Gunman Kills Four at Alabama Job Agency
The New York Times
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
A man looking for work opened fire today at a
temporary employment agency in an argument over a CD player, killing
four fellow job-seekers and wounding a fifth, the police said.
Hours later, officials said, the gunman surrendered
after a standoff at his apartment, where the police had tracked him down
using the address he had put on his job applications. The authorities
had turned off the building's electricity in near-freezing temperatures.
The man was identified as Emanuel Burl Patterson, 23.
The police said the man shot at officers early in the
The killings took place about 6:30 a.m. in the lobby
of Labor Ready Inc., where as many as 15 people were gathered, waiting
''A fight broke out among two groups of men over a CD
player,'' said a police spokesman, Wendell Johnson.
Mr. Patterson regularly went to the office looking
for work and was known to employees and other laborers, he said.
''People who know him say he is a very unstable
individual,'' Mr. Johnson said. He did not elaborate.
Michael Tucker Jr. said his father was in the office
and told him the argument ''was all over something about CD's and $20.''
They were ''pushing him, laughing at him,'' he said. ''They pushed him
into a corner.''
Patricia Johnson, 38, told The Huntsville Times that
the gunman turned his handgun on her and pulled the trigger, but the
weapon did not fire. She ran into a closet where three or four people
Three people were dead at the scene and a fourth died
in surgery. The police said the wounded man was hit in the leg.
The gunman drove off after the shooting.
The dead were identified as Billy Knox Sr., 61, and
his son Billy Knox Jr., 22, both of Huntsville; Benjamin Ferguson, 47,
of Huntsville; and David Seiler, 46, a Tennessee man whose hometown was
not immediately available.
Labor Ready, based in Tacoma, Wash., describes itself
as the nation's largest provider of temporary manual labor for light
industry and small businesses.
The Labor Ready office is next to a building that
houses law enforcement agencies, including state troopers and
investigators for the sheriff's department.
Gunman in Alabama shooting rampage charged with
Feb. 26, 2003
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A
man accused of going on a deadly shooting rampage in the lobby of a
temporary employment agency was charged Wednesday with capital murder.
Emanuel Burl Patterson, 23, killed four men and wounded a fifth Tuesday
in a rage apparently sparked by taunts and an argument over a CD player,
A capital murder charge carries a possible death sentence if convicted.
He also was charged with attempted murder, said Heather Douglas, a
spokeswoman for the Madison County district attorney's office.
Patterson was jailed without bond. There was no record of him having an
"It happened in just moments," said Police Chief Compton
Owens, describing the carnage as "a scene that words cannot
The violence erupted at 6:30 a.m. at Labor Ready Inc., where as many as
15 people had gathered waiting for work. Patterson had often been at the
agency to get work as a day laborer.
Huntsville police spokesman Wendell Johnson said while waiting, two
groups of men began arguing over a CD player. Patterson then made a
remark about settling the argument, pulled out a gun and opened fire,
Eight hours later, Patterson surrendered after police surrounded his
apartment building, evacuating everyone nearby. Authorities allege that
Patterson, who was apparently holed up alone, shot at officers during
the standoff, though no one was hit.
"People who know him say he is a very unstable individual,"
Johnson said, without elaborating.
Madison County District Attorney Tim Morgan said capital murder charges
were likely. Conviction could carry the death penalty, or life in
Morgan added that Patterson previously had only minor run-ins with the
According to witnesses, a seemingly petty argument quickly escalated at
the agency. Michael Tucker Jr., whose father was in the Labor Ready
office when the gunfire erupted, said his father told him the argument
"was all over something about CDs and $20."
"There was some guys picking at (the gunman) and pushing him,
laughing at him," Tucker said. "They pushed him into a
Tucker said the suspect "stepped out, stepped back in and
immediately started shooting."
"He shot the first guy in the head and then shot another guy and
tried to shoot a woman," Tucker said. "He just started
pointing the gun all over."
Police Lt. Vince Dauro said he found two of the dead on the floor of an
entryway inside the building. Two other victims were on the ground
outside, one dead and the other with fatal wounds who died at a
hospital, Dauro said.
Patricia Johnson, 38, told The Huntsville Times the gunman turned his
weapon on her and pulled the trigger, but it did not fire. She ran into
a closet where three or four people already were hiding.
Chester Horton said Patterson had moved in early last week at the
single-story brick apartment building where the siege ended. Horton, who
lives in the building, said he was awakened about 7 a.m. by a noise like
a gunshot or slamming door. He and his two sons were able to get out
safely as police swarmed the area.
Horton described Patterson as "a strange guy" who seemed aloof
According to police and witnesses, the gunman shot to death Billy Knox
Jr., 22, and his father, Billy Knox Sr., 61, both of Huntsville, inside
the building, then turned the gun on others at random.
Police said Benjamin Ferguson, 47, of Huntsville, was killed as he ran
down the front steps, and David Seiler, 46, from Tennessee, was shot on
the front steps and died at a hospital. A fifth man, Royce Henderson,
46, of Huntsville, was shot in the leg and survived.