HOUSTON – A NASA contract worker took a handgun inside an office building Friday at the Johnson Space Center and fatally shot a hostage before killing himself, police said. A second hostage escaped with minor injuries.
The gunman was able to take a snub-nosed revolver past NASA security and barricade himself in the building, which houses communications and tracking systems for the space shuttle, authorities said.
NASA and police identified him as 60-year-old William Phillips. He had apparently had a dispute with the slain hostage, police said.
NASA spokesman Doug Peterson said the agency would review its security.
To enter the space center, workers flash an ID badge as they drive past a security guard. The badge allows workers access to designated buildings.
NASA identified the slain hostage as David Beverly, a civil servant who worked at the agency. Beverly, who was shot in the chest, was probably killed “in the early minutes of the whole ordeal,” police said.
A second hostage, identified by NASA as Fran Crenshaw, escaped after being bound to a chair with duct tape, police Capt. Dwayne Ready said.
The gunman, an employee of Jacobs Engineering of Pasadena, Calif., shot himself once in the head more than three hours after the standoff began, police said.
Beverly’s wife, Linda, said he was an electrical parts specialist and had recently celebrated 25 years of service with NASA. She said her husband had mentioned Phillips to her before, but she declined to say in what regard.
Mike Coats, the director of the Johnson Space Center, said Phillips had worked for NASA for 12 to 13 years and “up until recently, he has been a good employee.”
During the confrontation, NASA employees in the building were evacuated and others were ordered to remain in their offices for several hours.