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Gunman in Camouflage Fatigues Opens Fire at Ford Plant; 1 Dead, 3 Wounded

November 15, 1996 GMT

WIXOM, Mich. (AP) _ A man dressed ``like Rambo″ and carrying an AK-47 shot his way into a Ford plant Thursday, killing a manager and wounding three other people as he sprayed gunfire through the building and then outside at a highway.

Gerald Michael Atkins, 29, was arrested after hiding in a drain tunnel for several hours. He was not a Ford employee and apparently went to the plant to see a girlfriend who worked there, said company spokesman Bill Carroll.

``He was confronted by security guards at the door and asked to leave,″ Carroll said. ``He then pulled out an assault rifle and started shooting. That resulted in chaos and panic and everyone ran.″

Said police Sgt. Richard Howe: ``He more or less shot his way into the plant.″

About 200 day-shift workers were on their lunch break when the gunman walked into the cafeteria wearing camouflage fatigues. One employee said ``he looked like Rambo″ and others were struck by his calm as he silently reloaded the assault weapon.

``He was tall, slim, AK-47 in hand. He was loading up as he was coming through the door,″ said employee Roosevelt Manigo. ``When he loaded up, I started running.″

The gunman fired round after round as he moved through the 4.2-million-square-foot facility that makes luxury Continental and Town Car models. About half of the plant’s 3,200 workers were on duty when the shots rang out.

Manufacturing Planning Manager Darrell Izzard, the plant’s No. 2 official, was walking down a hallway when he was fatally shot. ``We think it was a random thing,″ Carroll said.

As the gunman moved outside, he began shooting at cars on nearby Interstate 96, which was closed for about a five hours and lined with patrol cars.

Two Oakland County sheriff’s officers near the interstate were hospitalized in stable condition after being hit by the gunfire. Another man was treated for minor injuries after he was hit by flying glass.

The suspect was able to elude police for several hours by taking cover in a series of storm drain tunnels, Howe said. After officers decided the area was secured, they used a loudspeaker to tell him to come out.

``After a short period of time he exited and gave himself up,″ Howe said.

Jacques Nasser, president of Ford’s worldwide automotive operations, said Ford security has been very tight.

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``But when someone basically fires their way _ blasts their way _ into a facility it’s very difficult to prevent,″ he said.

``It’s a big problem in the industry with people sometimes being able to get into the buildings,″ Carroll added. ``There are a lot of entrances and a lot of ways they can do it.″

The shooting was at least the fifth at a Michigan auto plant since 1994.

In August, a Ford employee killed a Ford security guard at a plant in western Wayne County over a run-in with the guard’s daughter, then shot himself to death, police said. On Jan. 7, 1995, a worker at the same plant wounded his estranged wife, then killed her boyfriend and himself.

On Dec. 9, 1994, a worker authorities said was upset about his job assignment killed his supervisor and wounded a coworker at a Chrysler Corp. plant in Sterling Heights.

On Sept. 10, 1994, a worker opened fire with a handgun as a union meeting was breaking up at a Ford complex in Dearborn. Two workers were killed and two injured.