Chicago - Ex-worker’s rampage leaves 7 dead

August 27, 2003,

A man with an arrest record for weapons and other violent offenses killed six people in a South Side warehouse from which he was fired six months ago, police said.

The dead included two brothers who owned the business and one of their sons along with three other co-workers.

Armed with a semi-automatic pistol, the man engaged in a running gun battle with police. Officers charged the building and fatally shot him when he allegedly refused to drop his weapon.

The gunman was identified as Salvador Tapia, 36. His address was unknown.

"This morning, at 8:36, a former employee opened fire in the auto supply warehouse where he once worked. As a result, six people have been murdered," said acting Chicago Police Supt. Phil Cline.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference to discuss the incident, Cline called it "a senseless tragedy" and praised the "heroic police officers" who risked their lives when they charged into the warehouse â€" a maze of barrels, crates, containers and narrow aisles.

The incident began for police at 8:37 a.m., when 9th District officers responded to reports of shots being fired at Windy City Core Supply Inc., an auto parts salvage company in the 3900 block of South Wallace Street in the city’s Bridgeport neighborhood.

There they encountered a man who had hobbled out of the building with his hands tied behind his back, Cline said. He told police he had been tied up by the offender but escaped as the gunman walked around inside the building, shooting employees.

"We know he tied up one victim inside and started killing the other victims," Cline said. He said police don’t know why Tapia spared the one co-worker.

Police tried to enter but repeatedly were driven off by the gunman’s fire. A short time later, a police hostage barricade team arrived and, determining there were wounded people inside, decided to charge the building.

"It was very difficult for our officers," Cline said. "It’s a warehouse of used engine parts and hundreds of 55-gallon drums filled with engine parts, crates (and) containers, with very little room to maneuver in there. You have to go down one of these passageways, and that’s where he was hiding, behind one of these boxes."

Police ordered Tapia to drop his gun and shot him when he refused. He was taken to Stroger Hospital of Cook County, where he was pronounced dead.

Some of his victims were declared dead at the scene, and others were pronounced dead at Stroger and at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center. The victims’ bodies were taken to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Windy City fired Tapia, a laborer, six months ago for poor performance â€" for showing up late for work, and for causing trouble there, Cline said.

The suspect had been arrested 12 times in the last 14 years, including a 1989 conviction for unlawful use of weapons, for which he received a year’s probation, Cline said.

He was arrested again in 1992 for a weapons offense, but the charge was dropped. Tapia also had two arrests for aggravated assault and four for domestic battery, plus traffic and other offenses, Cline said

While gunshots were being exhanged this morning, police evacuated all buildings within a block of the auto parts firm.

Pamela George, 38, who works as a cook and waitress at Dox Grill across the street, said she was cooking when a worker from the business ran into the restaurant frantically asking for a phone.

"He said someone was in there shooting. He was really scared, like a chicken with

its head cut off," she said.

George said police swarmed the site within five minutes and evacuated the restaurant.

Al Martinez, owner of a business about a half block from the shooting scene, said he was at work when he heard the sound of gunfire.

"We saw a guy shooting at police officers outside the building and saw people running around like crazy," said Martinez, who owns Midway Pallets. "We came and saw all the cops running, hiding behind cars."

Among the victims identified by the Cook County medical examiner’s office were brothers and owners Alan Weiner, 50, of Wilmette, and Howard Weiner, 59, of Northbrook. Daniel Weiner, 30, Howard’s son, was also killed, officials said.

The other victims were identified as Calvin Ramsey, 44, Robert Taylor, 53, and Juan Valles, 34, all of Chicago.

Taylor had been married more than 20 years with four children and served as the deacon of his church, said his sister, Minnie Taylor.

"He was well loved, well liked," she said. "His smile, his kindnesss, he always had something kind to say."

Today’s shooting was the most serious incident of workplace rage locally in the last three years.

On Feb. 5, 2001, William D. Baker, a former employer of Navistar International, brought a cache of guns to the company’s Melrose Park diesel engine plant and killed four people and wounded four others before killing himself. Baker was one day away from starting a federal prison term for a felony conviction for stealing from Navistar.