January 31, 2006

Six dead after Calif. postal center shooting spree

By Jill Serjeant

GOLETA, California (Reuters) - A former postal employee
with a history of erratic behavior went on a shooting rampage
at a mail sorting center where she once worked, killing five
people before committing suicide, authorities said on Tuesday.

At least one other person, a woman, was critically wounded
in the shooting, which began shortly after 9 p.m. on Monday at
the warehouse-sized facility in the coastal town of Goleta,
about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, law enforcement and
U.S. Postal Service officials said.

Authorities initially had put the death toll at seven, but
at a news conference hours later said they had miscounted the
number of victims.

The suspect was identified as a 44-year-old former U.S.
Postal Service employee who once worked at the Goleta facility
and retired on medical disability in 2003.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson said she was
armed with a 9-millimeter pistol, and witnesses said she
reloaded the weapon at least once during her rampage.

Authorities said the woman's motive was not immediately
clear. But Randy Degasperin, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal
Inspection Service, said police had been called to remove the
woman from the facility while she was still employed there in
2003 after co-workers reported that "she was acting strangely."

"She wasn't threatening anybody, but she seemed to be
acting in a manner that concerned the other employees as far as
her welfare," Degasperin told reporters. He did not elaborate
further. She retired on disability later that year.


Authorities were alerted to Monday's shooting when dozens
of panicked postal workers streamed out of the complex and ran
to a firehouse across the street seeking help, according to the
spokesman, Capt. Keith Cullom.

The complex, surrounded by a tall fence, serves as the mail
distribution center for Santa Barbara County and employs 300
people. About 95 were on duty at the time of the shooting,
Postal Inspection Service spokesman Paul Krenn said.

Fire and rescue personnel arriving at the scene found the
bodies of two victims and a badly wounded employee in a loading
area outside the center, Anderson said.

The sprawling facility was then cordoned off while police
entered the building. After a three-hour search, authorities
had found a second wounded employee and the bodies of three
more people, including the suspect, who police said took her
own life.

The two wounded employees were taken to the nearby Santa
Barbara Cottage Hospital, and one of them later died, bringing
the total death toll to six, authorities said.

All of the shooting victims, except one of the dead, were

Before Monday's rampage, shootings at Postal Service
facilities had claimed 19 lives during the past 20 years, most
recently in 1998 in Dallas, where one man shot a fellow
employee to death during an argument. The deadliest such
shooting on record was in 1986, when a postal employee in
Edmond, Oklahoma, shot and killed 14 co-workers and himself,
according to the Postal Service.

The Postal Service employs more than 700,000 people and
claims that its rate of workplace violence is lower than the
overall U.S. average.

(Additional reporting by Phil Klein, Gina Keating and Peter
Henderson in Los Angeles)