By Sue Major Holmes
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A gunman angry about a domestic violence dispute with his girlfriend forced his way into the manufacturing plant where she works and killed two employees Monday before turning the gun on himself.
Four others were wounded in a rampage police said was motivated by the shooter's disgust over a domestic violence dispute involving the girlfriend.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said it was not immediately clear whether the 37-year-old girlfriend was among the victims in the murder-suicide at the fiber optics and solar manufacturing plant in Albuquerque. He said the targeted woman had told co-workers she planned to report domestic violence to authorities.
It was also not known how the shooter got past security at Emcore Corp., but his first victim was a person who confronted him on the way into the facility.
Then he went through the building firing shots at several employees and leaving behind a gruesome scene of blood and shell casings across the company headquarters. Responding officers had to step past several victims - one dead and several wounded - as they raced into the building to stop the gunman.
Mayhem unfolded as he opened fire, sending employees fleeing for cover as police locked down the entire neighborhood.
"This is the worst nightmare you can think of," Schultz said. "No one wants to have a situation like this occur in their community."
Schultz initially told reporters six people were dead, but authorities later revised the count to say only three were dead.
Schultz explained that responding officers had seen people down and believed they were dead, then continued into the building to search for the gunman. Officers who arrived later determined they had survived. A third victim was double-counted by a hospital.
Schultz said the gunman carried a handgun and investigators were trying to determine if there were additional weapons. No victims' names have been released.
Schultz said the gunman and his girlfriend had children who live in Rio Rancho and said they were taken into custody by "another agency." The chief said there was at least one previous domestic violence call involving the gunman outside Albuquerque.
Schultz called the Emcore campus "a very secure facility" and said it appeared the gunman forced his way into the building before entering several areas. Schultz said detectives and FBI agents were reviewing surveillance video.
"It's a large and complex shooting scene," he said.
He said 226 people were transported by bus from Emcore buildings to a community center, where detectives interviewed them. Employees also were offered grief counseling and treatment for asthma or diabetic conditions.
Emcore manufactures components that allow voice, video and data transmission over fiber optic lines. They also make solar power systems for satellite and ground-based systems, and Schultz said the company deals with numerous federal contracts.
Based in Albuquerque, the company has about 700 full-time employees. The gunman is a former employee, police said.
Of the 5,071 workplace fatalities nationwide in 2008, 517 were homicides, or about 10 percent of all workplace fatalities, according to U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
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The department reported the 2008 numbers represent an 18 percent drop in workplace homicides from 2007 and a 52 percent drop from 1994, when 1,080 workplace homicides occurred.