Workplace Shooting Leaves Three Dead In Tennessee, Including the Shooter

A workplace shooting at a Tennessee factory has left three dead, including the shooter, law officials said.

According to ABC News, Ricky Swafford, 45, entered the Thomas & Betts steel fabrication factory in Athens, Tennesee, Thursday afternoon and fatally shot his two supervisors before taking his own life.

The factory where the workplace shooting took place is located about 60 miles northeast of Chattanooga. A steel manufacturing organization, the factory reportedly does not have its own security on-site.

Police responded to a 911 call at 4:16 p.m. of a workplace shooting at the factory, Athens police chief Chuck Ziegler said at a press conference earlier in the day. As officers responded, they came upon employees streaming out of the plant.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified the victims as James A. Zotter, 44, and 68-year-old Sandra H. Cooley.

According to a preliminary investigation, Swafford became upset during a meeting with his supervisors, although the details of that meeting have not been revealed.

Swafford, who is a long-time employee of the factory, reportedly left the meeting and the building, only to return some time later.

Upon his return, Swafford allegedly entered the office of the factory, according to TBI.

Athens Police Chief Charles Ziegler told WBIR that Swafford first attempted to shoot his supervisors in the front office area, but, for whatever reason, no one was hurt then. Later, Swafford reportedly continued his shooting spree “deep inside the factory.”

Swafford’s body was found in a bathroom in the factory by police officers, with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, TBI said.

ABB, the parent company for Thomas & Betts, described the loss as profound in a statement posted to Twitter.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families during this difficult time. We will have grief counselors available to all of our employees at the facility. ABB is working closely with authorities to cooperate and assist in their investigation.”

The bodies of the two victims, as well as that of the shooter, will be taken to Knoxville for autopsies.

The factory where the shooting took place is located near McMinn County High School, but students had dismissed at the time of the incident.

There were still several athletic teams practicing at the school at the time of the shooting, Director of Schools Mickey Blevins told WBIR. Once word got out about the shooting, the student-athletes were moved inside. At that point, the school went on full lockdown.

Once the all clear was sounded, Blevins said students were dismissed to their parents and teachers walked drivers to their cars.

Authorities said they would determine overnight whether to hold classes on Friday.

The workplace shooting has left the town reeling. Sheriff Joe Guy said this is something that just doesn’t occur in their small community.

“I don’t think you ever want to think this will occur in your community. This is one of those tragedies that we see on TV all the time, it happens everywhere else, it never supposed to happen in Athens.”

The investigation into the workplace shooting at Thomas & Betts remains active and ongoing.

[Featured Image by Tex Texin | Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and resized | CC BY 2.0]