- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — A white factory worker known as a racist who talked about murdering others opened fire with a shotgun at a Lockheed Martin Corp. plant yesterday, killing four blacks and one white before committing suicide, authorities said.

Dozens of employees at the aircraft-parts plant frantically ran for cover after Doug Williams, a 48-year-old assembler, dressed in a black T-shirt and camouflage pants, started firing during a morning break.

Nine persons were injured, one of them critically, in the nation’s deadliest workplace shooting in 2 years.

“At first, I thought it was something falling on the ground. Then I walked to the aisle and saw him aiming his gun. I took off. Everybody took off,” said Booker Steverson, who had been helping assemble airplane parts when he heard the first shot.

The rampage occurred after Williams attended a meeting on workplace ethics. It was not immediately clear exactly what had provoked him. But Mr. Steverson said Williams was known as a racist who particularly did not like blacks.

Co-worker Hubert Threat said that Williams “was mad at the world. This man had an issue with everybody.”

“It’s not just about race. It was just the excuse he was looking for,” Mr. Threat said.

Jim Payton, who is retired from the plant but had worked with Williams for about a year, said Williams had talked about wanting to kill people.

“I’m capable of doing it,” Mr. Payton quoted Williams as saying.

One of those killed was Lanette McCall, a black woman who had worked at the plant 15 years. Her husband, Bobby McCall, said she had expected Williams to harm someone someday.

“She said he made a threat against black people,” a distraught Mr. McCall said.

Nevertheless, Sheriff Billy Sollie said it appeared that Williams had fired at random with the shotgun and the semiautomatic rifle.

“There was no indication it involved race or gender as far as his targets were concerned,” Sheriff Sollie said.

The sheriff had no information on whether the gunman had been in trouble with his bosses. He said Williams had attended the meeting yesterday morning with other employees, some of whom were later shot.

“We are not sure if those killed were friend or foe,” the sheriff said.

Authorities said Williams was carrying a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle when he entered the plant, but that he apparently used only the 12-gauge shotgun. He also had three other small-caliber guns in his truck.

Besides Mrs. McCall, 47, of Cuba, Ala., the persons killed were Micky Fitzgerald, 45, of Little Rock, Miss.; Thomas Willis, 57, of Lisman, Ala.; and Sam Cockrell, 46, and Charlie Miller, 58, both of Meridian.

The shooting stunned residents of Meridian, a city of 40,000 near the Alabama line whose economy is largely dependent on the military. It is home to the Lockheed plant, a naval air station and an Air National Guard training center.

“We know one another, almost everyone knows someone who works in the building, or has a relative who works in the building,” said Craig Hitt, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors.

The Meridian plant employs about 150 people and builds parts for C-130J Hercules transport planes and vertical stabilizers for F-22 Raptor fighter jets.

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