Warehouse shooting linked to job dispute - Albuquerque Journal

Warehouse shooting linked to job dispute

Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier, center, and Mayor Tim Keller, right, address the media about a triple shooting at Ben E. Keith food distribution warehouse Monday evening. (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Waid Anthony Melton had the day off on Monday.

Police say he showed up at the southeast Albuquerque food distribution warehouse where he worked, blocked an exit with a forklift and opened fire on the first three people he saw, seriously injuring them.

Then he fled the scene.

Waid Anthony Melton

Melton, 30, shot and killed himself off Interstate 25 near Placitas several hours later.

In a Tuesday afternoon news conference Albuquerque Police Department chief Michael Geier said he didn’t want to speculate about why Melton shot up the warehouse. But he said detectives have heard Melton recently had problems with his boss and was angry over not being promoted.

“This promotion issue was the only thing brought to our attention,” Geier said. “Everybody said he was a nice guy, I don’t think anybody foresaw this.”

Family members have also told detectives that Melton had mental health issues.

Social media accounts associated with Melton’s name indicate an interest in psychedelic mushrooms, cannabis and other drugs. On Facebook he said he was once employed as a “killer” at “Natural Born Killers” – a reference to the 1994 movie about violence and the media.

On Twitter, he appears to be an avid sharer of crime articles in the Journal and frequently mentions feeling sad.

Melton has no criminal history in New Mexico.

“We had very little contact with him,” Geier said. “I think one traffic accident in Rio Rancho, no criminal history, nothing that would indicate that we could have prevented this if we had advance information.”

Outside Melton’s family’s home, distraught relatives declined to speak with a reporter.

“We have nothing to share,” a woman said.

Active shooter

It was shortly after 6:15 p.m. – right around a shift change – when the 911 dispatch center began getting calls about an active shooter at the Ben E. Keith warehouse on the 3200 block of Broadway, south of Gibson SE.

Officers arrived less than five minutes later and worked out a plan.

“They entered the building and quickly located the three victims all of whom were suffering from gunshot wounds,” Chief Geier said. “These officers then made the decision to drag these victims outside to safety where they started lifesaving measures.”

Those three victims, all men, were taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries. By Tuesday morning one was in stable condition and the other two remained in critical, said Dr. Stephen Lu, the director of emergency surgery at UNMH.

Dr. Stephen Lu, the director of emergency surgery at the University of New Mexico Hospital, describes the steps doctors, surgeons and others took to help victims of the shooting. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Authorities have not identified the victims. Geier said it’s possible that one of them was Melton’s boss.

“In hindsight this could have been a lot worse I’m very grateful for the work of our officers,” Geier said. “They did exactly what they were trained to do. They rushed into a dangerous and uncertain active shooter situation and saved lives.”

A Ben E. Keith employee who did not want to be named said he had gotten his 23-year-old son a job at the warehouse about five months ago.

The employee said around 7 o’clock Monday he was returning a delivery truck when he heard what happened.

Then, he and his wife called their son over and over and over again. Eventually he called back from another number and said he was safe.

“I asked him what happened and he said ‘I really don’t want to talk right now,'” the employee said. “He was all white and pale and freaked out.”

Albuquerque Police Department tactical officers move in to search the home of Waid Melton after police say he shot and seriously injured three people at the food distribution warehouse where he worked. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

While APD, New Mexico State Police and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team officers conducted a full sweep of the building, Melton’s family members got in touch with investigators and gave them his cell phone number.

Geier said detectives traced the phone and crisis negotiation officers talked with Melton, trying to get him to surrender.

They were still trying when he killed himself.

“About 11:40 p.m. we had a negotiator on the phone when it happened and they heard the shot,” Geier said.

New Mexico State Police investigators found Melton dead, sealed his truck and towed it to the Albuquerque crime lab. A handgun was found near Melton’s body and is being tested to determine if it was used in the warehouse shooting. Geier said they don’t know yet if the gun was registered to him.

Tuesday afternoon, detectives and APD tactical officers executed a search warrant on Melton’s home on the 200 block of Osage SW, near Central and Atrisco SW.

Officers in tactical gear could be seen circling a stucco home as police vehicles and yellow tape blocked the street in both directions. A bomb squad robot was wheeled into the backyard of the home and came out with officers a short time later.

Neighbors gathered on both sides of the yellow tape trying to see what had brought all the activity to their block.

Madie Mirabal said the neighborhood is a “close-knit community” but Melton mainly kept to himself.

“Not anything strange … just kind of a silent person,” she said. “He was quiet.”

Mirabal said Melton had only lived in the house for a few months.

“I didn’t even know his name,” she said.

Jose and Annie Garcia say they used to see Melton regularly, in his garage, on their way to church or to run errands.

The Garcias said they saw him around 7 a.m. Monday standing beside his truck and assumed he was going to work.

“We just waved,” Garcia said. “He waved back.”

An all-too familiar scenario

The issue of gun violence across the community and the nation loomed large at Tuesday’s new conference.

Both Mayor Tim Keller and Dr. Lu emphasized that first responders, hospital staff, and police had trained for the mass shootings and jumped into action.

“When this came the whole team was ready, the ER was ready, reception was ready, social workers were ready, the ICU was ready,” Lu said. “Why were we ready? It’s because it happens all the time. For that, it’s a great privilege, but I think it needs to be said that the reason we have these resources is because it happens all the time.”

Keller echoed that statement and said that Monday’s shooting was a reminder that work needed to be done to curb gun violence.

“We should never accept this as normal or the way things are,” Keller said.

In fact, this is the second time this year that a Ben E. Keith employee has opened fire on coworkers.

According to the Dallas News, Kristine Peralez, 38, walked into the company’s Houston, Texas, warehouse in the early morning hours of Aug. 20 and shot and killed a manager and wounded another employee.

Peralez died in a shootout with police but it’s unclear whether she shot herself or was shot by an officer.

In a statement distributed by APD, Ben E. Keith officials said their prayers are with the employees and their families. They are offering counseling and other services for those who need it.

“Although this situation was isolated, we are painfully aware that another workplace violence situation occurred at our Houston, TX facility three months ago,” Ben E. Keith said in a statement. “We have a fundamental responsibility to keep our employees and communities safe. This is why Ben E. Keith Foods will continue to work with outside safety/security professionals.”

The family of a man killed in that shooting is now suing the company for $25 million, according to Dallas News.

 


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