Ex-employee opens fire at belt factory

The witnesses heard more than a dozen shots, but only one person was injured.
Friday, October 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:27 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

EARTH CITY — A former employee walked into a St. Louis County plant where conveyor belts are made and opened fire Thursday while workers were changing shifts, at one point reloading his shotgun in a parking lot before re-entering the building.

St. Louis County plant was site of shooting

Though witnesses reported hearing more than a dozen shots, only one person was injured in the shooting that began at about 3 p.m. at Beltservice Corp., located west of St. Louis in an industrialized area near the St. Louis Rams’ training facility. The injured man was taken into an ambulance, but was only grazed by a bullet.

Thursday evening, the gunman was still in the building. Police spokesman Mason Keller said the man was in an area where he couldn’t escape, but did not elaborate. He did not say why the man had not been captured.

Police — many toting shotguns — cordoned off several blocks around the plant, shooing away reporters and the curious from neighboring businesses.

Former employee was fired a year ago

Beltservice Corp. employs 150 people. Company co-founder and chairman Dick Engelsmann said 110 employees were in the building at the time of the shooting, and all were evacuated. He said the gunman left the company a year ago. Engelsmann said he thinks the gunman was fired, but could not say why.

Kevin Tippit, a four-month worker at the company in another department, said he was visiting Kopplin’s area when he heard the volley of at least five gunshots. The suspect was firing at people at close range, he said.

Tippit, 41, also 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.

Plant worker Marcus Jordan, 30, knew the shooter. He said 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 lost his job he wouldn’t be able to support his family,” Jordan said. He described the man as quiet, but helpful to those who needed him.

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