Murder-Suicide Of Chrysler Workers Followed Fight On Plant Floor, Police Say
Story updated on Sept. 21 at 10:15 am.
Two Chrysler workers are dead after a fight at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit on Thursday morning, police said.
The incident began at around 7:55 a.m. Thursday when a male employee allegedly slit the throat of a coworker on the plant floor. Jeff Hunt was identified as the attacker, and Keith Readus as the victim, according to local press reports. Readus died on the spot. After the altercation, Hunt apparently immediately fled the Chrysler plant, according to local station WWJ-TV. The Jefferson North plant was immediately placed on lockdown, reported the Detroit News. (Grief counselors were invited onto the site to meet with the staff, as pictured above.) Shortly after, Hunt was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a red Jeep Wrangler in nearby Belle Isle Park, which is on an island in the Detroit River.
In speaking to AOL Jobs, Cassandra Lewis, an officer with the Detroit police department's 9th Precinct on the city's east side, confirmed the two men "had a history of tension." She wouldn't comment further, including whether police had filed previous reports on incidents relating to the two men.
But the Detroit News was reporting Friday that the murder-suicide was apparently a crime of passion. Hunt's wife is also an employee at the plant, and turned to Readus for advice about her marriage during a frustrating time, according to an account by Readus's older sister Jackie Davis-Alexander. Finding out about the consultation, Hunt apparently went after Readus in a fit of jealousy.
"I don't know if (Hunt) misconstrued what was going on," Davis-Alexander said. Her brother, she said, "just tried to help everybody else."
The slaying at the Chrysler plant is said to have occurred during yesterday morning team's first break. The altercation reportedly began after Hunt allegedly accosted Readus and whispered something in his ear. Hunt then reportedly stabbed his co-worker and climbed onto a nearby forklift, according to witnesses. Readus had been an employee of the plant since 1994.
Work resumed at the plant on Friday after the day was suspended by the automaker on Thursday. The plant doesn't have any metal detectors.
The tragedy occurred at one of the automaker's growing plants. Built in 1991, the Jefferson North Plant produces Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos, according to The Wall Street Journal. Its current staff of 3,075 workers is preparing to add a new crew of 1,100 in the first quarter of 2013.
Chrysler suspended 15 workers at the same plant after catching them allegedly smoking marijuana and drinking beers on the job.
While Thursday's deaths seem to have stemmed from issues relating to the workers' private lives, workplace violence continues to make prominent news. Just last month, fashion accessories designer Jeffrey Johnson shot and killed former co-worker Steve Ercolino outside the store where they'd worked, Hazan Imports, just across the street from New York's Empire State Building.
And as AOL Jobs also reported last month, threats of workplace violence are up 28 percent this year. That's according to Dr. Larry Barton, the president of the Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based American College and a consultant on workplace violence.
"Many of us who thought the [economic downturn] was going to be a short-term hiccup, and so that gave us temporary comfort," said Barton, who also teaches at the FBI Academy on subjects such as identifying potentially violent individuals. "But it has become an ulcer, and with a lot more anxiety about cutbacks, people wondering, 'Am I next?,' you would think people would lie low and do their work. But that's not the case, it seems people become more provocative."
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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