2 killed, 3 hurt in 2 separate post office shootings Disgruntled postal workers blamed in California, Michigan incidents

May 07, 1993|By Seth Mydans | Seth Mydans,New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- Two people were killed and three others were wounded in separate shootings yesterday at post offices in California and Michigan. Disgruntled postal employees were blamed in both cases.

In Dana Point, Calif., 50 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, a postal worker who had been dismissed several months ago walked into a small post office and opened fire, killing a letter carrier, wounding a clerk and sending customers fleeing into the street, officials said.

The gunman was being sought by the police after fleeing in a blue pickup truck with a kayak on the roof.

Shortly afterward, a woman believed to be the gunman's mother was found dead in a house in nearby Corona del Mar. A dog also was found dead in the house.

Just a few hours earlier in Dearborn, Mich., a postal worker who had been passed over for a promotion shot three people, killing one, in a post office garage. He was later found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The shootings revived questions about security at post offices and about employment conditions in the Postal Service. There has been a series of shootings in post offices in recent years involving postal workers.

The worst of these came on Aug. 20, 1986, in Edmond, Okla., where a part-time letter carrier, Patrick Henry Sherrill, killed 14 people before taking his own life. Mr. Sherrill had had a history of work problems and faced the possibility of being dismissed.

In Washington yesterday, the postmaster general, Marvin T. Runyon, issued a statement saying the Postal Service would offer counseling to employees at both post offices.

There is enough concern within the Postal Service about shootings that the service has set up a task force to address the issue, said Roy Betts, spokesman for the Postal Service.

But he acknowledged that the incidence of violence was higher at the Postal Service than at other government agencies, primarily he said, because postal employees work under especially high-pressured conditions.

"Other government agencies don't do what we do," Mr. Betts said.

"You have deadlines, time limits, time constraints in which to move mail from point A to point B so there's clearly pressure to move the mail to serve our customers as effectively and efficiently as possible," he said.

In the California shooting, the authorities identified the gunman as Mark Richard Hilbun, 39, a postal employee who was dismissed several months ago.

The police said the victims included a male employee, 42, who was killed, and a male employee, 44, who was treated for a grazing wound in the head.

David Smith, a postal inspector in charge of the Los Angeles region, said Mr. Hilbun knew the people he shot but he could not say whether they had been specifically targeted. Mr. Smith said he could not confirm reports that Mr. Hilbun had previously threatened violence.

There was turmoil in the small shops surrounding the post office in the normally tranquil Southern California beachside town.

"Everybody was cursing and screaming and yelling, 'Oh, my God, they shot so-and-so!' " said Bruce Cohen, a store owner. " 'They shot him! They shot him! Oh, my God, you can't believe it! What do we do?' "

In the Dearborn shooting, the police identified the gunman as Larry Jason, 45. He opened fire in the post office garage with two guns, said Police Chief Ronald Denziel.

"At this point we're not certain whether there were specific targets or just a venting of rage against all fellow employees," Chief Denziel said.

He said Mr. Jason had been upset that a job he had sought went to a female worker, but it is not known whether that other worker was one of the victims of the shooting.

A postal inspector, Fred Van de Putte, said that Mr. Jason had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over losing the promotion but that the complaint had been rejected about six weeks ago.

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