FIREMAN WAS `TIME BOMB WAITING'

Published: Thursday, April 25 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

After killing his estranged wife, firefighter Kenneth Tornes headed to his firehouse, where he brushed past rank-and-file colleagues in blue shirts to hunt down supervisors in white, police and witnesses said.

Armed with an assault rifle, Tornes went from office to office, killing four superiors and wounding two others Wednesday afternoon, police said. He then led police on a 10-mile chase that ended with a shootout at a shopping mall, in which he and an officer were wounded, police said."He was a perfect gentleman except when you got him talking about the chiefs," firefighter Tim Dukes said. "He's been talking about this for years."

Tony Davis, the local firefighters union president, said the eight-year veteran was "a time bomb waiting to go off."

Co-workers said Tornes was caught up in a simmering dispute between firefighters and administrators over reprimands for trivial matters. Davis said Tornes had once been sanctioned for a typo on a report.

"They put the pressure on this man. He is a victim, too," Davis said. "When you brought up the administration, he would just blow up."

Added firefighter Cary Wright: "I'm surprised it took so long."

Investigators said they believe the violence began early Wednesday when Tornes shot his 42-year-old wife, Glenda, to death at the couple's home.

Tornes and his wife, who worked as a baby sitter in a private home, were estranged and had argued, police Chief Robert Johnson said.

Neighbors told authorities they heard gunshots early in the morning, but they apparently didn't realize anyone had been hurt until hours later, when they saw Tornes washing blood off in the area of the carport. They then summoned police.

Glenda Tornes' body was found on the kitchen floor.

Around the time authorities arrived at the home, Tornes allegedly drove downtown and marched into the main fire station. He brushed past Ramona Williams in a hallway, screaming, "Lady, get back, I am going to blow the place up!"

At one point, witnesses said, Tornes came face to face with one firefighter but walked away when the man pleaded, "Not me, Kenny."

Later, Tornes, 32, told another firefighter to take his arson dog and get out of the way.

"He picked his targets," said Deputy Fire Marshal J.L. Kelly.

Dukes said Tornes "didn't shoot blue shirts. He didn't shoot the lower ranks."

The dead firefighters were: Capt. Merideth Moree, 49; District Chief Dwight Craft, 48; Capt. Stan Adams, 45; and District Chief Rick Robbins, 47.

After leaving the station, Tornes sped off, causing several wrecks along the way. The rampage ended in the parking lot of bustling mall in Ridgeland, a community that borders Jackson.

In the shootout with officers, Tornes was shot in the left eye and was hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

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