Robert E. Pierre, Washington Post, writes:

CHICAGO, Aug. 27 — A disgruntled former employee returned this morning to the South Side auto supply house where he worked until six months ago and shot to death six former co-workers before being gunned down by police, authorities said.

The man, Salvador Tapia, 36, of Chicago had allegedly made threatening phone calls since he was fired this year because of tardiness and poor performance. But police said they had received no formal complaints until 8:37 a.m. today when an employee, who was in the warehouse as Tapia began shooting, escaped and called 911 from a diner next door.

The employee, whose hands had been tied by Tapia, rushed outside and warned a co-worker who was arriving late for work not to go inside Windy City Core Supply. Everyone who remained inside was killed. Officials said the warehouse was cluttered with crates and 55-gallon drums full of auto parts, making escape nearly impossible.

“It appears that he went through the warehouse shooting people,” said Acting Police Superintendent Philip Cline, who went to the scene. “There is little room to maneuver. There’s really only one way out and one way in. Once he’s inside the door, he’s got them cornered.”

When police arrived, Cline said, Tapia twice emerged from the warehouse to shoot at officers, who returned fire but did not hit him. Officers stormed the factory because the employee who escaped said five people had been shot. Members of a tactical team were shot at again when they entered, Cline said, and they returned fire, killing Tapia.

Tapia had been arrested 12 times since 1989 in connection with offenses including carrying a gun, aggravated assault, domestic violence and drunken driving.

The shooting occurred in Bridgeport, a working-class community on Chicago’s South Side that was home to former mayor Richard J. Daley. The surrounding neighborhood contains small brick rowhouses, and two grills are on the same block as Windy City. One of them, Dox, was where the employee ran to call 911.

A driver who had tried to make a delivery to the warehouse ran to Kevin’s Hamburger Heaven, waitress Joanne Pasternak said. The driver “tried to make a delivery and couldn’t get in,” Pasternak told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He came over to our restaurant and said they had hostages in there and asked us to call the police.”

In a spate of recent workplace shootings, a worker with a shotgun and rifle killed five people and wounded eight others July 8 in Meridian, Miss., and a factory worker in Jefferson City, Mo., fatally shot three employees July 2 and then killed himself after a shootout with police.

Authorities said today’s incident was Chicago’s worst workplace shooting.

Handgun-Free America, which is compiling a list of workplace shootings in the United States, has found 115 shootings over the past 15 years in which an employee or former employee killed or injured a co-worker with a gun.

“The fact that guns are available is a factor,” Executive Director Chris McGrath said.

Cline, the acting police superintendent, said that it is too easy to get guns, despite a ban on handguns in Chicago. Tapia used a Walther PP .380 semiautomatic.

“Here’s someone who should have never had a gun,” Cline said.

2003 The Washington Post Company