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Man opens fire at manufacturing plant in Missouri

Man opens fire at manufacturing plant in Missouri

EARTH CITY, Mo. (AP) - A former employee walked into a conveyor belt factory and opened fire Thursday while workers were changing shifts, at one point reloading his shotgun in a parking lot before re-entering the building.

Though witnesses reported hearing multiple shots, only one person was wounded in the shooting that began about 3 p.m. at Beltservice Corp., in an industrialized area west of St. Louis, police spokesman Mason Keller said. The man was grazed by a bullet and his injury was not serious, Keller said.

By evening, only the gunman was still in the building, which is near the training facility of the St. Louis Rams football team. Keller said the man was in an area of the factory where he could not escape, but he did not elaborate.

Company co-founder and chairman Dick Engelsmann said 110 employees were in the building at the time of the shooting, and all were evacuated. He said the gunman left the company, which makes industrial conveyor belts, a year ago. He believes he was fired but could not say why.

One plant worker said he knew the shooter and that the man was having personal problems and missing too many days at work when he was fired.

"He told me if he lost his job he wouldn't be able to support his family," Marcus Jordan said.

Other workers said the shooting happened near the company's special-fabrication department, not far from a hallway containing a time clock.

Craig Kopplin said he had just begun his shift when he heard a gunshot. "Boom! Then instantaneously, I heard another," he said.

Another worker, Kevin Tippit, said he heard at least five gunshots. He bolted and sought shelter in a neighboring building's dock area.

"I was looking through the windows, and the guy came out, reloaded his gun and went right back in," he said. "It's craziness, craziness."

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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