A Community Grieves

By: Andrea Williams, Aisha Greer, John Johnson
By: Andrea Williams, Aisha Greer, John Johnson

New information surfaced Wednesday in the investigation into Tuesday's fatal shooting incident at the Lockheed Plant. According to Sheriff Billy Sollie, the investigation could take quite some time. He said the gunman, Doug Williams, 48, did not have a previous criminal record. Although there are reports that the incident was race-related, investigators say that is still not confirmed.

Since the shooting spree Tuesday, investigators have searched Williams' home and confiscated his personal computer. Although nothing was found in his home, Sheriff Sollie said the FBI is now checking the computer to see if it can obtain clues about a motive or any possible affiliation to a hate group. So far, nothing has been found.

Local investigators said the FBI is basically playing only a supportive role.

Sollie said, due to complaints from co-workers, Lockheed officials had been monitoring Williams for about a year.

"This is something we're going to follow up on and talk with those employees and get their idea on what happened," Sollie said at a news conference Wednesday.

Former Lockheed employee Ed Kelly recalled working with Williams. He said he was very quiet and religious.

"But I have had a confrontation with him where that personality changed and when that personality changed it was somebody that you really didn't want to deal with."

Although Williams did not have a previous criminal record, Sheriff Sollie says the most recent work related complaint against Williams came three weeks ago when he wore a white headpiece on the job.

"In my personal talk with employees, it was not a hood but something that some employees found offensive," the sheriff said.

According to Sollie, there are some witness reports that during the shooting spree Williams lowered his gun at some people and aimed at others. However, with six of the nine people treated for wounds or trauma being white, he says there are doubts about whether race was a factor.

At last check, sheriff Sollie said two of the nine wounded were still listed in critical condition at local hospitals.

The family of victim Thomas Willis spoke Wednesday with Newscenter 11.

"He was a good man," said Johnathan Willis of his father. Thomas Willis had three children, who now mourn his death at the hand of a co-worker.

Thomas was remembered by his brother as a very kind man, who never complained.

"He was just really a good person," said Walter Willis. "He was always positive and never had anything negative to say."

The loss to this family has been compounded with the reality that the children just recently lost their mother.

"I am just trying to be strong for my sisters," said Johnathan. "I am now taking the place of my father, and just have to be strong for them."

Thomas Willis grew up in Whynot. After serving in the Vietnam War, he spent the last 27 years of his life with Lockheed Martin, a company his family says they want answers from.

"I am very frustrated with Lockheed Martin for not taking care of their problem, said Walter Willis.

"They have not said anything to us. We are just as much in the dark as everybody else," said Johnathan Willis.

A memorial service is set for Thursday at 12 Noon at Meridian's First Baptist Church on 26th Avenue and 7th Street, to remember the victims and their families. Those who died in the tragedy:

Mickey Fitzgerald, 45, was from Little Rock, Mississippi. His wife is Tammie and they have two children. He is a member of Hopewell Baptist Church.

The Rev. Charles Miller, 58, was pastor of the First Tabernacle Church of God in Daleville. He was a brick mason by trade.

Lynette McCall, 47, of Cuba, Alabama, worked at Lockheed for 15 years. She and her husband, Bobby, have two daughters. Her husband said she was a great wife.

Sam Cockrell, 46, of meridian had worked at Lockheed for 23 years. He was a deacon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church and a member of the air national guard. He and his wife had two sons.

Thomas Willis, 59, from Yantley, Alabama, was the father of two daughters and one son. He was a Vietnam veteran. He lost his wife one month ago to illness.

Officials with Lockheed Martin said they were devastated to learn of the tragic events.

"Our deepest condolences go out to families of the victims, the injured employees and everyone at the Meridian facility and in the Meridian community. In their memory, flags are being flown at half-staff at all Lockheed Martin facilities," read a written statement issued Wednesday.

Confidential counseling services are available free of charge through a 24 hour toll-free phone line, 1-888-562-2243.

An information line will be open 24 hours a day and updated at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. for employees to get plant information, 1-888-317-4633.


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