Lockheed hit with massive lawsuit

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
July 3, 2004
A much-anticipated lawsuit against Lockheed Martin was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Jackson just days shy of the one-year anniversary of a shooting rampage at the aeronautical manufacturer's Lauderdale County plant.
When it was over, seven people were dead, including shooter Doug Williams, and eight had been injured.
Stories about Williams' alleged animosity toward black co-workers surfaced quickly. For the record, five of the six people Williams killed were black. Of the eight he wounded, five were white and three were black.
The 44 plaintiffs named in the federal lawsuit are represented by Meridian attorney Bill Ready Sr.
They fall into several categories: surviving relatives of Lockheed employees who were killed; Lockheed employees who were present, injured and/or witnesses to the deaths of co-workers; employees who were not present in the plant, but say they have suffered emotional distress; and wives of Lockheed employees who feel powerless to ease their husbands' suffering.
The plaintiffs' allegations
The plaintiffs claim that Lockheed managers failed to protect their employees, but their complaint alleges more than simple negligence.
Lockheed had every reason to expect Williams to become violent, they say, because he often talked about shooting co-workers especially black co-workers. The lawsuit claims that Williams had been abusive, threatening and insulting over a long period of time.
Affidavits attached to the lawsuit say Lockheed workers were not surprised when Williams snapped; they had been waiting for it.
The plaintiffs also fault Lockheed managers for what they failed to do on July 8, 2003, as Williams walked through the plant shooting. It took time, they say, time that should have been used to stop him.
Moreover, the people who filed the lawsuit say violence was nothing new at Lockheed.
Over the years, there had been fistfights and at least one knifing, and cars had been burglarized in the parking lot. And, through it all, the plaintiffs claim, Lockheed remained unresponsive. Several plaintiffs go so far as to claim Lockheed managers were themselves racists and tacitly supported Williams' unacceptable behavior.
The lawsuit does not ask for a certain amount of money in damages, preferring instead to leave that decision up to a jury.
It is important to remember a lawsuit represents only one side in a legal dispute, and that Lockheed has not had a chance to respond.
Other lawsuits
Ready filed two other lawsuits Friday on behalf of former Lockheed employees.
The first is Shirley Price, who was Williams' girlfriend at the time of the shooting. Her lawsuit repeats the allegations of the first 44 plaintiffs and adds one new one wrongful termination.
Price was fired on July 17.
The second lawsuit was filed on behalf of Billy Eugene Bradley who, like Price, was fired shortly after the shootings.
The background
On July 8, 2003, Lockheed employee Doug Williams left a mandatory ethics awareness training class dealing with anger management, only to return minutes later with guns.
He opened fire and killed five co-workers that day: Mickey Fitzgerald, Sam Cockrell, Lynette McCall, Thomas Willis and Charles Miller. Williams then committed suicide. DeLois Bailey, shot once in the pelvis, died a week later.
Eight people were injured: Brad Bynum, Al Collier, Brenda Dubose, Chuck McReynolds, Henry Odom, Charles Scott, Randy Wright and Steve Cobb.

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