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Shooter Kills 7 at Net Firm Outside Boston

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A 42-year-old software tester wielding three weapons shot and killed seven co-workers Tuesday at the Internet consulting firm where he was employed, in the nation’s latest incidence of job-related violence, police said.

The attack on the day after Christmas stunned this small town in the high-tech corridor outside Boston. Between 50 and 70 people were at work at the company when the rampage began.

Authorities said Michael McDermott, who was arrested at the offices of Edgewater Technology Inc., apparently was enraged because his salary was about to be garnisheed to satisfy tax claims by the Internal Revenue Service.

The victims, four women and three men, were shot multiple times. Two people were killed in the company’s reception area and the other five about 50 feet away in the accounting area, which Middlesex County Dist. Atty. Martha Coakley said would have been involved in wage garnishment.

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The victims “were at their workstations when this happened,” Coakley said. “The whole thing took between five and 10 minutes. . . . There is an extraordinary amount of firepower that was unleashed in the office.

“There is an enormous number of bullets and casings on the premises,” she said.

Workers said that McDermott, who joined the company as a software tester, seemed quiet and friendly, though he was also described as a loner. Investigators said he stood over 6 feet tall, weighed almost 300 pounds and lived by himself. Coakley said he had been employed by Edgewater for about a year.

In a statement released Tuesday night, the company said that “his actions apparently stem from occurrences in his personal life. We deeply regret that Mr. McDermott’s problems manifested in actions against the company and its employees. There was no way to anticipate his actions or any apparent reasons to restrict his access to the building.”

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Police subdued the man in the lobby of the three-story red-brick former factory after receiving 911 phone calls. Authorities said he was sitting in a chair in the reception area after the 11 a.m. shooting spree and was “non-responsive” to officers’ commands. But he was “not uncooperative,” added Coakley, noting that the alleged gunman did not resist arrest.

SWAT team members disarmed McDermott. Police said he had a shotgun, a semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic pistol. Police carefully searched the building to be sure there was no second gunman.

“Mr. McDermott has been placed under arrest. He is going to be charged with seven counts of murder,” announced John McEvoy, first assistant district attorney for Middlesex County. “All the victims died from gunshots. There were no other victims.”

At a later news conference, Coakley said that Edgewater Technology had been contacted by the IRS because of McDermott’s failure to pay taxes. The company was in the process of structuring garnishment of his wages, she said.

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McDermott “had been told about all this,” she said. “But this is all under investigation and we are still trying to make sense of what happened here.”

Workers in the building when the shooting started said that the gunman seemed to go crazy.

Some terrified employees sought shelter in basement offices while others sprinted across the street to a store, where they called 911.

“They asked if the store had a back door so they could run from it,” said Daren Emery, the shop’s manager. “At least one saw one of the female victims.”

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Many employees were taken to nearby St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, where they received trauma counseling.

“Wakefield is a quiet town where people mind their own business,” said Robert LaBossiere, a contractor who lives across the street from the crime scene. “How could this have happened here?

“When I first heard there was shooting going on, I couldn’t believe it. I used to work in that building.”

Vinny Ghika, a computer engineer who was with LaBossiere, added, “It was so strange because we learned that this had happened over the Internet.”

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“You start to wonder how something like this could happen the day after Christmas,” said Mike Branson, who works in a store across the street from the office complex. “There’s something crazy about this time of year that something like this could go on.”

“Everyone is in a state of shock,” said David Mahann, a Massachusetts state chaplain. “This is supposed to be a holy and peaceful time of year.”

Co-workers stood in bitter cold near ambulances parked in front of the building after McDermott was taken away by police.

“I know all the people. I am shocked,” said a female employee. Asked why it happened, she replied: “I am just in the dark.”

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When officers arrived, McDermott “was sitting in a chair saying nothing,” said Stephen Doherty, Wakefield’s chief of police.

“Clearly, this was a horrific event. . . . I salute the police who subdued him because they didn’t shoot him.”

Investigators said that McDermott did not appear to have a criminal record or permits for the weapons.

Police cars surrounded the site. More than 10 hours after the rampage, the bodies remained inside as investigators tried to piece together what had happened on the first floor of the building, where the shootings occurred. On the second floor, darkened Christmas lights filled windows.

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Many businesses have been the scene of workplace violence in recent years, often triggered by economic problems, job-related difficulties or other bad news.

In one of the worst incidents, two Atlanta investment companies were the scenes of carnage when a day trader, upset over financial losses, opened fire on fellow investors and office workers, killing nine and wounding 12 before killing himself in July 1999.

Months later, a Xerox copier repairman who feared that he would be laid off opened fire on co-workers at a Xerox warehouse in Honolulu, killing seven, in the worst mass murder in that state’s history.

In 1997, a 38-year-old factory inspector, after arguing with co-workers, went on a shooting rampage at a Santa Fe Springs, Calif., plastics company, killing two and wounding four others, before shooting himself an hour later in front of onlookers on a South-Central Los Angeles street corner.

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And in 1993, a Woodland Hills mortgage broker walked into the 34th-floor offices of a San Francisco law firm, armed with three semiautomatic handguns. He killed eight and wounded six before taking his own life.

Edgewater Technology employed 150 to 200 people at its Wakefield headquarters and 100 to 150 others at satellite offices around the country, spokeswomen for the company said. Since early this year, the company’s stock price has fallen more than 50%, closing Tuesday at $6.38.

The publicly held company offers Internet consulting to other businesses. It was started in 1992 and was purchased about a year ago by Staffmark, said Christina Goodwin, a spokeswoman for the company. About six months ago, Staffmark, a nationwide staffing firm based in Fayetteville, Ark., sold its five other divisions, adopting the Edgewater name and business plan, according to a spokeswoman for the New York-based Brunswick Group, which handles investor relations for Edgewater.

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Getlin reported from Wakefield and Goldman from New York. Times staff writers Lisa Girion and Alex Pham in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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