Milwaukee man kills co-worker, himself after being turned down for promotion
MILWAUKEE Turned down for promotion to a day job and written up for sleeping at work, a postal clerk pulled a pistol and settled old scores during an overnight, holiday-rush shift Friday that ended with him and a co-worker dead.
Anthony Deculit, 37, killed a colleague he had feuded with, wounded the supervisor who had reprimanded him and injured another postal worker before taking his own life, even as a policeman who happened on the scene ordered him at gunpoint to drop his weapon and a colleague pleaded with him to stop.
“I said, `Tony, you got a wife, a brand new baby. Christmas is right around the corner and in five days we'll be off,' " said Michael Witkowski, a postal worker who witnessed the shootings.
The few seconds of gunfire that turned the tedium of mail sorting into panic came 212 hours into Deculit's shift on the middle of three sorting lines in the city's huge main post office. The facility covers about two city blocks and runs 24 hours a day.
Postmaster General Marvin Runyon visited Milwaukee to meet with the family of Russell “Dan" Smith, the slain postal worker, and the two surviving victims.
“I share their sense of shock, bewilderment and unspeakable sadness," Runyon said.
About 1,500 workers were on overnight shifts when the shots rang out about 12:45 a.m. Workers were hustled out of the building, and someone set off a fire alarm in the building. A worker reported the incident to police, a call picked up by an officer who happened to be in the building sending mail.
The officer headed to the third floor, drew his gun when he saw Deculit and ordered him to stop and put down the weapon, postal officials said.
After shooting the others, Deculit was “prancing back and forth like a scared cat with his gun up at the ready," said Paul Ciletti, a maintenance mechanic who rushed to the scene after hearing the shots.
At the same time, Witkowski was pleading with Deculit to stop.
Deculit did not listen. He put the .9mm semiautomatic in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
“I said, `Tony, you don't want to do this,' " Witkowski said. “But he blew his brains out. I don't get it."
Seconds earlier, Witkowski said he found the gun aimed at himself after Deculit wounded his supervisor, Joan Chitwood, with a shot in the right eye, killed co-worker Smith with shots to the head, back and arm, and slightly injured another colleague in the foot.
“He was standing there pointing the gun at me," Witkowski said. “He said, `Mike, you don't want to be here.' And I told him, `Tony, don't do this.' "
Deculit asked Witkowski to call his wife and gave him the phone number. Witkowski wrote it down on a piece of mail.
Chitwood, 55, underwent surgery at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital and was in satisfactory condition. The other worker was treated and released.
A month earlier, Chitwood had cited Deculit for sleeping on the job, and Deculit responded by filing a complaint against his boss. Deculit had been placed on five months' probation and had filed a grievance against Chitwood, said postal inspector Ida Gillis.
Deculit had applied to transfer to another station, said Daryl Sole, human resources manager for the Milwaukee postal district. Sole said he did not have information on what happened with the transfer.
But local postal union vice president Dale Weinman said Deculit had been told he got the transfer to a facility where he could have a day job, then was told the job had been given to someone else.
There also was tension between Deculit and Smith, 42. The two had some disagreements and did not speak to each other, Witkowski said.
Gillis said it appeared Deculit, who worked for the Postal Service since 1993, targeted Chitwood and Smith.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said racial discrimination may have played a part in setting off Deculit. The gunman was black, and his three victims were white.
Felmers Chaney, president of the group's local chapter, said he warned postal officials about the problem.
“I told them, `You're going to have a shooting here,' " Chaney said. “Now I feel like telling them, `I told you so.' "
Chaney said he did not know if Deculit had made any complaints of racism against the Postal Service.
A woman answering the phone at Deculit's house Friday morning hung up on a reporter. No one answered the door there later.
Deculit, whose wife recently had a baby, seemed friendly enough to many co-workers, Ciletti said. A former Marine, Deculit tried to keep in shape at work, always wearing shorts on the job and running up and down stairways, Ciletti said.
The shootings took place right as the shift was heading into one of its busiest times, as workers rushed to get mail out in time for morning delivery, Ciletti said.
Postal investigators did not know how Deculit got the gun into the building, Gillis said.
Because of similar deadly incidents at other post offices, the term “going postal" has become slang for mass violence.