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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: December 19, 1997
Date of birth: March 1956
Victims profile: Hal Bierlein, 51; Wayne Bowers, 43; Paul White, 40; and Michael Kelley, 49 (ex-coworkers)
Method of murder: Shooting (AK-47)
Location: Orange County, California, USA
Status: Shot to death by police in a gun battle the same day

On December 19, 1997, a disgruntled state transportation worker shot and killed four men at a maintenance yard before he was shot to death by police in a gun battle.

More than 60 people were at the maintenance yard run by the state Transportation Department when Arturo Reyes Torres arrived armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun, and circled the trailers in the pelting rain, firing through the windows and methodically picking off employees.

When police arrived, Reyes started to drive away, but a motorist blocked his brown Mercedes and the gunfight broke out.

Reyes, 41, who had worked at the yard for about 15 years, was fired after he was videotaped selling about 100 dollars worth of scrap aluminum from the yard. A common practice for Caltrans employees, Reyes complained to friends that he had been singled out by his supervisor.

Three of the men shot by Reyes died at the yard. They were identified as Hal Bierlein, 51; Wayne Bowers, 43; and Paul White, 40. The fourth, Michael Kelley, 49, died later at a hospital. The officer, John Warde, was taken to St. Joseph Hospital, where he was in stable condition. Another worker, Reginald Tennyson, 54, was reported in fair condition.


Ex-caltrans worker kills 4, the dies in shootout

Motive unknown in assault that also wounded two other

San Jose Mercury News (CA)

December 19, 1997

Five people were killed, including a heavily armed gunman, and a police officer was one of two others wounded Thursday in a gun battle that erupted at a state Transportation Department maintenance yard.

Four victims were fatally shot about 3:15 p.m. when gunfire first rang out at the Caltrans facility. Police arrived and exchanged gunfire with the gunman, who was identified as a former state employee. The gunman then started to drive away, but a motorist pulled in front of his car.


Fired employee slain after killing four in California

The Buffalo News

December 19, 1997

A disgruntled state transportation worker shot and killed four men at a maintenance yard before he was shot dead by police in a gun battle that sent his former co-workers hopping fences and diving for cover.

An officer and another man were hospitalized for their injuries.

More than 60 people were at the maintenance yard run by the state Transportation Department when Arturo Reyes Torres stormed in Thursday afternoon, armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun.


Ex-employee kills four at workplace

Ledger Dispatch (CA)

December 19, 1997

ORANGE Six weeks after Arturo Reyes Torres was fired from his job as a state transportation worker he returned to the job site, gunning down four workers and sending others scrambling for cover before police killed him.

Armed with an AK-47, the avid outdoorsman circled through the maintenance yard in the pelting rain, methodically shooting through trailer windows, Lt. Art Romo said. Employees in white helmets and orange suits hopped fences and screamed in terror as the shots rang out.


Gunman had blamed allegations for firing

Charlotte Observer, The (NC)

December 20, 1997

Highway authorities tightened security Friday at the maintenance yard where a man who blamed a supervisor for getting him fired walked in with an AK-47 and killed his former boss and three others.

The gunman, Arturo Reyes Torres, had claimed the supervisor he killed was in charge of an under-the-table recycling scheme that led to Torres' dismissal six months ago, according to state personnel documents.

Police fatally shot the assailant, 43, to end the blood bath. A police officer and two other employees were wounded but were expected to recover.


Firing pushed man to kill 4 at workplace, friends says

Detroit Free Press (MI)

December 20, 1997

He loved to hunt and fish. He loved to fire up the barbecue and flip burgers. And his neighbors in Huntington Beach described him as downright jolly.

But when Arturo Reyes Torres was fired from his Caltrans job a few months ago for allegedly stealing $109 worth of scrap metal, it pushed him to the brink, says a man who described himself as Torres' best friend.

Torres, 41, apparently sought revenge Thursday afternoon when he opened fire with an assault rifle at his former employers.


Slain boss feared gunman's revenge

Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)

December 21, 1997

The first to die at the hands of a fired employee was the boss who videotaped him stealing state property. Another man testified against him at a personnel hearing. A third had gnawing worries about his coworker.

The fourth man, a newlywed from Lakewood, was a newcomer who didn't know his killer.

As two people wounded in Thursday's rampage remained hospitalized, friends and family remembered the men Arturo Reyes Torres gunned down before police shot and killed the former employee.


Caltrans victim testified against shooter

Press-Enterprise, The (Riverside, CA)

December 21, 1997

Last spring, Murrieta resident Wayne Bowers testified against a Caltrans co-worker involved in an under-the-table recycling scheme. Now Bowers is dead - at the hands of that co-worker.

Bowers was one of four men killed by Arturo Reyes Torres on Thursday at nance yard in Orange, in a commercial district off state Highway 57. Torres entered the facility armed with several weapons, then shot 70 bullets, killing the four men and wounding two others, including a policeman.


Aftermath of Killer's Fury

By Nick Anderson, Lee Romney and David Haldane

Los Angeles Times

December 20, 1997

Caltrans shooting--A story Dec. 20 about a gunman who shot and killed four Caltrans workers in Orange and then was fatally wounded by police mistakenly described the assailant's military record because of incorrect information provided by a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman. The gunman, Arturo Reyes Torres, was a soldier in the U.S. Army. Records show he was on active duty from 1974 to 1976 and discharged in 1980.

The fuse was lit when Caltrans fired Arturo Reyes Torres in June for stealing highway scrap metal worth $106.50 after a supervisor warned him it was against the rules.

The 41-year-old former Marine, a proud, jovial man who fixed roads and bridges, had never been disciplined in 12 years on the job. He kept the firing secret from his family, even as he unsuccessfully appealed the case to state authorities.

The fuse kept burning as Torres cast about for other jobs. A friend said he almost landed one with the U.S. Postal Service before getting turned down after a background check. Finally, he found a job cleaning sewers on Dec. 1. But the county sanitation district said he failed to meet physical standards and let him go Dec. 11.

One week later, Torres exploded.

About an hour after visiting his parents at their Santa Ana home Thursday, Torres drove his brown 1977 Mercedes 300D sedan through the front gate of a Caltrans maintenance yard in Orange, walked into the rain and started firing with an AK47 assault rifle.

First he went for the supervisor whom he believed unfairly targeted him for dismissal in a crackdown earlier this year on illicit scrap metal salvaging.


Then he apparently walked around a suite of trailer offices and fired more than 70 bullets, police said, fatally wounding three men inside. It is unclear whether Torres had specific victims in mind, although police say he had a clear view through the windows of workers as they scrambled for cover.

At 3:10 p.m., the first 911 call came from a woman across the street from the yard at 1808 N. Batavia St. Other calls soon came from cowering Caltrans employees. One man whispered from under his desk, "Help, help, there's gunfire everywhere."

Torres was driving away as the first police officer walked into the yard, Orange Police Lt. Art Romo said. Torres fired at the officer, missing, and hit a truck window that blew shards of glass into the officer's face. "Shots fired!" the officer shouted into his radio.

Minutes later, police cornered Torres at Batavia and West Taft Avenue. A running battle ended when officers shot Torres twice in the head, once in the arm and once in the chest. Torres' arsenal included a shotgun and handgun, in addition to the AK47 he bought in 1988, a year before a California law was passed to regulate military-style weapons.

More than 300 bullets were fired in all, police say. The toll: two people wounded, including a police officer, and four killed besides Torres. The rampage devastated the offices of the state transportation agency and proved another shattering example of the power of a disgruntled ex-employee with a big gun.


So what provoked him?

The person who knows the answer best is dead.

James H. Torres, no relation, a co-worker, was fired at the same time as Torres. They appealed the case, James Torres said, because Caltrans had made them "scapegoats." But, he said he couldn't fathom what his friend was thinking Thursday. "I wish I knew. Caltrans is like a big family. It shouldn't have happened. I feel bad for the people who were killed. No one deserves to die."

Said Romo: "If you stop and think about what happened, it appears that revenge was the motive in that particular gentleman [Bierlein] being killed. Then maybe he decided to go after the other people."

The record indicates that before Thursday, Torres was generally a responsible man.

He was discharged as a corporal after three years in the Marines. He owned a four-bedroom, two-story house on a cul-de-sac in Huntington Beach and kept his lawn, to his last day, neatly mowed. He was liked by neighbors on Daytona Circle. Maria Giovinetti called him a "mellow, friendly" man who enjoyed deep-sea fishing and bicycling to the beach.


He was a loyal son. He worried about his wife's cancer. Holder of an Immigration and Naturalization Service registration card for many years, the Mexican-born Torres had recently become a U.S. citizen, his father said. And in more than 12 years at Caltrans, records show, he had never been punished for breaking a rule. Listed at 5-foot-4 and 160 pounds on his driver's license, with a bushy mustache, Torres cut an unimposing figure.

Interviews Friday with friends, family, employers and former co-workers and a review of public records show Torres was a man who, though ready with a smile, had grown increasingly embittered, distressed and unemployable.

Caltrans spokesman Albert Miranda declined to speak in detail Friday about Torres' firing. He referred reporters to a complaint argued before the State Personnel Board.

In the document, Caltrans alleged that Arturo and James Torres had broken agency rules in a scrap-metal salvaging scheme. The agency said supervisors had videotaped the men on Feb. 24 as they sold aluminum they had taken from a bridge they had repaired.

That incident, the agency said, occurred three days after supervisor Hal Bierlein of Orange--the man Torres later shot in his Volkswagen--had read a statement to his crew specifically prohibiting the practice. Copies of the policy were handed out to the men.


Arturo Torres and James Torres contended that the agency had long tacitly allowed employees to sell scrap metal to raise small amounts of money for employee barbecues and other staff events. They said they had given Bierlein the $106.50 they earned from the aluminum they sold.

An administrative law judge, Melvin R. Segal, heard the employees' appeal and found in favor of Caltrans. The state board ratified the judgment in October.

That judgment is not the only evidence of Arturo Torres' conflict with his boss. There is also the word of the supervisor's widow.

Melanie Bierlein said Friday that she and her husband spoke often about the problems he encountered with Arturo Torres. Bierlein said they grew fearful in the months after Arturo Torres and James Torres were caught selling the scrap.

The family suspected Arturo Torres of harassing and threatening them. One day a large rock was thrown through the window of a family car.

The other dead were identified as Paul Edward White, 30, of Lakewood; Wayne Allen Bowers, 43, of Murrietta; and Michael James Kelley, 49, of Fullerton.

Another Caltrans employee, Reginald T. Tennyson, was shot near the ankle. He was in good condition Friday at UCI Medical Center in Orange.

In addition, Orange Police Officer John Warde was struck in the abdomen by a bullet that pierced a protective vest. He was in stable condition at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange.

Torres' family gathered in Santa Ana on Friday, answering media questions cautiously and trying to square the image they had of their son with the television footage of the killer whose body lay Thursday afternoon in a rainy gutter.

"What's done is done," said Pedro Torres, 69, father of the gunman. "Of all our children, he looked after us most. He loved us, and we loved him. He wasn't a fighter. He was never a troublemaker."


The second-oldest of six children, Torres was born in March 1956 in Ciudad Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. His father, a migrant worker, brought his family to Orange County in about 1960.

The elder Torres said his son graduated from Saddleback High School in Santa Ana and served in Germany during a stint in the Marines from November 1979 to December 1982. A Marine spokesman said the discharge was not dishonorable.

Pedro Torres said his son had always been a hard worker whose hobbies included hunting deer in Alaska. He said that although his son kept in close touch with his parents, he never told them he had been fired from Caltrans.

On Thursday, Pedro Torres said, Arturo Torres stopped by his parents' house for a few hours in the morning and early afternoon. The son seemed pale, agitated and nervous. But he explained to his parents that he was simply worried about his wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer some years ago. A neighbor, however, said the cancer had been in remission for a number of years.

From the house, Arturo Torres sought to take care of some business before his deadly outburst. He called Renee Renz, who is buying a bar in Orange from Torres and his father. Renz said Friday that Torres called at 11:59 a.m.

"Hi Renee, it's Art Torres," the tape on the phone machine said. "Can you give me a call at my dad's phone number today? It's Thursday."

Torres then called Renz at the bar at 2 p.m., about an hour before the killing began. Renz said he should come over for a beer and talk business. "He said, 'Sure, I'll do that.' "

But Renz said Torres never took her up on the offer. "It's just weird," she said. "He's a nice, nice guy."

Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Geoff Boucher, Steve Carney, Scott Martelle, Bob Ourlian, David Reyes, Lisa Richardson, Esther Schrader, Tini Tran and Janet Wilson, correspondent Liz Seymour and Times librarians Lois Hooker and Sheila Kern.


Slain boss feared gunman's revenge

The first to die at the hands of a fired employee was the boss who videotaped him stealing state property. Another man testified against him at a personnel hearing. A third had gnawing worries about his coworker.

The fourth man, a newlywed from Lakewood, was a newcomer who didn't know his killer.

As two people wounded in Thursday's rampage remained hospitalized, friends and family remembered the men Arturo Reyes Torres gunned down before police shot and killed the former California Department of Transportation worker.

Caltrans worker Reginald Tennyson, 54, remained hospitalized Saturday at the UC Irvine Medical Center with a bullet wound to his ankle. There was no immediate word on his condition.

Police Officer John Warde, 33, was shot in the stomach. He was in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph Hospital. The hospital referred questions on his condition to police but a police spokesman did not immediately return telephone calls Saturday.

Police said the first to die in the rampage was Hal Bierlein, a maintenance supervisor. The 51-yearold Orange resident had just wished co-workers a Merry Christmas and told them ``See you next year'' as he left to begin a twoweek holiday with his wife and three sons, the Orange County Register reported Saturday.

One minute later he was dead, shot in his car when Torres pulled alongside him in the Caltrans maintenance yard and opened fire.

Torres then sprayed nearby work trailers with more than 70 bullets.

The 41-year-old Huntington Beach man was shot four times by officers -- once each in the chest and right arm, twice in the head -- following a brief chase in an industrial neighborhood five miles east of Disneyland. He and officers fired a total of about 300 bullets.

Failed at jobs

Torres' death ended a secret turmoil he kept from his family. Family members said they didn't even know he had been fired months earlier from his job repairing roads and bridges.

At the start of December, he got another job cleaning sewers but was let go 11 days later because he failed to meet the physical standards of the job, the Orange County sanitation district said.

Torres had visited his parents only hours before the hunting and gun enthusiast armed himself with a shotgun, a handgun and an AK-47S assault rifle he had legally bought in 1988.

He had told his 63-year-old mother, Aurelia, that he didn't want any food because his wife, Jeanette, was making dinner.

Pedro Torres, the gunman's father, spoke to the media Friday, perplexed by the actions of his son, the second oldest of six children.

"What's done is done,'' he said. "Of all our children, he looked after us most. He loved us, and we loved him. He wasn't a fighter. He was never a troublemaker. That's all.''

Retaliation feared

But Torres apparently blamed Bierlein for ruining his career ever since he and another man were fired in June for allegedly stealing and selling $106.50 worth of highway scrap.

Bierlein warned workers against the practice and he helped videotape Torres in the act in February. Torres and James Torres, who is unrelated, both said Bierlein was behind the scrap-for profit plan to generate money for employee parties, but a Caltrans investigation found no evidence of that.

Melanie Bierlein said her husband worried Torres would retaliate.

"My husband told me, `If anything happens to me, you make sure you get everything that's coming to you from Caltrans,' '' she said.

"It was clearly revenge,'' said Deputy State Attorney Terrence Mason, who represented Caltrans in its efforts to terminate Torres. ``My first reaction when I heard about the shooting ... was he went after Bierlein.''

He said Bierlein was afraid for his life in September during two days of personnel proceedings.

"Arturo Torres was known to be a real gun nut. Word filtered through the grapevine that he might come armed.''

Also killed were Michael Kelley, 49, of Fullerton, Paul White, 40, of Lakewood and Wayne Bowers, 43, of Murrietta.

Kelley recently had expressed concerns about Torres.

"He was worried about the shooter -- they worked together,'' neighbor Rick Buckley said. "He felt he was in danger.''

Divorced with two grown children, Kelley was a quiet man, said Mary Lodermeier, his former mother-in-law.

"You could ask a hundred people, and every single one of them would say he would never hurt a soul,'' she said. "He was a quiet, shy man who liked people.''

Bowers, married with two children, testified at Torres' personnel hearing in September.

White worked in the harbor area on the Vincent Thomas Bridge until just a month ago. He switched to the Orange County site on Nov. 16. He had turned 30 on June 5 and married his wife, Eliena, on Sept. 27.



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