under tables and under
Williams then briefly left the room, returned
and started shooting again.
“That’s when he started
calling for Jack Johns,” another employee, DuBose said. “He
was looking for him. And I started to crawl around and I was
Williams looked down at DuBose and told
her “‘Bren, I’m not going to shoot you.’”
the trailer again. Some employees came out from under the
tables. They moved chairs and desks in front of the door to
barricade the entrance.
Williams, however, headed for
the plant’s main floor.
9:40 a.m.: Sollie sat in his
office in downtown Meridian, searching the Internet for
information on an upcoming conference designed to prepare law
officers for terrorism.
Sollie was trying to determine
if he and his deputies should attend the conference.
Lockheed Martin, Threatt stood on the plant floor and was
talking with Williams’ direct supervisor, Jeff McWilliams.
Threatt, a union steward, said he was told by McWilliams that
Williams left the mandatory class.
“He was talking to
me about it when he looked over my shoulder and said, ‘Oh my
God!’” Threatt said. “It was Doug. He was jogging through the
plant with his guns, heading towards us.”
to Williams and pleaded “No Doug! Don’t do this.”
put my hands up and I tried to grab the gun and take it from
him,” Threatt said. “I looked into his eyes. Something had
snapped in the man. He wasn’t the Doug that I
“Whenever my hand hit the gun, he threw me off
like I was nothing. He leveled the shotgun on me and said,
‘Get out of my way or I’ll kill you, too.’ I knew it was for
9:43 a.m.: McWilliams
and other Lockheed workers immediately called 911.
Back at the sheriff’s department, Sollie was sitting
in his office with Maj. Ward Calhoun when the dispatch
received the emergency call. Sollie and Calhoun headed for the
Inside the plant, Threatt raced behind Williams
and screamed for people to take cover. But that was a tough
task — the plant is so noisy that some employees where
Williams was headed were wearing ear plugs.
yelling, but it was no use,” Threatt said.
trying to stop him, but he never turned around. He shot three
of my co-workers at point-blank range within 25 to 30 feet in
front of me.”
Threatt raced to his co-workers’ aid, but
they were already dead. Killed were Lynette McCall, Thomas
Willis and Charlie Miller. Injured in the firing were Henry
Odom and Randy Wright.
Then Threatt and another
employee, David Blanks, watched as Williams’ girlfriend,
Shirley J. Price, held up her hands and pleaded with him to
stop. Williams did.
“We heard another shot. He shot
himself in front of her,” Threatt said. “By the time we ran
over to her, she was screaming, ‘He’s killed himself. I tried
to talk to him and tried to tell him to stop, but he killed
9:49 a.m.: Sollie and
Calhoun arrived at the plant with several other law
enforcement officers. They surrounded the building and helped
employees seek shelter away from the plant.
chaos,” Calhoun said. “We started yelling, trying to get the
employees down the hill.”
Inside the plant, Threatt had
heard that co-workers had been shot inside the training
trailer — so he headed towards them. There, he said, he
watched his fellow employees become heroes.
Threatt walked in the trailer, he saw Mark Haggard holding
pressure on Charles Scott’s injured leg. At the same time,
Calvin Driggers ran around helping anyone he
Meanwhile, DuBose also was busy. She took off
her flannel shirt and used it in an effort to stop the
bleeding from Delois Bailey’s side.
“I’m so proud of my
co-workers,” Threatt said. “They were all heroes. They were
doing anything they could to help their
12 midnight Wednesday:
Sollie, physically and mentally drained, sat in bed in his
North Meridian home and tried to sleep.
witnessed the after-effects of the most violent crime he had
ever seen. He and his deputies helped to return order to a
hectic, chaotic scene at Lockheed Martin.
hosted two news conferences and spoke on his cell phone to
newspaper, television and radio reporters from around the
world about what had happened.
It was the only thing he
thought about the entire day. And now he wanted to
“I finally went to sleep shortly after
midnight,” Sollie said. “I woke up at 4:06 a.m. when someone
called for another interview.”
A few miles down the
road in Marion, Threatt was also trying to get some sleep. But
he wasn’t as successful as the sheriff, not after what
happened, not after what he saw.
“I haven’t been able
to sleep much,” Threatt said.
“I lay there and toss
and turn,” he said. “I sit and wonder if there is anything I
could have done. It’s hard. It’s so surreal. I don’t think
I’ll ever get these images out of my mind.”