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Four dead when man opens fire at Alabama employment agency

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A man looking for work opened fire at a temporary employment agency Tuesday during an argument over a CD player, killing four fellow job-seekers and wounding a fifth, police said.

Emanuel Burl Patterson later surrendered after a standoff at his apartment, where police tracked him down using the address he put on his job applications. Authorities turned off the building's electricity while the temperature was near freezing. Police said the man shot at officers early in the standoff.

The shooting with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun started about 6:30 a.m. in the lobby of Labor Ready Inc., where as many as 15 people were waiting for work. Witnesses said they scrambled for cover.

"A fight broke out among two groups of men over a CD player," said police spokesman Wendell Johnson. He said Patterson, 23, of Huntsville, regularly went to the office looking for work and was well known both to employees and other laborers.

"People who know him say he is a very unstable individual," Johnson said without elaboration.

Argument over $20. CDs

Michael Tucker Jr. said his father was in the office and told him the argument "was all over something about CDs and $20. There was some guys picking at (the gunman) and pushing him, laughing at him. They pushed him into a corner."

According to police and witnesses, the gunman shot to death Billy Knox Jr., 22, and his father, Billy Knox Sr., 61, both of Huntsville, inside the building, then turned the gun on others at random.

Police said Benjamin Ferguson, 47, of Huntsville, and David Seiler, 46, a Tennessee man whose hometown was not immediately available, were shot on the front steps. Seiler died during surgery, and the others were dead at the scene.

A fifth man, Royce Henderson, 46, of Huntsville, was shot in the leg and survived.

Patricia Johnson, 38, told The Huntsville Times the gunman turned his weapon on her and pulled the trigger, but the handgun did not fire. She ran into a closet where three or four people already were hiding.

The gunman drove off after the shooting.

No charges were filed immediately against Patterson, but Madison County District Attorney Tim Morgan said capital murder charges were likely.

The district attorney said Patterson had only minor run-ins with the law previously. Other details about his background were not immediately known.


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