Gunman Inside Factory Surrenders


Created: 10/21/2004



The man turned himself in to police at 10:15pm Thursday night. Earlier in the day, the man started shooting at employees of a conveyor belt factory.

Witnesses say the man was a former employee of Beltservice Corporation entered the building on Rider Trail North Road in Earth City with a shotgun and started shooting. One worker was wounded. The victim was taken to an area hospital. where he is reported to be in fair condition.

Witnesses say the suspect then went outside, re-loaded his weapon and went back inside. In the words of one witness, the gunman "just kept shooting."

The chairman of the company, Dick Engelsmann, tells NewsChannel 5's Mike Owens that he was in his second floor office when he looked out his window and saw the shooting suspect nearing the building with a shotgun. Engelsmann says the suspect entered the building and fired at least five shots.

Engelsmann says at the time of the shooting, the company was in the middle of a shift change, with nearly 70 people inside the building.

Witnesses say at least one person was shot in the leg. Another employee reportedly remained inside the building to tend to the wounded worker.

At least one person has been transported by ambulance to St. Joseph's Heatlh Center in St. Charles. This person is said to have suffered an injury while making his escape. This injury is not believed to be life threatening.

Witnesses Say Man 'Kept Firing'
"Boom! Then instantaneously, I heard another," said Craig Kopplin, 33. Kopplin said he saw the gunman only from behind and did not recognize him: "I heard the two shots and ran in the opposite direction."

Another worker, Kevin Tippit, said he heard at least five gunshots, with the suspect firing at people at close range. Tippit, 41, also bolted and sought shelter in a neighboring building's dock area.

"I was looking through the windows, and the guy came out, reloaded his gun and went right back in," he said. "It's craziness, craziness."

Sketch of a Suspect
Employees of Beltservice tell NewsChannel 5 that the shooting suspect is a former employee of the company. He had been fired more than a year ago after working in the company's fabrication department.

Engelsmann would not identify the gunman, nor would he say why the man was fired.

Area Under Lock Down
Heavily armed police had cordoned off
several blocks around the plant, shooing away reporters and the curious.

This affects potentially thousands of workers in the area. Many business near the area have been told to keep employees inside while the search for the gunman continues.

Company Had Incident Plan
One employee of Beltservice says the company did have a plan in place in case of a workplace shooting incident. But the plan, which did call for a building evacuation, did not include the possiblity of an incident occuring during a shift change, when the situation is at it's most hectic.