Fired employee shoots 9 in Mich. post office, 3 die — (Chicago Sun-Times)

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Chicago Sun-Times

November 15, 1991

Author: Kathy Byland; Reuters

ROYAL OAK, Mich. A fired letter carrier Thursday walked into a post office in this blue-collar Detroit suburb, opened fire and killed three employees and wounded six before shooting himself in the head, witnesses and police said.

Colleagues said Thomas McIlvane, 31, of nearby Oak Park, had vowed revenge on his superiors. Witnesses said he chose his victims carefully, as if he had a “hit list.” They speculated that he was inspired by the killing of 23 people in Texas last month, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

McIlvane, described by one postal worker as a “time bomb” waiting to go off, was also said to be using the controversial drug Prozac. He and three of his victims were hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Thompson said the suspect was armed with a .22-caliber carbine commonly used for hunting. The weapon was illegal because the barrel had been sawed off, Thompson told a press conference. Moreover, police said, the suspect’s gun permit had been revoked because he had threatened violence.

Victims were rushed from the post office on stretchers to hospitals. One person was hurt jumping from a second-floor window in an attempt to flee, a Royal Oak Fire Department spokesman said.

McIlvane was fired last year for time-card fraud and appealed the action, Postal Service spokesman Lou Eberhardt said in Washington. But an arbitrator upheld the dismissal.

“Everybody said if he didn’t get his job back, he was going to come in and shoot,” postal worker Bob Cibulka said. “Everyone was talking about it.”

“He was crazy. He was a waiting time bomb,” said employee Mark Mitchell, who had served with McIlvane in the Marine Corps in the early 1980s. “He was a kickboxer. He had made previous threats.”

“One time at Twentynine Palms (Marine base in Calif.), there was a guy he was mad at and he drove a tank over his car,” Mitchell said.

“He looked at me, hiding under the desk and said, “I don’t want you,” and then he went on shooting someone else,” one woman in the building said.

“I heard eight to 10 shots and then I backed out of there,” another witness said. “People were jumping out the windows and from everywhere else.”

Linda McDonald, wife of one of the postal employees, said McIlvane had threatened to “shoot up the office.” She said friction was high between supervisors and postal workers at the building. Two other letter carriers were sent home Thursday, workers said – one for whistling and another for talking loudly.

Postal officials would not comment on McIlvane’s firing, but fellow employees said he became obsessed with revenge. Some said McIlvane was taking Prozac, a powerful anti-depressant drug that has come under scrutiny by critics for allegedly causing violent behavior.

Post offices have been the scene of several shootings in recent years.

Last month, two people were killed in a New Jersey facility, also by a fired worker. Postal employees also died in attacks in Oklahoma and California.

Record Number:  CHI680730