UPDATE 8/3/10: In light of today’s workplace shootings in Manchester, I’ve provided some additional thoughts on workplace violence with reference back to the lottery headquarters shootings.
In small states like Connecticut, at times it feels like everyone is separated by something less than Six Degrees.
Ten years ago today, a troubled worker walked into the headquarters for the Connecticut Lottery and shot and killed four top lottery officials, before turning the gun on himself. Although I didn’t know anyone personally, others that I worked with did.
The New York Times article the day after the shooting tells a story that is as haunting and chilling today as it was ten years ago:
Angered about a salary dispute and his failure to win a promotion, a Connecticut Lottery accountant reported promptly to his job this morning, hung up his coat and then methodically stabbed and gunned down four of his bosses, one of whom he chased through a parking lot, before turning the gun on himself.
As the shots rang out through the hallways of the lottery headquarters here in this quiet Hartford suburb, witnesses and the police said, dozens of employees, some yelling, ”Run to the woods,” headed into the brushy hillside surrounding the office while others dived into nearby ditches.
The gunman, Matthew Beck, 35, had walked into the executive offices, stabbed and shot one top official and shot two others — saying ”bye-bye” to one of them — and then chased the State Lottery president, Otho R. Brown, several hundred yards into a parking lot. Mr. Brown, 54, stumbled as he ran, the police said, and just as officers arrived on the scene, they saw Mr. Beck fire a semiautomatic handgun at the executive, killing him immediately.
Within seconds, as two Newington police detectives approached Mr. Beck, he put the gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, to his right temple and shot himself, said John Connelly, the head of the state police.
In addition to Mr. Brown, the other victims were three of the most senior managers at the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, a quasi-public authority: Linda Mlynarczyk, 37, chief financial officer, of New Britain; Frederick Rubelmann 3d, 40, vice president of operations, of Southington, and Michael Logan, 33, information systems manager, of Colchester.
The Hartford Courant, in fact, won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of that event. In light of headlines each month about various shootings at workplaces around the country, it seems foolish to suggest that this particular shooting led to massive changes here. But I think for many, it did change the way we think about workplace violence issues.
In hindsight, the employee exhibited signs of stress before the incident, even writing an angry letter to officials in the weeks prior. After this incident, I’m certain there were some employers who took any threat by an employee much more seriously. I’m not suggesting that more should’ve been done beforehand (I don’t know enough about it to judge), but I do think that employers in the state were re-awakened to the need to have and enforce workplace violence policies. Employee Assistance Programs seemed more prominent and discussions about guns in the workplace followed.
Others have written about workplace violence policies and suggestions to follow. But on today’s anniversary (on which the Governor has suggested a moment a silence at 8:45 a.m.), perhaps the best thing we all can do is simply to recall the events of that horrible day and resolve that the lessons learned from that day won’t be forgotten.