Election Day turned tragic for employees at a Central Fresno chicken packaging plant, when a man walked into work Tuesday morning and opened fire three hours later, killing two of his co-workers and hurting two more. It happened around 8:30 a.m. at the Valley Protein Plant on Hedges and Abby.More >>
FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -
Workers at a Fresno meat processing plant will return to work Thursday, two days after a deadly shooting which left three employees dead, two others recovering from gunshots, and a community - stunned.
Bosses at Valley Protein describe the shooting as a horrific, random act of violence.
Wednesday night, dozens of friends, family, and employees held a candlelight march in front of the plant.
"I just don't understand why he did it. Why did my cousin have to be the first person shot?" said Ofelia Olea, a cousin of one of the men killed.
"He was a good person, you could go to him for anything, to play around to be serious, to talk to," said Olea.
The gunman shot both her cousin, Salvador Diaz and his co-worker, Manuel Verdin, in the head.
Verdin leaves behind a wife and a two-year-old son.
"These gentlemen were at work, trying to support their families and somebody came in and gunned them down. They might not have had an opportunity to protect themselves. The families are coping with that," said Chris Martinez, a friend of Verdin.
Police say 42-year-old Lawrence Jones shot a total of five of people, including himself.
Two employees survived.
Jones was a discharged parolee whose rap sheet dates back to the 90's and includes burglary, robbery, and auto theft.
But his boss says he was a good employee.
"Rode his bike to work every day, never missed, never late. He'd say good morning Bob, I'd say good morning back, how you doing today Lawrence? I'm blessed to be here," said Bob Coyle, president of Valley Protein.
Coyle met with his employees Wednesday, and brought in grief counselors to help them cope.
He says Jones gave no warning signs of trouble, and believes he shot random co-workers as he walked through the building.
"One worked right next to him, the other worked in the grinding room. Based on geography, I think that's how people got picked out, where they were," said Coyle.
"Everyone wants an answer, sometimes there are no answers," said Michelle Coyle, the company's human resource official.
The plant was closed for business Wednesday; employees will head back to work Thursday starting at 5:00 a.m.
The Fresno County coroner finished an autopsy on Jones, and is waiting on toxicology results, to figure out if he had any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting.
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