04/22/2007

Police: Poor Review Set Off NASA Gunman

The Associated Press
By RASHA MADKOUR

HOUSTON — The gunman in an apparent murder-suicide at the Johnson Space Center targeted a NASA worker he feared could get him fired, police said Saturday.

William Phillips had received a poor job review a month before authorities said he smuggled a revolver into the space center, shot David Beverly and barricaded himself with a hostage before killing himself in a building that houses communications and tracking systems for the space shuttle. The hostage escaped.

Police Chief Harold Hurtt said Phillips bought the .38-caliber revolver March 18, two days after receiving an e-mail citing deficiencies in his job performance.

A copy of the e-mail was found in Phillips' lunch bag on the day of the shootings, police Lt. Larry Baimbridge said.

Phillips had lunch with Beverly and another man on Friday, police said. That afternoon, Phillips entered Beverly's office with the snub-nosed revolver in his hand and said "You're the one who's going to get me fired," Baimbridge said.

After Beverly talked with Phillips for several minutes, Phillips shot him twice, police said. He then returned and shot Beverly twice more, officials said.

Phillips duct-taped a woman to a chair, holding her for hours, police said. Officers entered the room and freed her after hearing the gunshot that killed Phillips.

The hostage, identified by NASA as Fran Crenshaw, a contract worker with MRI Technologies, worked in the same general area.

Space agency spokesman John Ira Petty said Saturday that NASA was conducting what he called a continuous review of security procedures. Petty would not discuss specifics, saying the apparent murder-suicide was a police matter.

To enter the space center, workers must show an ID badge as they drive past a security guard. The badge allows workers access to designated buildings.

Beverly's wife, Linda, said her 62-year-old husband, to whom she had been married for 41 years, was an electrical parts specialist who felt working at NASA was his calling.

"His intellect and his knowledge, David really felt he was contributor," she said.

Phillips, 60, an employee of Jacobs Engineering of Pasadena, Calif., had worked for NASA for 15 years. He was unmarried, had no children and apparently lived alone.

During the confrontation, NASA employees in the building were evacuated and others were ordered to remain in their offices for several hours. Roads within the 1,600-acre space center campus were blocked off, and a nearby middle school kept its teachers and students inside as classes ended. Doors to Mission Control were locked as standard procedure.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press

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