Man attacks homeless shelter with chain saw

Monday, January 21, 2008 | 6:57 p.m. CST; updated 9:31 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

NEW BLOOMFIELD — Two people remained in critical condition Sunday night after a resident at a homeless shelter attacked them with a chain saw on Saturday.

The Callaway County Sheriff’s Office said Matthew Watkins, 28, was charged with four counts each of first-degree assault and armed criminal action for the attack at the Mid-America Care Center. The homeless shelter, affiliated with New Life Evangelistic Center, is connected with Christian television station KNLJ, run by the Rev. Larry Rice.

Watkins had been staying at the homeless shelter for about two weeks and was taking part in a program that provides residents with on-the-job-training, officials said. The attack occurred as the center was preparing for New Life Evangelistic Center’s Freedom Festival.

Sheriff Dennis Crane said two victims were cut by a chain saw and two others by a knife.

The Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Maurice Thomas, who was in critical but stable condition Sunday night; Bruce Caulkins, in critical but stable condition; and Harvey Gaddy and James Chapman, both of whom were treated at a local hospital and released.

No ages or hometowns for the victims were available.

Watson, who originally was from St. Louis, was being held on $600,000 bond.

The attacks happened around 2 p.m. inside the homeless shelter. Afterward, Watkins ran outside, where police got him to drop the chain saw at gunpoint and arrested him, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Employees at the center were stunned by the attack.

“One of our staff members apparently had a mental breakdown — I guess you could say he went ballistic,” said Tom Branham, an employee of the St. Louis branch who was in New Bloomfield to help with sound for the center’s upcoming Freedom Festival. “First he was running around poking people — he poked a guy in the neck with, I think, a pencil — then he came after people with a chain saw.”

Branham told the Fulton Sun that about 10 to 12 employees were at the center at the time of the attack. He said he was in the auditorium when Watkins came after him and two others.

“We just headed out of the building and ran across the street,” Branham said.

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