In the middle of a busy, late-night holiday shift, a postal worker pulled a pistol, shot a supervisor who had disciplined him, killed one co-worker and wounded another, before taking his own life early Friday.
About 1,500 workers were on duty at the city’s main postal office when the shooting started about 12:45 a.m.
As workers ducked for cover and ran to escape, the gunman, Anthony J. DeCulit, 37, fired as many as a dozen shots from a 9-millimeter handgun.
One of the victims, Joan Chitwood, 55, the supervisor who had written DeCulit a letter of reprimand for sleeping on the job, was shot in the right eye. She underwent surgery and was expected to live.
DeCulit shot and killed Russell “Dan” Smith, 42, who worked next to him but with whom he was not on speaking terms. Another victim, Roderick Patterson, was treated and released at a local hospital for a gunshot wound to the foot which he received while fleeing the third floor room where mail is sorted.
Racial discrimination may have played a part in setting off Deculit, the president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Felmers Chaney, said at a news conference here. The gunman was black, and his three victims were white.
Chaney said he had 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 the NAACP had received more than 80 complaints from postal workers here over the past eight years. Recently, four former postal supervisors, all black, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court here, contending that they had been demoted after they had written a letter complaining of racial harassment by a white supervisor and other problems.
In their letter, the supervisors told the head of the Milwaukee district postal service that there is “a ton of pent-up hostility ready to explode.” Soon after the letter was received, the suit contends, the four complainants were demoted and told that their letter was seen as threatening.
DeCulit, an ex-Marine who worked from 10 p.m. until 6:30 a.m., had been disappointed recently after he applied for a daytime job at a branch station. A coworker, Michael Witkowski, said DeCulit was given the job only to have it taken away after a week or two on the new job because a mistake had been made. The job was given to an employee with more seniority.
Witkowski, also a former Marine, said he went to DeCulit when he realized what was happening and begged him to stop shooting.
“I said Tony, ‘You don’t want to do this!”’ said Witkowski, still wearing blood-drenched blue jeans. “He turned to me and said, ‘Mike, you don’t want to be here.”’
A police officer who had been dropping off a letter at a mailbox in the building arrived on the scene. He confronted DeCulit and told him to drop his gun. DeCulit put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
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