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Shooting at Mississippi Lockheed Martin Plant

Aired July 8, 2003 - 12:04   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to Meridian, Mississippi now. We're following a breaking story now, a shooting at a Lockheed Martin facility in Meridian.
Let's bring in Sheriff Billy Sollie. He is on the phone joining us from the scene.

Sheriff, what can you tell us what's going on in Meridian?

SHERIFF BILL SOLLIE, LAUDERDALE CO. MISSISSIPPI: At this time right now, the scene is secure. We have transported eight employees to local hospitals. We have six confirmed fatalities here, including the shooter.

BLITZER: So that would be five people plus the shooter are dead. Is that what you're saying, sheriff?

SOLLIE: That's correct.

BLITZER: Is there any indication of motive?

SOLLIE: At this time right now, as this is just unfolding, we've got the employees in an area, and we're going to talk to each employee and find out as much as we can as quick as we can.

BLITZER: Do you know how the shooter died?

SOLLIE: Appears to be a .750 gunshot wound. He was armed with at least two weapons. Again, that area has been secured, and the state crime lab is coming in. There may be additional weapons, but we can see a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle.

BLITZER: Does it appear to you the shooter killed himself after shooting these other people?

SOLLIE: As it appears right now, looking at the crime scene, it appears it was a .750 gunshot wound to the torso.

BLITZER: And what are the conditions as far as you can tell of the errs who have been injured?

SOLLIE: There were, again, eight people transported. Some of them were in serious or critical condition.

BLITZER: So there are eight people transported to hospitals who have been shot, but are still alive, is that right, sheriff?

SOLLIE: That's correct.

BLITZER: And five people are confirmed dead, a sixth, the shooter appears to be a self-inflicted after opening up fire at this facility?

SOLLIE: That's correct, sir.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about this Lockheed plant. What do they do there?

SOLLIE: They produce or assemble parts for the airplanes. Again, it's located approximately three miles outside the city of Meridian, which places in the jurisdiction of the sheriff's department.

BLITZER: How many people as far as you know work at this Lockheed Martin plant?

SOLLIE: I would say there's approximately 100 employees.

BLITZER: A hundred employees, and at this point, there's no indication what might have motivate this had shooter to go in there and open fire?

SOLLIE: Again, at this time, we're starting to interview the employees to try to determine a motive. Again, one can only speculate, but we're not going to do that at this time.

BLITZER: Sheriff, what do you know about the history of this plant? Had there been any grievances, any serious problems, labor problems, anything along that nature?

SOLLIE: None of any type of violence. This plant has been here for probably 20 or 30 years. You know, no violence at all at this location.

BLITZER: It's a peaceful area. So this would be highly unusual what exactly happened there this morning. Walk us through, sheriff, how you found out what was going on, how long the incident actually occurred before it was resolved apparently, with the shooter taking his own life.

SOLLIE: I was in my office talking with my majors. The radio dispatch announced that there was a shooting at the Lockheed Martin plant, and while we were en route, dispatch were in contact with employees by phone, giving us the name of the shooter, a description of the shooter, and then they started notifying the dispatch of multiple injuries. The local ambulance service was dispatched with a call-in for additional ambulances. Area law enforcement responded. The building was secured, entry was gained, and the shooter was found deceased.

BLITZER: Did I understand you correctly, sheriff, that you have a name for the shooter?

SOLLIE: We do have it, but we're not releasing it at this time. We'll intend to notify next of kin.

BLITZER: Without releasing the name, can you tell us if she was a employee at the facility?

SOLLIE: It's my understanding he was an employee.

BLITZER: And as far as you know, sheriff, was he released? Was he fired at some recent point, or was he on the job? Was he an employee at the time of the incident?

SOLLIE: At this time, the management has not told us of any grievance he might have had toward the facility, or towards management or towards any other employees. But he randomly went through the building shooting.

BLITZER: Do you know what kind of weapon he had?

SOLLIE: A distant visual observation of the area you can see two weapons, one of them being a shotgun, the other one being a semiautomatic rifle.

BLITZER: So he came in armed with two weapons and just opened fire, started to spray randomly, or did he appear to be aiming at specific individuals?

SOLLIE: At this time, there were both male, female, white, black employees shot. At this time, there's no indication that he was looking for any one group.

BLITZER: Sheriff Sollie, you're at the plant right now. Give us a little bit of flavor, or what the mood is right now. It must be horrible. It must be shock as a result of what's happening.

Let me just recap for viewers who are just tuning in. Five people confirmed dead, a sixth, the shooter, allegedly took his own life after the shooting, eight other employees shot and taken to a local hospital.

But go ahead, sheriff, and tell us a little bit about what's happening at the plant right now.

SOLLIE: We've been able to get the employees over into one section of the plant itself. Again, it's a very large plant. We have numerous chaplains that came to assist us with coming to the aid of those who witnessed this horrible event. We've got the crime scene itself cordoned off, waiting for the state crime lab to come in and collect the physical evidence. It's a very somber mood amongst the employees, but everybody has been very helpful in assisting us to preserve the scene and assist us in every way.

BLITZER: Sheriff, has anything like this ever happened in Meridian or in the county where you work, obviously?

SOLLIE: No, sir, this is a first, and hopefully the last incident like we have experience this morning. BLITZER: And so the investigation now will begin in full force ahead to try to determine what motivated the shooter to simply go in there and open fire. How do you go about the next steps of this investigation?

SOLLIE: Again, we're going to speak to each employee, find out his friends, his group of friends, and hopefully gain information from them that will aid management, if it is a problem with the plant or with the management or with the other employees, but we're going to be talking with each employee throughout the day and the several days later.

BLITZER: Did all the shootings, sheriff, occur in one specific area in the plant, or did the shooter start running and go throughout a bigger area?

SOLLIE: He went through the entire plant shooting individuals throughout the facility. There was no one small area that he was confined his victims and shot them. He went through the building.

BLITZER: And he just randomly shot at individuals, apparently without just seeing how many people he could kill, is that fair?

SOLLIE: That's what it appears. Several of the victims appeared fell at their workstations.

BLITZER: And he just shot them randomly. I just want to pinpoint you on this. It did not look like he was targeting individuals, he was just shooting wildly?

SOLLIE: At this time, that's what it appears, but again as we interview the employees and get more details, that may change.

BLITZER: And you don't know whether this individual, the shooter, had been laid off or fired in recent days or weeks?

SOLLIE: At this time, the management has not advise us of any disciplinary actions towards him.

BLITZER: And when was he running around shooting individuals, was he screaming anything, was he shouting anything? Were there any initial reports what he might have been saying, if anything?

SOLLIE: Again, because the employees have been sectioned off, our investigators are starting their interview process now. I have to see that information myself.

BLITZER: How many investigators, law enforcement personnel, do you have on the scene?

SOLLIE: We have approximately 25 officers from various agencies, the Meridian Police Department, Fish and Game, state narcotics, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sheriff's department. So it's a community effort to come and assist the Walter (ph) County Sheriff's Department.

BLITZER: But right now, as far as you know, sheriff, it looks like the incident is over, that this was a one-man operation, simply ran in there, started shooting with these two weapons, but now he's apparently taken his own life, so the actual incident is over, there's no other individuals involved, is that right, sheriff?

SOLLIE: That's correct.

BLITZER: So it's quiet now. People are just trying to deal with a horrendous situation, a frightening situation. What time exactly locally, Central Time I believe you are, what time did it actually occur, the incident?

SOLLIE: I believe it was sometime around 9:30. I'm not exact of the time. Again, when I get back to the office and we're able to start putting the facts together, I will get an exact time.

My department was the first department on the scene. I, along with the other employees, got here, got the situation under control, found what we found and been handling this crisis since then. So putting the facts together -- it is just now starting. So I'm sorry, I don't have much information to give you, but again, as the day goes on, we'll get more details available for the media.

BLITZER: Sheriff, you've given us a lot of details. Unfortunately, the details are not very good, and I'll recap briefly, six confirmed dead, including the shooter, apparently a self-inflicted wound after opening fire. Eight other employees have been taken to the hospital. They have been shot. We don't know their condition.

Is there any kind of security normally at that Lockheed Martin facility, where employees or others who go in go through metal detectors, or is it just an open plant?

SOLLIE: It's just an open plant sir.

BLITZER: And there's no reason to have that kind of security, given the history of this plant which has been in business, what do you say, about 20 years.

SOLLIE: A little bit over 20 years, sir. A little bit closer toward 30, I would imagine, but again, there's not been any violent situations here. This is unexpected. It has caught everybody off guard.

BLITZER: All right, well, sheriff, I know this is going to be a horrendous day for you and all of your personnel. Thanks for taking these few moments to brief our viewers on precisely what's going on. Sheriff Billy Sollie, he's on the scene at the Lockheed Martin plant just outside Meridian, Mississippi.

Sheriff, good luck to you. Good luck to all the law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, the first responders on the scene in Meridian.


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