1986...Democrat kills 22 at Oklahoma post office

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Gun Control

May 10, 2018, 4:41:55 AM5/10/18
No strangers to large-scale episodes of violence, Oklahomans
have endured collective and individual events ranging from the
1868 Battle of the Washita to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.
The event that occurred on August 20, 1986, at the United States
Post Office in Edmond was, at that time, the state's largest and
the nation's third-largest mass murder committed by a single
individual in a single incident (the Federal Bureau of
Investigation officially defines mass murder as murder of a
minimum of four victims by a single person in a single incident).

USPS letter carrier Patrick H. Sherrill, a "disgruntled postal
worker," fit the profile of a potential mass killer. A socially
inept loner, he was unable to hold a job for long and blamed
management for his problems. His fascination with guns was fed
by service in the U.S. Marines and active participation in the
Oklahoma Air National Guard, in which he became a small-arms
expert. Frustrated at being formally disciplined by his postal
supervisor several times, Sherrill had on two occasions
threatened revenge. After receiving a reprimand on August 19, he
reported to work on the morning of August 20 armed with three
semiautomatic pistols and ammunition. He entered the facility,
shot his supervisor to death, and tracked his co-workers through
the building, killing fourteen and wounding six. He then killed

In 1987 a seven-thousand-page U.S. Postal Inspector's Report
analyzed the Edmond tragedy, and a one-day congressional hearing
allowed the survivors and families a brief forum on March 18,
1987. Each concluded that measures should have been in place to
profile Sherrill and prevent his hiring and to apply
occupational health and safety standards and federal regulations
to postal facilities.

No words can assess or mitigate the shooting's terrible impact
on the victims and their families. Emotional and physical
recoveries were slow, but sure. To honor the dead and the
survivors, in 1989 the community of Edmond and the U.S. Postal
Service placed a large memorial on the grounds of the Edmond
Post Office. Sculptor Richard Muno depicted a standing man and
woman holding a yellow ribbon; they are surrounded by fourteen
fountains, one for each victim. The inscription lists them:
"Patricia Ann Chambers, Judy Stephens Denney, Richard C. Esser,
Jr., Patricia A. Gabbard, Jonna Ruth Gragert, Patty Jean
Husband, Betty Ann Jared, William F. Miller, Kenneth W. Morey,
Leroy Orrin Phillips, Jerry Ralph Pyle, Paul Michael Rockne,
Thomas Wade Shader, Jr., Patti Lou Welch."

The Edmond incident was one of fifteen homicide incidents by
postal employees from 1986 through 1999 in which thirty-four
postal workers and six nonemployees were killed. In turn, these
spawned numerous workplace-violence studies by criminologists,
psychiatrists, and federal agencies. New hiring, employee
management, and safety practices did result, and federal law
concerning homicide against federal employees was expanded in
1996 (after the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing) to include all
federal employees.

In perspective, by the year 2000 workplace violence took the
lives of an average of one thousand persons per year, in all
workplace environments. Of those, only .2 percent (two-tenths of
one percent) of incidents involved postal workers. It is ironic
and unfortunate that at the end of the twentieth century the
Edmond Post Office Massacre was most often remembered for
instigating the use of the term "going postal" to describe
workplace violence in general.

Dianna Everett


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