November 14, 1991
in Royal Oak, Michigan, Thomas McIlvane killed five people, including
himself, with a Ruger 10/22 rifle in Royal Oak's post office, after
being fired from the Postal Service for "insubordination."
He had been
previously suspended for getting into altercations with postal customers
on his route.
Ex-Postal Worker Kills 3 and Wounds
6 in Michigan
By Doron P. Levin - The New York Times
Friday, November 15,
A former postal clerk, furious that he
had been dismissed from his job, walked into a regional postal center
Thursday morning and opened fire with a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle,
killing three workers and wounding six, before fatally wounding himself,
the authorities said.
Three other workers were injured while trying to
escape by jumping out windows of the two-story building during the
shooting spree, which the police estimated lasted five or six minutes.
The gunman, Thomas McIlvane, 31 years old, of nearby
Oak Park, then turned the weapon on himself, officials said.
He was declared dead early today at William Beaumont
Hospital in Royal Oak, about two miles north of Detroit, and doctors
began removing his organs for transplants, Collette Stimmell, a hospital
spokeswoman, told The Associated Press.
Post Office Shootings
In recent years, post offices have been the scene of
several shootings. In August 1986, a part-time letter carrier in Edmond,
Okla., killed 14 people in the post office before taking his own life;
in December 1988, a postal worker in New Orleans shot and wounded three
In August 1989, a postal worker shot his wife to
death in Escondido, Calif., and then drove to the Orange Glenn post
office, where he shot and killed two colleagues and wounded another
before killing himself. And in October, the authorities say, a postal
worker who had been let go killed a former supervisor and her fiance in
Wayne, N.J., then went to the nearby Ridgewood post office, where he
killed two mail handlers.
In Thursday's incident, several witnesses said the
postal service center, which processes mail for four counties, became a
scene of pandemonium when the shots rang out, as more than 160
frightened workers sought to barricade themselves in offices or escape
through exits and windows.
Threats of Violence
Later, many workers said Mr. McIlvane had several
times threatened violence if he was not reinstated.
"A lot of people thought he had a short fuse," said
Edward Fink, 38, a postal clerk.
Postal officials acknowledged that they had been
aware of Mr. McIlvane's threats but they said there was little they
could do. "This is a mail-processing facility; it is impossible to keep
it locked up tight," said Art van de Putte, a postal inspector.
Mark Mitchell, 28, who once worked with Mr. McIlvane,
said they had served together in the Marines, from which he said Mr.
McIlvane was discharged dishonorably after running over a car with a
As for the suspect's performance as a postal carrier,
Mr. Mitchell said, "He was suspended once for fighting with customers on
his route." He described Mr. McIlvane as being a martial arts enthusiast
with a black belt in kick-boxing who had competed on television.
After several running disputes with postal managers,
Mr. McIlvane was dismissed last year for what postal officials termed "insubordination."
Known to the Police
He appealed the dismissal through a union grievance
procedure, a postal official said. But he lost an arbitration hearing
six days ago, which made the dismissal final, said Charles Withers, a
shop steward for the letter carrier's union.
All three of the dead were postal supervisors. The
police identified them as Christopher Carlisle, 33, of Rochester; Mary
Benincasa, 32, of Mt. Clemens, and Keith Cszewski, 37, of Livonia.
Although no one seemed to know whether the gunman had
any close family, the police said he was known to them. Oakland County
officials a year ago had issued Mr. McIlvane a permit to carry a
concealed weapon. The permit was revoked May 7 after the Oak Park police
became concerned that the man was mentally unstable during a police
investigation into complaints that he was being threatened.
The police in nearby Southfield said Mr. McIlvane
recently had been acquitted of a charge of making threats over the
telephone. Records show he bought a rifle three years ago and also owned
a .357-caliber pistol.
The weapon Mr. McIlvane used Thursday was a Ruger
semiautomatic carbine he bought at a local gun store, the police said.
Investigators, who recovered four banana-style clips, two of which were
empty, theorize that he fired scores of shots before the rampage ended.
Don Higgerson, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,
said the barrel may have been sawed off to make the weapon easy to
An Unlocked Entrance
A man dressed in a postal uniform who declined to
identify himself said he saw Mr. McIlvane come into a large room where
letters are sorted, start shooting, and then leave the room with a coat
draped over the rifle.
Apparently, Mr. McIlvane walked in through an
unlocked entrance used by employees. A woman who worked on the loading
dock said she had been told a month ago by supervisors to "keep Tom
McIlvane out if he showed up."
Many postal workers said they were afraid to give
their names because of friction between workers and supervisors during
the past two years.
Mr. Fink said a new supervisor was particularly
unpopular and recently had suspended a worker for whistling, a report
that was confirmed by several others. "Management pushes, pushes and
pushes and doesn't know when to quit," he said. "They don't know when
someone is going to break."
A co-worker, Dan Chestnutt, 37, said, "They pushed
the wrong guy too far."
Mr. Mitchell said disgruntled or dismissed workers on
several occasions had returned to the post office to fight or "to throw
a telephone through the window." He acknowledged that he, himself, was
recently acquitted on a charge of threatening a postal supervisor with a
Last month, Senator Carl Levin and and Representative
Sander M. Levin, both Michigan Democrats, agreed to take up complaints
from customers and employees of the service center with the Postal
On 1991 -- a month after lethal
postal worker Joseph Harris rampaged through his Ridgewood post office
-- another fired postal worker express mailed himself into obvlivion.
When Thomas McIlvane's appeal to be reinstated as a letter carrier in
suburban Detroit was denied all his former coworkers knew there would be
hell to pay.
McIlvaine, a champion kick boxer with a black belt in
karate, was fired a year before for cursing at his supervisor as well as
threatening other clerks and fighting with customers.
Thoroughly pissed-off about
losing his job, the 31-year-old ex-Marine repeatedly warned that he
would make Pat Sherrill's massacre at Edmond look like "Disneyland."
After Harris' rampage in Ridgewood, one of the supervisors most hated by
McIlvaine got very nervous and called the post-office security division
in Detroit to ask for protection. The request was denied. Jokingly, some
of the other workers drew up escape plans in the event of Tommy's return.
On November 14, 1991, the day after his reinstatement was denied, the
inevitable happened. Tommy Boy returned to his former post office in
Royal Oak with a sawed-off Ruger .22-caliber semiautomatic hidden under
his raincoat and wasted four supervisors -- among them the poor man who
requested protection -- and wounded five others.
After his ten minutes
of inflicting terror on his former coworkers, McIlvane ended his rampage
by stamping a bullet through his head. He lingered in a coma for a day
before dying. Hopefully someone at the postal security division in
Detroit lost their job over this senseless tragedy.
"you had better not turn your head because you'll
I'm going to get you!"
You can't say he didn't give fair warning.
DIED : 16 November, 1991
Another postman gone mad. This time in Royal Oak,
McIlvane was a former marine that was discharged
because he drove a tank over a car. Obviously he needed a new occupation
and where else could he go but the post office. He also had a black belt
in karate, and had won professional kick boxing fights.
McIlvane was not a very popular bloke with the postal
service, and his bosses particularly didn't like his prickly nature. He
also had trouble getting along with those he served, constant;ly arguing
with people on his mail route, and even occasionally getting into fights.
This is where things went wrong for McIlvane. He got himself into one
too many fights and since he had already been suspended for fighting, he
was fired. But McIlvane appealed this decision but unfortunatly for all
involved the decision was upheld and McIlvane was out of a job. He made
one final appeal which was rejected.
The next morning McIlvane decided upon revenge as the
best solution to his problems. He took a sawn-off Ruger semi-automatic
carbine rifle to the post office and got even. He singled out his
supervisors, shooting four dead, and during the six minute spree left
six more wounded.
Once feeling a bit better about losing his job,
McIlvane did as most mass murderers do - he lifted the gun to his head
and blew his brains out, unluckily not doing a great job and being found
alive. He died the following day in hospital anyway.
A Very Amusing Bit
McIlvane had told others about what was going to
happen if he wasn't reinstated, and had even promised to make Patrick
Sherrills massacre look like "Disneyland", or "a tea
party", or even "a picnic". He continuously made
threating calls to his supervisors (who reported them to police, who did
nothing). The othe rstaff knew about McIlvanes threat and had already
planned their escape routes should he turn up.
The Wacky World of Murder