Goshen Marks Year Since Factory Shootings

December 6, 2002

GOSHEN, Ind.- In the year since a factory worker killed his boss and wounded six co-workers

before shooting himself, police and employers have begun training officers and workers to recognize

signs someone may become violent.

Faced with four lawsuits alleging authorities failed to respond adequately to the Dec. 6, 2001

shootings at Nu-Wood Decorative Millwork, officials say there are limits to what police can do.

"We don't have enough police officers so they can go to every plant because someone is upset

because they were terminated," said Goshen Mayor Alan Kauffman. "That happens all the time."

Some victims said police did not respond to a phone call from plant manager Greg Oswald about

two hours before Robert Wissman went on a rampage.

Others who were there, however, told police that Wissman made no threats when he was sent

home that morning after fighting with another employee.

"I said ... let's just call police and let them be aware of the situation," Nu-Wood co-owner Mark

Vesley said in a statement to police. "From what I saw of Robert there was no threat. He never

made a threat that I'm aware of."

Authorities said there is no record of Oswald's call, so they do not know what he said or who spoke

with him _ or even what agency he called.

The city has since installed recording equipment to monitor all calls to the police department's

business line. Calls to 911 or to dispatchers were already recorded.

Goshen Police Chief Terry Schollian said department policy for years has been to send an officer if

a specific threat was made. If there was no threat, employers were given the option of filing for a

restraining order.

Officers can arrest a worker if he violates a restraining order, but if no laws are broken, police

options are limited.

Police in nearby Elkhart have revised their policies since the shootings, requiring an officer to be

dispatched to evaluate the potential for violence.

"We've found what we are calling some profile signs of aggression ... what they're liable to say or

what they are liable to be involved in. It's one of a number of responses that could happen,"

Assistant Chief Tom Cutler said.

"Part of what's happened since then is we've had to revisit our response to calls for service from

workplaces and try to train our people to evaluate the threat level for a variety of different situations,"

he said.

Police saw an increased number of such calls in the months following the Nu-Wood shootings,

Cutler said, but some of that may have been a result of increased awareness or increased

sensitivity from co-workers.

Employers also bear some responsibility, he said.

"One of the first steps in most workplace violence prevention programs is careful screening of

employees for prior acts of violence," Cutler said. "That's Step 1 in almost everybody's protocol _

look at who you're bringing in the door."

Several companies developed violence prevention and response plans through workshops offered by

the Goshen Chamber of Commerce after the shootings.

"I sense that if people didn't have a plan in place after Nu-Wood they put one in and move on.

People in the community, in general, recognized the importance of planning ahead," said Wes

Graff, president of the chamber.

One thing business leaders have learned is the need to work with employees to notice warning

signs early on, Graff said. He said employers are more prepared and generally not as worried as

they were immediately after the shootings.

(Source: Myinky.com News Service)