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September 12, 1996
Author: Matt O’Connor, Tribune Staff Writer
For months, Dorsey Thomas’ motive in the shooting of two co-workers at a crowded U.S. Postal Service distribution center in Palatine has remained a mystery.
Thomas, who previously had a clean work record in 23 1/2 years on the job, pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges in connection with the shootings, and the mystery deepened even more
With the courtroom proceedings almost completed, U.S. District Judge William Hart asked: “Why’d you do this?”
Thomas, 54, appeared caught off guard by the question before responding: “I felt these two parties had done a severe injustice to me. It’s something I’d rather not talk about. It had been building for 21 months, and it just boiled over.”
Jeffrey Steinback, one of Thomas’ lawyers, then intervened and told Hart that a complete disclosure of the motive for the shootings was a subject defense attorneys planned to make at Thomas’ sentencing hearing.
Outside the courtroom, Steinback and co-counsel Terence Gillespie declined to offer much elaboration.
“This is one bizarre series of events,” offered Steinback. Gillespie noted that Thomas was taking medication for severe depression at the time of the shootings.
At a court hearing last month, Gillespie said mental-health experts at the Isaac Ray Center found Thomas had either been psychotic and delusional or suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome at the time.
Thomas pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and one count of using a gun in a crime of violence.
The shootings occurred during a busy shift change shortly before 7 a.m. Aug. 29, 1995, at the distribution center at 1300 E. Northwest Hwy.
In a series of events that took just 7 minutes, prosecutors said that after entering the building, Thomas proceeded to the second floor, where he spotted co-worker Michael Mielke standing near a time clock. From a distance of 6 to 8 feet, Thomas opened fire with a .380-caliber Barretta, hitting Mielke with in the neck and chest, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Ronald May.
Thomas then returned to the first-floor lobby and shot Steven Collura, wounding him in the neck and chest, May said. After Collura collapsed, Thomas walked over to him, hit him on the head with the gun and kicked him, according to the prosecutor.
Thomas was arrested a short time later as he drove up to his Northlake home. The Barretta was found in the car with an empty clip. He has been in custody since his arrest.
In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Thomas admitted he had intended to kill his victims.
Both victims recovered and have returned to work, though Mielke, who suffered the most extensive injuries, is working part time, May said.
In return for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend to Hart that Thomas be sentenced to no more than 16 years and 3 months in prison.
Hart set sentencing for Dec. 5
Copyright 1996, Chicago Tribune
Record Number: CTR9609120054