July 3, 2004
Dozens sue over Lockheed shootings
By Jeremy Hudson
Employees fled the Lockheed Martin plant near Meridian when a co-worker shot 14 people last July, but were forced to view the carnage when management ordered them back inside for a "live head count" moments after the shooting, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday.
Forty-seven employees and relatives of employees joined in the suit, which claimed they suffered emotional distress from being subjected to the bodies of their co-workers. Plant employee Doug Williams, 48, shot and killed six co-workers and wounded eight others before committing suicide at the plant on July 8, 2003, officials said. It was the state's deadliest act of workplace violence
"When Lockheed ordered everyone to the canteen area, I twice had to try to find a way that did not have a body lying in the aisle," Cathy Mumford, a six-year Lockheed employee said in a court affidavit.
The lawsuit, which is one side of a legal argument, also claims Lockheed failed to protect its employees by ignoring numerous complaints that Williams threatened to shoot black co-workers. It also claims Lockheed fostered a volatile work environment and denied employee requests for security guards before the shooting.
Two other lawsuits also were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Jackson against Lockheed Martin.
Shirley Price, Williams' girlfriend and 23-year Lockheed employee, filed a suit claiming she was wrongfully fired from her job at the plant because of the relationship she had with Williams.
Billy Eugene Bradley, a 20-year Lockheed employee, and his wife, Mary Jane Bradley, filed the other lawsuit, claiming Lockheed failed to address his concerns about Williams making threats against Billy Bradley for befriending black co-workers. He also claims in the lawsuit he was wrongfully fired from the company after the shootings.
"Lockheed would only mock Bradley and called him crazy and berated him for being too emotional," according to a court affidavit. "And they never did anything to stop Williams' harassment."
Each plaintiff is represented by Meridian attorney Bill Ready and the Pritchard Law Firm in Pascagoula. Each of the lawsuits seeks unspecified damages. Ready could not be reached Friday.
"The shooting at the Meridian facility was a senseless tragedy to all who were affected by it, including the victims, their families, the community and all the hard working men and women at Lockheed Martin who, like the families, still mourn the loss of their colleagues," Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Stout said in a prepared statement. "Lockheed Martin has been cleared of responsibility for this incident by state and federal authorities and is confident that the same conclusion will be reached by the court. Out of respect for the victims, their families, our employees and the judicial system, we will have no further public comment on the litigation."
Christal Bailey, the lead plaintiff in the multi-party suit, is the only person involved in either suit because of a relative's death. Her mother, Delois Bailey, was shot in the pelvis and died one week after the shooting.
"When my mother and I talked, she often said she felt she was subjected to a series of related acts which created and maintained a threatening, violent and hostile work environment," Bailey said in an affidavit. "She would talk about the deliberate indifference Lockheed created and that they maintained a hostile environment."
Henry Odom, a 35-year Lockheed employee who joined in the multi-party suit, said in a court affidavit he had complained to management about fights and auto thefts at the plant for years and asked for security guards at the plant.
"Lockheed always replied to such requests by refusing with indication that it had more important things to worry about than security," Odom said in the court papers.
He was shot by Williams in his left arm twice, with the second shot piercing his back and puncturing a lung, his affidavit reads. The company now has armed security guards on duty, the papers said. Had the guards been present on the day of the shooting, lives could have been saved, the papers said.
About three weeks before the shooting, Williams placed a work-issued "bootie" on his head that, to some, looked like a hood worn by a Ku Klux Klan, the lawsuit said. He was confronted by plant management, but left the plant angry and did not return for about a week, the lawsuit said.
He was allowed to return to work, but was ordered to attend an ethics course with black co-workers. At the meeting, he was seated next to Sam Cockrell, whom Williams thought filed the complaint about the "bootie" situation, the lawsuit said. Williams left that meeting, told other workers he was angered and was going to "take care of this" himself, according to the court papers.
He returned to the meeting room, fired upon some in the room and then moved to the plant floor where others were killed.
"Williams made such specific and unequivocal threats and promises to supervisory and other personnel of Lockheed that Lockheed had sufficient time to both stop him before he entered the premises with loaded firearms and/or to warn plaintiffs and other employees of the imminent danger he posed," the lawsuit reads.
"Additionally, Lockheed management were told, but ignored, that Williams was headed toward the plant with guns," the papers rea