HENDERSON, Ky. A 25-year-old press operator shot and killed five co-workers and himself at a plastics plant in rural western Kentucky just hours after arguing with his supervisor about not wearing safety goggles and using his cell phone while on the assembly line, police said Wednesday.
Authorities said Wesley N. Higdon of Henderson was so riled by the argument with his supervisor that he called his girlfriend and told her that he wanted to kill his boss. The girlfriend didn't warn anyone, police said, and just two hours later, Higdon argued with another co-worker, then shot and killed his supervisor as they walked outside. Then he returned and shot at co-workers in a break room and on the plant floor.
A man who called 911 frantically described the violent scene to a dispatcher, tallying up the number of dead around him.
"There's more than two people dead. There's like one, two, three, four, five people dead," the man said. "The supervisor is dead, too."
Authorities said Higdon was known to keep a .45-caliber pistol in his car, which is not illegal in Kentucky.
The first shooting took place as the supervisor was escorting him from the building. Other co-workers were shot in the break room and on the plant floor. One worker was injured and was being treated in the critical care unit at St. Mary's Hospital and Medical Center in Evansville, Ind.
"He just walked in, looked like he meant business and started shooting at everybody," Henderson Police Sgt. John Nevels said at a news conference.
The killings stunned the Ohio River town of about 28,000 people, where a local leader said many residents know or are related to a worker at the plant. The plant, operated by Atlanta-based Atlantis plastics, employs about 160 people and makes parts for refrigerators and plastic siding for homes.
Henderson County Coroner Bruce Farmer identified the supervisor as Kevin G. Taylor, 30, of Dixon. The slain co-workers were Trisha Mirelez, 25, Rachael Vasquez, 26, and Joshua Hinojosa, 28, all of Sebree; and Israel Monroy, 29, of Henderson. The hospitalized survivor was identified as Monroy's sister, Noelia Monroy.
"Our whole community is in shock," Henderson County Judge-Executive Sandy Watkins said.
The plant sent employees home Wednesday, but the company said that it hoped to resume limited operations at night. Atlantis Plastics CEO Bud Philbrook said that the company was reeling.