Police identify man killed in Virginia workplace shooting

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2016 2:32 PM
Police identify man killed in Virginia workplace shooting

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Authorities in Virginia on Wednesday identified a man who was fatally shot and three others who were wounded after a former co-worker opened fire at a rail car factory.

Getachew Fekede opened fire at the FreightCar America facility in Roanoke early Tuesday before killing himself, police said. Daniel Brown, 56, of Montvale, was killed, said Roanoke Police spokesman Scott Leamon.

Leamon identified the three other employees injured in the shooting as Keith Law, 31, of Rocky Mount; Gary Koran, 32, of Roanoke; and Travis Valderrama, 31, of Catawba.

None of the people gathered in front of Brown's home Wednesday would comment. Vickie Hawkins, who identified herself as Brown's girlfriend, told WDBJ-TV that Brown was dedicated to his family, country and job and treated her granddaughter as one of his own. She said he worked for FreightCar America for about eight years and rarely missed a day.

"He had a huge heart. ... He is going to be so missed by his family," Hawkins said. She said she wanted everyone "to know what a wonderful person he was."

Getachew legally entered the U.S. from Kenya in 2011 through a refugee immigration program, police said. He was fired by the company in March when he stopped showing up for work, they said.

Neighbors described Getachew as a good friend and hard worker, who quit his job because he was being harassed by another man at work. They expressed disbelief that Getachew would commit such violence.

"Everybody was just shocked that he would do something like that," said Frank Myers, who lives in the building where Getachew lived. "He had class. He had intelligence. He was just an exceptionally nice guy," Myers said.

Clarence Jones, another man who lives in the building, called Getachew "the perfect neighbor."

Jones said Getachew complained about a man at work who would intimidate and pick on him. Getachew transferred to another department, but ultimately quit when the problems continued, Jones said.

Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones said the shooting appears to have been work-related but any possible links to terrorism will also be investigated. He noted that authorities already have searched Getachew's Roanoke apartment as part of their investigation.

"All information at this time points to (Getachew) acting as the sole perpetrator," Jones said.

Getachew rode a bicycle to the facility near downtown and somehow entered its paint shop, police have said. Officers received a call of shots fired at 6:02 a.m. and arrived two minutes later. But by that time, Getachew had fired 10 rounds from a 9 mm pistol.

Brown died at the scene. The chief said two others suffered wounds to their "lower extremities" and a bullet grazed a third person's chest. Getachew then killed himself, police said.

One of the three workers who were wounded was treated at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and released Tuesday, while the two who remained in the hospital were in fair condition Wednesday, the hospital said in a statement.

In a statement posted on its website, Chicago-based FreightCar America said it could not provide specific information about the victims but offered its "deepest condolences."

Jim America, vice president and chief human resources officer of the company, said in an email Tuesday that its investigation of the matter is in its early stages and the company will release more details when they are available.

Police said at least 50 people were in the building at the time of the shooting, although it's unclear how many were in the paint room with Getachew. The police chief praised the company for its emergency response protocols that helped many escape.

The company opened the Roanoke facility in 2005. It rents the property from Norfolk Southern, for which it also builds railroad cars.

The Roanoke facility and others have experienced layoffs in recent years in what is a cyclical industry depending on demand and cost. News releases and SEC filings from August said the company would eliminate 15 percent of its salaried workforce and adjust staffing levels for hourly workers.

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Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.