Man Kills 4, Self at Chicago Plant

Tuesday, February 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MELROSE PARK, Ill. (AP) — At first, Martin Reutimann couldn't believe it. ``I heard somebody yell, 'There's a guy in the center aisle with a gun!''' the 24-year-old engineer said.

Reutimann saw people running past him, so he grabbed his coat and cellular phone, and desperately dialed 911. Within minutes Monday, four employees were dead and four wounded at the suburban Chicago engine plant.

The gunman, William D. Baker, then turned the weapon on himself. The 66-year-old former employee was to begin a federal prison term Tuesday for helping steal engines and parts from the company, police said.

The International Truck and Engine Corp. plant, which makes medium-duty engines for parent company Navistar, was shuttered after the shootings but reopened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. Streams of employees returned to work, driving into the plant without stopping to talk to reporters.

``Our main focus is on providing counseling for the employees and families. We have a staff of counselors at the plant on duty,'' company spokesman Roy Wiley said. He added that Tuesday was an optional day for workers.

Police said Baker showed up at the plant about 10 a.m. Monday with a golf bag filled with weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle.

When a security guard on her first day on the job tried to stop him, Baker allegedly put a revolver to her side and forced his way into the vast building.

Baker then opened fire with the AK-47, shooting seven people — three fatally — in an engineering area, police said. Baker killed another person in an office area before killing himself, police said.

Authorities weren't sure if he fired his other weapons. Nor did they know if he targeted certain employees or fired randomly.

In addition to Baker, killed were Daniel Dorsch, 52, a supervisor in the engine lab and a 26-year Navistar employee; Robert Wehrheim, 47, a lab technician; Michael Brus, 48; and 22-year test engineer William Garcia, 44.

Terry Dorsch told reporters that his brother liked his job.

``He was the person that (would) roll up his sleeves and not go, 'I'm the boss and I tell you what to do.' He would be right in there helping them,'' he said.

Dorsch said his family was in a state of shock: ``You don't think it would ever happen to your family, something like that. It is very difficult, very hard.''

Carl S. Swanson, 45, was in critical condition after four hours of surgery for a gunshot wound to the abdomen; Mujtaba Aidroos, 24, was in serious condition with a chest wound.

Bryan Snyder, 26, was in fair condition with a wound to the arm. Matthew Kusch, 22, grazed by a bullet on a toe, was treated at a hospital and released.

Monday evening, Kusch briefly emerged from his home.

``I got shot in the foot and all my friends died today. Give me some time,'' he told reporters. ``I don't want to talk to you people right now.''

Baker, of Carol Stream, was a tool room attendant who had worked at the plant for 39 years before he was fired in 1994.

According to his plea agreement, Baker admitted helping a fellow plant employee steal diesel engines and components worth $195,400. He used his forklift to hoist the engines onto a truck driven by the other employee.

The thefts took place in 1993-94. Federal prosecutor William Hogan said Baker was part of a ring that included three Navistar employees and three others, two of them former employees. All have pleaded guilty.

Baker was sentenced Nov. 7. He had faced five months of house arrest after his prison term and had been ordered to repay the $195,400.

Baker's lawyer, Charles Piet, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Baker was upset over the sentence, saying he ``didn't feel it was fair given that his participation was very minor.'' But Piet said Baker expressed no bitterness toward Navistar.

``He was a nice guy. You never could imagine something like this would happen,'' Piet said. ``I'm totally surprised. I'm in shock.''

The U.S. attorney's office also said Baker pleaded guilty in 1998 to a sex charge involving a family member under 17. He was placed on probation.

Julio Negron, a shipping department worker on disability, came to the plant when he heard about the shooting.

``I said to myself, 'How could it be Baker? He's such a nice guy,''' Negron said. Another co-worker called Baker ``easygoing.''

The shooting comes six weeks after seven people were killed at a Wakefield, Mass., Internet consulting company, Edgewater Technology Inc. Software tester Michael McDermott is charged with murder in the Dec. 26 rampage. Authorities said the shooting may have stemmed from an Internal Revenue Service order to seize part of his wages to pay back taxes.

Navistar, formerly International Harvester, is the nation's second-biggest producer of heavy-duty trucks, which it sells under the International brand. It also manufactures midsized trucks, school buses and diesel engines, which it sells to Ford and other truck makers.

The Melrose Park plant, about 15 miles west of the company's headquarters in downtown Chicago, employs about 1,400.


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