A fired mail carrier with a history of psychiatric problems went on a rampage Thursday, stabbing his mother to death and killing a former co-worker at a post office in this small seaside town, authorities said.
Three other people were shot and wounded in separate attacks by the same man, police said.
The events unfolded hours after a disgruntled postal employee in suburban Detroit allegedly opened fire in a Postal Service garage, killing one person and wounding two others before committing suicide. In Washington, U.S. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon ordered an immediate investigation into the two attacks, saying that “in spite of our efforts to prevent violence, senseless tragedy has happened within the ranks of the Postal Service.”
The suspect in the Orange County attacks, identified as 38-year-old Mark Richard Hilbun of Dana Point, was still at large late Thursday despite a massive manhunt.
Police suspect that Hilbun, who has been hospitalized at least twice in recent months for manic depression, stabbed his mother and her cocker spaniel to death at her Corona del Mar home Thursday morning.
He drove to the Dana Point post office, where he shot two employees, authorities said. He allegedly shot a Dana Point man who was in his garage a few blocks away, and about five hours later shot and critically wounded a motorist in Newport Beach who was apparently following him, police said.
Postal workers said they feared Hilbun even before the attacks because of his infatuation with a co-worker. Hilbun was fired in December in part because he had been stalking a woman mail carrier, Kim Springer, 29. He sometimes followed her on her route and harassed her, authorities and co-workers said.
He continued to contact the woman even after he was fired, sending her a note last week that threatened to kill them both, said Springer’s boyfriend, Steve Eberhardt, 30, of Long Beach. On Tuesday, officials at the Dana Point post office called a staff meeting to warn employees to contact a supervisor if they saw Hilbun. They also advised workers to take extra security measures to guard against problems, several postal workers said.
“We were warned that he was on the loose, so to speak, and told this was a possibility,” said one mail carrier, who fled the building Thursday after he heard shots at a nearby workstation. He asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety. “What can you do? You lock the building up--if someone wants to get in and get at someone, they’re going to.”
Police and witnesses said that Hilbun walked into an employee entrance of the postal center about 10 a.m. and yelled for workers to “get down on the ground.” He allegedly opened fired, killing Charles T. Barbagallo, 42, of San Clemente and slightly injuring a second worker who rushed toward him. He also fired through a door at the office postmaster, who was unharmed, officials said. The shootings occurred in an employee area that is closed to the public.
The U.S. Postal Service has been plagued by a series of high-profile shootings in its branches, with 34 people killed and 12 wounded in a dozen attacks since 1983.
Authorities said that after the post office shootings, Hilbun drove off in a pickup truck with a kayak on top and allegedly shot a man who was working in his garage a few blocks away.
“The fellow said, ‘This is a holdup’ and put a gun to me,” victim John Kersey, 65, said in an interview at a hospital, where he was in stable condition. “When I had my face on the floor he hit me over the head with the butt of a gun, I think. Then I got up and started scuffling with him.”
The gunman fired at least one shot from a revolver, hitting Kersey in the arm.
About half an hour after the shooting, police went to the Corona del Mar home of Hilbun’s mother, Frances Hilbun, 63, hoping to get information on her son. Neighbors said they found it suspicious that they had not heard any barking from the woman’s dog all morning, and police broke down the door to the home about 12:30 p.m., authorities said.
Inside, they found the body of Frances Hilbun in her bedroom, along with that of her dog. Both had been stabbed many times, Newport Beach police said.
Newport Beach Police Sgt. Andy Gonis said investigators believe that the woman and her dog were probably killed in the morning before the attack at the post office.
Hilbun had worked there as a postal carrier for at least four years, officials said, but he was fired Dec. 8 in part because he had been stalking Springer.
Court records show that he was arrested in November--but never convicted--on charges of harassing her with telephone calls in September. Springer dropped the charges after she learned that he was being treated for his psychiatric problems.
As part of an agreement in the dismissal of those charges, Hilbun agreed to stay away from Springer, authorities said. But the woman decided to apply for a restraining order against him anyway and was planning to file it Thursday, Eberhardt said.
Over several months, Smith said, Hilbun left messages for Springer at work and at her home, putting letters in her mailbox.
Two postal inspectors had been guarding Springer over the weekend and the first part of this week for her protection, Eberhardt said.
Springer was in protective custody Thursday night.
Records show that Hilbun was convicted in November of driving under the influence and resisting arrest in connection with a traffic stop in Lakewood last year. He was sentenced to community service and three years probation. His attorney in that case, Donald Rubright, described Hilbun as a manic-depressive who has been hospitalized for his mental condition.
Letter carrier John Gargan said Hilbun entered the building about 9:45 a.m. through the loading dock and shot Barbagallo first. He then yelled, “Down on the ground!” Gargan said.
Springer was hiding in the office, Gargan said. Hilbun went to the postmaster’s office and shot through the closed door. He fled out the side entrance and drove off in a blue Nissan pickup with a kayak on top.
In the Newport Beach shooting, police said the victim apparently was following Hilbun on Cliff Drive because she had noticed magnetic placards on the side of his truck, and she apparently wanted to ask him about them.
The woman suffered multiple gunshot wounds and is in stable but critical condition at a local hospital. She is expected to undergo surgery Friday, police said.
The Dana Point incident occurred only hours after a postal mechanic in Dearborn, Mich., walked into a Postal Service garage carrying a handgun and a shotgun. Authorities said Larry Jasion, 45, apparently opened fire because he was upset that a female co-worker had gotten a clerical job that he wanted.
One man was shot to death, a man and woman were wounded and another man suffered chest pains and a hip injury as he fell falling while running away.
Shortly afterward, Jasion’s body was found in the garage with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head, authorities said.
Jasion, a 24-year postal employee, had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over losing the promotion, but it was rejected about six weeks ago, officials said.
“A postal inspector sat down with him at that time and counseled him and told him he had other appeals,” Postal Inspector Fred Van de Putte said.
The name of the slain worker was not immediately released. The woman, Sandra Brandstatter, 32, was in critical condition with two gunshot wounds to the head and one to the back, said Dr. Paul Haydon of Oakwood Hospital.
The wounded man, Bruce Plumb, 43, a motor vehicle maintenance supervisor, was in stable condition with multiple gunshot wounds to the back, Haydon said.
Authorities and co-workers described Jasion as eccentric and embittered. The windows of his house were painted white on the inside so that no one could see in or out.
Shortly after a mail carrier killed 14 people at an Oklahoma post office in 1986, Jasion went to his boss and said, “You’re going to be next,” former supervisor Robert Fryz recalled. Fryz said he quit as garage supervisor in 1987 in part because he feared Jasion.
A Deadly Rampage
A fired Dana Point mail carrier walked into a post office with a gun Thursday. The ensuing events: A. Dana Point post office: One postal worker is killed and another wounded. B. Seaside Drive, Dana Point: A man is shot and wounded in his garage. C. Corona del Mar: Suspect’s mother is found stabbed to death at her home. Newport Beach: A woman motorist is allegedly shot by the suspect near Corona del Mar.