Factory shooting in northern Indiana leaves gunman and co-worker dead, six wounded

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) _ Authorities say a factory worker who opened fire on his co-workers, killing one and wounding six others before taking his own life, had either just been fired from his job or was about to be.

They also were investigating reports that factory managers may have been worried enough after an argument with Robert Wissman that they warned employees to be on the lookout for him.

Wissman, 36, had left the Nu-Wood Decorative Millwork plant Thursday morning but returned a few hours later with a shotgun, walked inside and opened fire, Elkhart County Sheriff's Capt. Julie Dijkstra said.

Tammy Funderburk said she spoke by cell phone with her son, a factory employee who escaped uninjured.

``He saw the gunman coming and he had a big rifle,'' Funderburk said. ``He saw the gunman shooting people and he ran out the back door as fast as he could.''

A police SWAT team entered nearly two hours after the 2:30 p.m. EST shootings, uncertain whether the gunman was still alive. They found Wissman dead in an office area with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and a shotgun under his body.

Wissman had apparently just been fired or was about to be fired before he left the factory, Dijkstra said.

Brian Messick, superintendent of a neighboring factory, said a wounded Nu-Wood employee told him that managers had instructed employees to lock down the building and call for help if they saw Wissman nearby, The Truth newspaper of Elkhart reported. Sheriff's deputies could not confirm stories that factory managers may also have warned authorities.

The most seriously wounded victims were a 27-year-old man listed in critical condition and a 52-year-old man in serious condition. Two people were hospitalized in fair condition, and two others were treated and released.

The name of the factory worker who was killed was being withheld until relatives could be notified.

Misty Rushing said she sought cover under a desk in a small office when the shooting began.

``I just saw him standing there with a shotgun, and I hit the floor. The only thing you could hear was firing. You couldn't hear anyone screaming. He was just firing. He was just loading and unloading, loading and unloading,'' she told the Star.

``He didn't have no little gun. He had a long gun. He had the biggest gun I've seen in my life.''

After the shootings, police searched Wissman's home in a middle-class neighborhood about two miles from the plant.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms removed two guns and shotgun shells from the house, where Wissman lived with his mother, the South Bend Tribune reported. Wissman was a registered gun dealer who ran a business from the home, according to The Washington Post.

The city's mayor and hospital administrators initially feared that 30 to 35 people may have been shot, based on information heard over police scanners. Most of the roughly 35 employees inside the plant at the time of the shootings escaped unharmed, Goshen Police Chief Terry Schollian said.

``This is not the kind of thing you expect to happen in Goshen, but I guess people always say that,'' Mayor Allan Kauffman said. ``We've had things like that happen in surrounding communities, and said, 'Thank God, it didn't happen in Goshen.' Today, it was Goshen.''

Nu-Wood makes a polyurethane-based product that resembles white pine and is used as decorative trimming by homebuilders and remodelers.