Canadian Manufacturing

Shooter at FreightCar America plant faced workplace bullying, says neighbour

The man suspected of killing one worker and injuring three others transferred departments before ultimately quitting in March 2016


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ROANOKE, Va.—A neighbour of the suspected shooter at a railcar manufacturing facility in Roanoke, Vir., says the man told him he quit his job because he was being harassed by a co-worker.

Clarence Jones told The Associated Press that 53-year-old Getachew Fekede would complain about a man who intimidated and picked on him. Jones said Fekede transferred departments at FreightCar America but ultimately quit when the problems continued.

Jones said he believes Fekede grew concerned about money after he quit his job because he was still taking care of his mother back in Kenya. Jones said Fekede was an “excellent neighbour” who never showed any signs of violence.

Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones said that the 53-year-old Fekede stopped showing up to work at FreightCar America in March. But he rode a bicycle to his former workplace early Oct. 25 and somehow entered the facility’s paint shop.

Fekede fired 10 rounds from a 9 mm handgun. One person died and two others suffered wounds to their “lower extremities.” A bullet grazed a third person’s chest. Jones said Fekede then killed himself.

Jones said Fekede entered the U.S. in 2011 through a refugee immigration program. He said the shooting appears to be work-related but the possibility of terrorism will be investigated.

A man who works for a railcar manufacturer in Virginia says he missed a fatal workplace shooting by one minute.

Michael Ewing told WDBJ in Roanoke that warnings of an active shooter came over the facility’s PA system. He and others began to hide.

Ewing said he and his co-workers “got organized” and “did everything” they were supposed to do. He added that he was about a minute away from entering the area where the killing took place.

The parent company of a manufacturing facility in Virginia where two people died in a workplace shooting had announced in August that it would cut staff.

Months before Tuesday’s shooting, the Chicago-based FreightCar America said in news releases and SEC filings that it would eliminate 15 per cent of its salaried workforce. It said it would also adjust staffing levels for hourly and salaried workers to coincide with production.

The company said it faced unexpected and rising costs for new types of rail cars that it makes, as well as fewer deliveries of them. It’s already significantly curtailed operations at an Illinois facility this year.


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