West Tennessee Post Office Shooting Leaves Two Dead

By Molly Farrell

molly-farrell@utc.edu

HENNING, Tenn. (AP/UTC) — Two gunmen opened fire Monday at a post office in a rural West Tennessee town that was home to “Roots” author Alex Haley, killing two workers during what a survivor and authorities described as an attempted robbery.

The shooting happened Monday morning at the post office in Henning, the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department said. Officers were searching for a maroon Chevrolet Malibu with two men inside, and no arrests have been made.

District Attorney Mike Dunavant said the case involved “disturbing violence” but did not elaborate.

The post office, which sits between a self-service car wash and a coin-operated laundry called “Mom’s” in this town of about 1,200 people, often has residents coming in to pick up their mail. Home delivery isn’t provided in Henning, some 45 miles northeast of Memphis.

Beth Barnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said that five people usually work in the post office but that she was not sure how many were there at the time of the attack.

Mary Hammock, who works at a nearby market, said Monday afternoon that she had been in the post office about 8:25 a.m. and noticed it was not as loud or busy as normal.

“I knew something didn’t feel right because it was real quiet,” she said. She returned to the market and heard police sirens about 15 minutes later.

“I might have been real close probably to losing my life,” she said.

Around midday, plainclothes investigators were scanning the area along a railroad track that sits behind the post office. Lines of yellow police tape kept people away from the building as a crowd gathered nearby, some sitting in chairs, waiting for more information about what happened.

Crime scene investigation trucks were parked outside, including one from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Ella Holloway, who lives within walking distance of the post office, said she knew one of the women killed. Holloway said she would be greeted by the woman’s smile when she went to the post office to buy stamps.

“She was a real nice person,” Holloway said.

Tony Burns, a state employee at the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, said his sister-in-law is a postal service worker who was assigned to the Henning office Monday. She told him that the shooting happened during a robbery attempt, but that she escaped unharmed. The sheriff’s department also said earlier in the day that the incident may have been a robbery.

Standing on a street corner near the post office, city resident Emmitt Hennings, a 71-year-old retiree, said it was hard to comprehend what happened.

“I just couldn’t believe it, not in this town,” Hennings said. “It’s too quiet.”

Postal officials offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The post office is less than a half-mile away from the museum dedicated to the “Roots” author Haley, who died in 1992. The 1976 book won a Pulitzer Prize and was the basis for a top-rated TV series. The story chronicled his family history from Africa to slavery and freedom in the U.S., and it inspired many people to research their own families’ roots.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

2 workers killed in Tenn. post office shooting

HENNING, Tenn. (AP/The Loop) — Two gunmen opened fire Monday at a post office in a rural West Tennessee town that was home to “Roots” author Alex Haley, killing two workers during what a survivor and authorities described as an attempted robbery.

The shooting happened Monday morning at the post office in Henning, the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department said. Officers were searching for a maroon Chevrolet Malibu with two men inside, and no arrests have been made.

District Attorney Mike Dunavant said the case involved “disturbing violence” but did not elaborate.

The post office, which sits between a self-service car wash and a coin-operated laundry called “Mom’s” in this town of about 1,200 people, often has residents coming in to pick up their mail. Home delivery isn’t provided in Henning, some 45 miles northeast of Memphis.

Beth Barnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said that five people usually work in the post office but that she was not sure how many were there at the time of the attack.

Mary Hammock, who works at a nearby market, said Monday afternoon that she had been in the post office about 8:25 a.m. and noticed it was not as loud or busy as normal.

“I knew something didn’t feel right because it was real quiet,” she said. She returned to the market and heard police sirens about 15 minutes later.

“I might have been real close probably to losing my life,” she said.

Around midday, plainclothes investigators were scanning the area along a railroad track that sits behind the post office. Lines of yellow police tape kept people away from the building as a crowd gathered nearby, some sitting in chairs, waiting for more information about what happened.

Crime scene investigation trucks were parked outside, including one from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Ella Holloway, who lives within walking distance of the post office, said she knew one of the women killed. Holloway said she would be greeted by the woman’s smile when she went to the post office to buy stamps.

“She was a real nice person,” Holloway said.

Tony Burns, a state employee at the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, said his sister-in-law is a postal service worker who was assigned to the Henning office Monday. She told him that the shooting happened during a robbery attempt, but that she escaped unharmed. The sheriff’s department also said earlier in the day that the incident may have been a robbery.

Standing on a street corner near the post office, city resident Emmitt Hennings, a 71-year-old retiree, said it was hard to comprehend what happened.

“I just couldn’t believe it, not in this town,” Hennings said. “It’s too quiet.”

Postal officials offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The post office is less than a half-mile away from the museum dedicated to the “Roots” author Haley, who died in 1992. The 1976 book won a Pulitzer Prize and was the basis for a top-rated TV series. The story chronicled his family history from Africa to slavery and freedom in the U.S., and it inspired many people to research their own families’ roots.

___

Associated Press writer Lucas L. Johnson II in Nashville contributed to this report.

Accused School Shooter’s Evaluation Was Negative

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The elementary school teacher accused of shooting and wounding his two principals appeared to calmly accept a negative evaluation about 10 minutes before the attack, one of the victims testified Wednesday.
Inskip Elementary School assistant principal Amy Brace told the court that she and Principal Elisa Luna met with fourth-grade teacher Mark Foster on Feb. 10 shortly after students were dismissed because of snow.
Foster's Mug Shot

Brace said Luna refused to meet privately with Foster after the evaluation but did agree to talk with him while Brace was in the office. Foster left the office, then returned soon after. Brace said she was busy handling paperwork when she heard Luna scream, then a gunshot.
“I heard Elisa yell and I heard Mark say ‘You know all that stuff that they said about me? I guess you should have listened,'” Brace testified.
Brace testified Foster then shot her, stepped over her and shot her again.
Foster was ordered held for grand jury action on two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of unlawful possession of a gun on school property. He appeared in General Sessions Court with a navy jacket and tie and was represented by Knox County Public Defender Mark Stephens and assistant Public Defender Kevin McGee.
Foster had been under investigation by Knox County Schools after an anonymous e-mail to Superintendent James McIntyre that claimed Foster was a “ticking time bomb.” It was later determined that it was sent by Foster’s brother, Anthony.
Stephens questioned Brace about her knowledge of Foster’s mental condition. But Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Leslie Nassios objected to the questioning, saying Brace is not qualified to make a statement on Foster’s mental health.
After the hearing, Stephens said his client has a history of mental illness.
“That history can be documented about 22 years, maybe more, so that’s the point we were trying to make clear in today’s hearing,” Stephens said.
Brace had at least a dozen supporters in court, including family members and three teachers from Inskip Elementary. Anthony Foster also attended the hearing.
“I’m here for both sides,” Anthony Foster said. “It’s kind of uncomfortable and kind of embarrassing because he’s my brother, but I don’t think he needs to be in society.”
Brace testified that she received some 40 to 50 stitches due to a gunshot wound to her head. Luna is undergoing treatment for a spinal cord injury.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Past Articles:
Delayed hearing for teacher accused in Knoxville school shooting

Boy Dies in Accidental Shooting

By Cody Mohon

SOMERVILLE, Tenn. (The Loop/AP)– A 9-year-old boy from Fayette County died Aug. 18 after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun.

Dante Boyd and his 8-year old stepbrother were at home alone around 4:15 p.m. when they discovered a nine mm handgun beneath a couch and began playing with it. According to a news release, Boyd accidentally pulled the trigger and shot himself in the chest. He was pronounced dead at Methodist Fayette Hospital.

The handgun’s owner, Boyd’s stepfather, Willie Dee Allen, was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.