Man opens fire at Missouri manufacturing plant, prompting a seven-hour standoff before surrendering

Friday, October 22nd 2004, 7:02 am
By: News On 6

EARTH CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A former employee walked into a conveyor belt factory and opened fire before officers confined him to a small storage area, prompting a seven-hour standoff that ended with the man's surrender, authorities said.

One person suffered minor injuries in the shooting that began about 3 p.m. Thursday at Beltservice Corp., police spokesman Mason Keller said. At one point, the gunman reloaded his shotgun in a parking lot before re-entering the building, he said.

Officers confined the gunman to a storage area, where he negotiated with police by telephone for several hours.

``A little after 10 p.m., the guy put down the gun and came out to police,'' Keller said. The suspect's name was not released.

Company co-founder and chairman Dick Engelsmann said 110 employees were in the building at the time of the shooting, and all were evacuated.

The wounded employee, 61-year-old Jake Lewman, was struck in the leg. He was treated and released from a hospital.

One plant worker said he knew the shooter and that the man was having personal problems and missing too many days at work when he was fired about a year ago.

``He told me if he lost his job he wouldn't be able to support his family,'' Marcus Jordan said.

Craig Kopplin said he had just begun his shift when he heard a gunshot. ``Boom! Then instantaneously, I heard another,'' he said.

Another worker, Kevin Tippit, said he heard at least five gunshots. He bolted and sought shelter in a neighboring building's dock area.

``I was looking through the windows, and the guy came out, reloaded his gun and went right back in,'' he said. ``It's craziness, craziness.''

The Beltservice factory is in an industrialized area west of St. Louis, near the training facility of the St. Louis Rams football team.