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Man Who Shot Up Post Office Dies of Wound; Another Wounded Person Also Dies

November 15, 1991 GMT

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) _ A woman postal employee wounded in the suicidal shooting spree by a recently fired coworker died this morning, as did the gunman himself, hospital officials said.

Colleagues predicted that Thomas McIlvane, who threatened supervisors and co-workers, would one day shoot up the Royal Oak post office if he didn’t get his job back. One described him as a ″waiting time bomb.″

On Thursday, police said, the 31-year-old ex-Marine made good on his threats, spraying the post office with bullets from a 22-caliber semiautomatic rifle. Three postal workers were killed and six were wounded before he turned the gun on himself.

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McIlvane was pronounced dead early today and doctors removed his organs for transplant, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Trefil. And a few hours later, one of the critically wounded workers died, bringing the death toll to five counting McIlvane.

Charles Wilson, Michigan inspector in charge for the Postal Service, said at a news conference today that he had little hope of fully explaining McIlvane’s deadly spree.

″We don’t have the answers to all the different questions that may be posed,″ Wilson said. ″Indeed, we may never have the answers. All of us are looking for logical answers to a very illogical event.″

The post office in this suburb 10 miles north of downtown Detroit was closed today and mail delivery to the city’s 70,000 residents was canceled, while counselors met with shaken survivors and relatives of the victims.

McIlvane was fired from the post office last year for timecard fraud and had appealed his dismissal. U.S. Postal Service spokesman Lou Eberhardt said an arbitrator rejected his appeal on Wednesday.

″Everybody said if he didn’t get his job back, he was going to come in and shoot,″ postal worker Bob Cibulka said. ″Everyone was talking about it.″

″He was a waiting time bomb,″ said former postal worker Mark Mitchell, who was stationed with McIlvane at the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., in the early 1980s.

″One time at Twentynine Palms there was a guy he was mad at and he drove a tank over his car,″ Mitchell said.

Thursday’s shooting came just a month after four New Jersey postal workers were killed during another rampage. In that case, Joseph Harris, 35, is charged with shooting his former supervisor and her boyfriend at their home, then going to the Ridgewood, N.J., post office and killing two employees. He later surrendered to police.

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In 1986, a part-time letter carrier in Edmond, Okla., killed 14 people in the post office before taking his own life.

Among those killed Thursday was branch operations manager Christopher Carlisle, 33, and labor relations representative Keith Ciszewski, 37. Also killed was injury compensation specialist Mary Benincasa, 32. The woman who died today at William Beaumont Hospital was identified as postal worker Rose Proos, 33.

Carlisle was mentioned in a Goverment Accounting Office report issued after an investigation into the 1988 deaths of three postal workers in Indianapolis, where workers had complained of undue job stress. He transferred to Royal Oak last year.

Complaints about poor service and low morale among workers at the Royal Oak post office had prompted a congressional investigation just before the spree.

Last month, Rep. William Broomfield requested an audit of the Royal Oak Service Center and the post offices under its jurisdiction by the General Accouting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Consumers have grumbled about late mail, removal of collection boxes and shoddy service, he said. Postal employees have complained of ″management and policy decisions that have disrupted service and depressed morale,″ Broomfield said.

Postmaster General Anthony Frank said that he was committed before the shootings to ″resolving any of the real or perceptual problems our managers found in Royal Oak.″

McIlvane’s threats against supervisors had been forwarded to postal officials, and Postal Inspector Art Vandeputte said steps were taken to prevent a possible tragedy. Doors with combination locks were installed in the loading dock area about three months ago, workers said.

″We simply don’t have guards guarding the door. ... There are so many mail carriers coming in and so many vehicles, it’s impossible to keep the back of the post office sealed,″ Vandeputte said.

Fire Chief Bill Crouch said the shooting spree began about 9 a.m. when McIlvane opened fire on the post office loading dock, hitting about three people.

From there he went to an upstairs office and shot another three people, Crouch said, before heading over to the opposite side of the building and shooting more people, then himself.

Letter carrier Rockie McDonald said McIlvane fired at him but missed.

″I yelled ’No, Tom 3/8 No 3/8‴ McDonald said. ″I don’t know how many times I yelled it. He turned and went the other way.″