MASS MURDER AND THE POSTAL PURGES (PAGE 2)
Driving home, Patrick Henry began to get angry. He knew he was a better letter carrier than most of his co-workers. In high school football, the Marine Corps, and the Postal Service he had always given his best. Now he was going to be fired. It wasn't supposed to end this way in America . . .
On August 20, 1986, Patrick Henry made his last sacrifice to the system he believed in. Stern-faced and sober, all anger drained from his body and replaced by a determination to do what he knew to be necessary, he dressed in his best summer blue uniform, placed two .45 Colt government-issue semi-automatics, a .22 caliber pistol, and ammunition in his mailbag and drove to work as usual at 6:45 AM.
Despite the miserable August heat, the air conditioning had been turned off in most of the large, new post office for the past several weeks to save money. The place had become, quite literally, a sweatshop - a windowless brick oven in which both the customers in the lobby and the employees on the workroom floor sweltered. Only the new postmaster and his closest cronies in the plush administrative offices were deemed deserving of the comforts of air conditioning. Employee morale had hit at an all time low.
Entering from the east side of the building, Patrick Henry strode towards Supervisor Esser. The .45 caliber Colt Model 1911-A1 is a handgun that requires concentration. Thumbing off the two safeties, Patrick Henry lifted the weapon from his satchel and pointed it at the ceiling, reaching across with his other hand to pull back the slide and jack a round into the chamber. Coming closer, almost to point-blank range, he extended his arm until his elbow locked and slowly brought it down while he sighted across the barrel. Being careful to squeeze, not jerk, the trigger, he applied the five pounds of pull necessary to fire the weapon.
It discharged with a blast that sounded more like a shotgun than a pistol. Supervisor Esser was leveled by the tremendous impact of the flat-nosed slug as it tore a gaping hole through his body. The recoil knocked Patrick Henry's hand upward. As he lowered it again, he aimed at nearby postman Mike Rockne. Too stunned to flee, he too was gunned down.
Everyone either hid or fled towards the exits. Patrick Henry chased several of his co-workers through a side entrance and shot one, then shut and bolted the door. His victim, mortally wounded, managed to crawl to the parking lot before collapsing from loss of blood.
Methodically going from exit to exit, Patrick Henry began to seal the building. While securing the doors, he noted the location of those who had failed to escape. He started toward the lobby entrance, but had to stop to reload. Hiding in a nearby broom closet with another employee, letter carrier Tracy Sanchez distinctly heard the metallic clicks as the bullets were being inserted. Seven bullets to each magazine along with one in the chamber. It took less than a minute.
Systematically searching the workroom floor, he flushed several employees who were hiding in gurneys or under letter cases. He envisioned a target on their upper torsos and seldom missed his mark. Working fast and efficiently, he took less than five minutes to slaughter everyone in the large work area at the rear of the building. Some of the survivors would later sardonically admire the speed and skill with which Patrick Henry Sherrill had performed his grisly task.
All that remained were a few clerks and some office personnel in the front of the building. Most had already fled through the open lobby entrance. Patrick Henry strode past several clerks and shot several others. Not everyone deserved to die . . .
Having traveled in a circle through the building, Patrick Henry was once again in front of the body of Supervisor Esser. Less than 50 bullets had killed 14 employees and wounded seven in less than 15 minutes. As he stood staring at the carnage, his concentration gave way to a feeling of revulsion.
Would Supervisor Esser now concede that he had worked hard enough? There was only one way to find out. Patrick Henry raised the pistol to his head, sobbed, and squeezed off one final round.
When the body count was tallied, it became the third largest mass murder by a lone gunman in United States history. Publicly the Postal Service feigned shock and outrage, but privately they had expected it for quite some time. Incidents of violence were on the increase and two supervisors had been killed in Atlanta the previous year. In the next three years there would be 355 reported (undoubtedly many went unreported) by workers on supervisors and 183 by bosses on workers. Few of these would ever become public knowledge.
Nothing could be allowed to disrupt the flow of mail. The gore was mopped from the brown linoleum floor and Edmond's post office was open for business as usual the next day. Dick Carleton, general manager for the Oklahoma division of the Postal Service, countered charges of worker abuse by saying, "If there were so many problems, would you have everyone showing up for work on the day after a tragedy?" Bill Shockey, Edmond's former postmaster, commented that everyone who came to work "performed like champions." Although Supervisor Bland originally admitted to police that he had threatened Patrick Henry with dismissal, the Postal Service told the press that he had merely been "counseled".
Psychiatrists who had never met Patrick Henry or visited Oklahoma attributed his behavior to "factitious posttraumatic stress disorder", a fancy term for self-induced battle fatigue. By 1986 many negative articles had been printed in the United States about the problems of Vietnam-era veterans. They had lost the war and were rapidly becoming the scapegoats of a society suffering from moral decay. In contrast "shell-shocked" veterans of previous wars had been the recipients of respect and understanding from a grateful nation.