A fired mail carrier with a history of psychiatric problems went on a rampage Thursday, allegedly shooting to death a postal worker, wounding two other people and then killing a woman in three separate attacks, authorities said.
The post office attack in this seaside town came just four hours after a disgruntled mail employee in suburban Detroit allegedly opened fire in a Postal Service garage, killing one and wounding two others before turning the gun on himself. U.S. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon in Washington 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."
In Orange County, police and witnesses said Mark Richard Hilbun, 38, of Dana Point, walked into an employee entrance of the postal center about 10 a.m. and yelled for workers to get down on the ground. He then opened fired, killing one man and slightly injuring a second. As of nightfall, Hilbun was still at large despite a massive search.
Authorities said that, after the post office shootings, Hilbun drove off in a pick up truck and allegedly shot a man who was working in his garage a few blocks away.
About a half hour after the shooting, police broke into the Corona Del Mar home of Hilbun's mother, hoping to get information on her son. There, they found the body of a woman and a dog. Police declined to identify the woman, saying only that she may be a relative.
Investigators refused to say how the woman or the dog were killed but indicated they may have been slain in the early morning. One witness reported seeing a man fitting Hilbun's description on the street near his mother's home about 7:50 a.m.
Witnesses at the post office said a man believed to be Hilbun telephoned the facility Thursday morning, threatening harm to those inside. Hilbun had worked there as a postal carrier for at least four years, officials said, but he was fired last Dec. 8 in part because he had been stalking a fellow female mail carrier.
Kim Springer, 29, of Laguna Beach, had obtained a restraining order against Hilbun about six months ago, said Postal Inspector David Smith. "It appears as if he violated that restraining order," Smith said.
Over a period of months, Smith said, Hilbun left messages for Springer at work and at her home, putting letters in her mailbox at home. "It appears as if there was a romantic interest on the part of Hilbun toward her," said Art Martinez, a district manager for the U.S. Postal Service.
Police were holding Springer in protective custody Thursday night.
Smith said the Dana Point office will re-open today with armed guards at each door. "If Mr. Hilbun comes here tomorrow, he will be apprehended before he can reach any employee," he said.
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 and has been treated with lithium.
Co-workers said Hilbun had stalked Springer and records show that he was arrested--but never convicted--on charges of harassing her with telephone calls.
After receiving the threatening phone calls at the post office Thursday morning, employees said they locked the doors. But the gunman then apparently slipped into the building just before 10 a.m.
Letter carrier John Gargan said Hilbun entered the building through the loading dock and first shot to death letter carrier Charles T. Barbagallo. He then yelled, "Down on the ground," Gargan said.
Gargan said that Hilgun and Barbagallo were acquaintances. "(Charles) was a friend of his. I think they'd gone to concerts together. They socialize....Maybe he was just taking his friends and his mother with him," Gargan said.
Springer was already under the desk, Gargan said. Hilbun then 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.
Steve Eberhardt, 30, of Long Beach, said Springer, his girlfriend, had been "stalked" by Hilbun for nearly a year. Hilbun would often follow her on her route, Eberhardt said, and sometimes sent her threatening notes.
Given the threats, Eberhardt said he believes post officials should have been better prepared for the prospect of violence.
"Where was the postmaster? He should have had an idea at least that something like this might happen," Eberhardt said. His girlfriend was uninjured but "traumatized" by the day's events, he said.
A few minutes after Hilbun left the post office, police received a report of an shooting just four or five blocks away. A gunman had shot and injured resident John Kersey in his garage. The description of the vehicle at the scene--including the kayak--matched that of Hilbun's truck, authorities said.
"The fellow said, 'This is a holdup' and put a gun to me," Kersey said in an interview. "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 suspect fled in the pickup truck.
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, opened fire apparently because he was upset that a female co-worker had gotten a clerical job he wanted.
One man was fatally shot, a man and woman were wounded and another man suffered chest pains and a hip injury after falling while running away.
Shortly afterward, Jasion's body was found in the garage with a self-inflicted bullet wound in 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 worker who was killed wasn't 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 stable 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 from the inside, obstructing views both in and 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.