Recent Shootings in the Workplace
August, 2003: Salvador Tapia, 36, of Chicago, a disgruntled former employee returned to the South Side auto supply house where he worked until six months ago and shot to death six former co-workers before being gunned down by police.
MARK ORRIN BARTON
13 Dead In Atlanta Killing Spree
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A gunman stormed two brokerages in Atlanta's financial district Thursday, fatally shooting nine people after apparently killing his wife and two children in the days leading up to the attack, the city's mayor said.
Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell said Mark Barton, 44, a day trader who invested other people's money, committed suicide five hours after the shooting spree at brokerages All-Tech Investments and Momentum Securities, located near each other on Atlanta's bustling Piedmont Avenue.
Witnesses told police that Barton was apparently unhappy over stock and bond market losses when he walked into the first brokerage and opened fire.
``I hope this doesn't ruin your trading day,'' he said before he opened fire, according to one witness.
``He was apparently a day trader at a brokerage firm and was concerned about financial losses,'' the mayor said. ``He was there, noticed the market was down and pulled out a gun and began shooting.''
When Thursday's rampage ended, four people were dead in a brokerage office at Piedmont Center and five at the second brokerage, Campbell said. Twelve other people were shot and wounded, and one of the 12 was released from hospital late Thursday after a bullet was removed from her back.
The identities of the victims were withheld until all of their relatives could be identified.
The afternoon of horror in this booming capital of the New South was the latest in a series of fatal shootings in U.S. schools, public buildings and offices. They include the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April, when two teen-age gunmen shot to death 12 other students and a teacher before killing themselves.
It was also the worst mass shooting in Atlanta this century, Atlanta police said. Two weeks ago, a woman, her four children and her sister were killed by her boyfriend, who turned the gun on himself in the worst previous single attack.
Barton's driver's license said he lived in Morrow, Georgia, but when police arrived there, neighbors told them he had moved to Stockbridge, about 35 miles south of Atlanta. Police in Stockbridge went to his new address and found a grisly scene the bodies of Barton's wife and children.
Inside the home, according to Henry County Police Chief Jimmy Mercer, police found four notes signed by Barton. One note was left in the living room, one on top of his wife's body, which was stuffed in a closet, and one on top of each of the children, a 7-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy, who were wrapped in blankets and placed on their beds with some of their toys nearby.
``The notes suggested she may have been killed Tuesday and the children may have been killed Wednesday,'' Mercer said.
He said the notes indicated the 6-foot 4-inch, 222-pound Barton bludgeoned his wife and children to death.
Five years ago, Barton was considered a suspect in the death of his first wife and his mother-in-law, but he was never charged with their murders. The two women were bludgeoned to death at a campsite in Alabama. Barton, who had taken out a $600,000 insurance policy on his 35-year-old first wife just weeks before, said he was in Atlanta at the time.
The shooting spree took place in midafternoon, sending office workers fleeing into the street or trapping them inside, some hiding under desks. Police said the gunman used a 9-mm pistol and .45-caliber gun in the assault.
More than 200 police officers launched a huge manhunt, and police pulled over Barton in his van shortly after 8 p.m. EDT and he offered no resistance.
He used one of the weapons to kill himself as police closed in on him at a gas station in Austell, Georgia, about 10 miles east of Atlanta.
The suicide ``brings this very tragic day to an end,'' Atlanta's mayor said. ``I think this clearly is a deranged individual.
``There is no information that he attempted to flee,'' Campbell said. ``He was pulled over and then killed himself.''
The mayhem is likely to inflame the U.S. debate on firearms.
The city of Atlanta sued 15 gun makers and two trade associations in February, seeking damages for crime deaths and injuries involving handgun use.
Ga. Killer Wrote of Fear, Hopelessness
By Amy Goldstein, Sue Anne Pressley and Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 31, 1999; Page A1
ATLANTA, July 30 – Before he embarked Thursday afternoon on the deadliest workplace shooting in U.S. history, before he killed himself that night, Mark Orrin Barton sat down at his home computer in suburban Stockbridge just before dawn.
“I have been dying since October, wake up at night so afraid, so terrified, that I couldn’t be that afraid while awake,” he typed in the letter police later found in plain view on a living room coffee table. “It had taken its toll. I have come to hate this life and this system of things. I have come to have no hope.” He would live, he wrote, only long enough “to kill as many of the people who greedily sought my destruction.”
As he wrote the letter, Barton already had killed his estranged second wife, Leigh Ann, 27, on Tuesday, hiding her body in the two-bedroom apartment they still shared. On Wednesday, he had slain his two children from his first marriage, Matthew David, 11, and Mychelle Elizabeth, 8, and tucked their bodies into their twin beds.
He had struck all of them, he wrote, “with a hammer in their sleep and then put them face-down in the bathtub to make sure they did not wake up in pain.” He’d placed a stuffed animal next to his daughter’s body, a Game Boy video next to his son’s.
As police and people who knew Barton try to fathom what drove him to kill his family and nine office workers in Atlanta, it is this blend of personal torment and of reverence for the trappings of suburban domestic life that seems so inexplicable.
Barton had twice constructed a veneer of normalcy, with two different wives – both now killed – in two separate Georgia communities and in two distinct careers. A churchgoing man who sometimes taught Sunday school. A 6-foot-4 Boy Scout leader. A father who canceled appointments to take his children to soccer games, recalled Robert Hughes, an attorney who knew him.
Yet something else churned not far beneath the surface.
Before she and her mother were bludgeoned to death on a camping trip six years ago – a crime that has never been solved but for which investigators have long viewed Barton as the prime suspect – his first wife, Debra, confided to her diary about the uneasiness she felt.
She filled pages describing her love for her husband, her joy at watching him with their children. Then suddenly, she wrote of watching her husband as he mowed the lawn, hoping that he would not come inside so that she wouldn’t have to see his “rage,” recalled Edward Tanner, an attorney who saw Barton monthly in a fraud case involving a $600,000 life insurance policy that Barton took out on his wife just before her death.
In the note he left at his apartment, Barton took special care to deny that he was involved in the slayings of his first wife and her mother, Eloise Spivey, while the two women were on a weekend fishing trip at an Alabama Lake. “There may be similarities between these deaths and the death of my first wife,” Barton said he in the letter he left in his house. “However, I did not kill her or her mother. There is no reason for me to lie now.”
At a news conference today, Henry County Police Chief Jimmy Mercer became noticeably emotional, halting to compose himself as he read aloud three additional brief, handwritten notes that lay loose beside the bodies of Leigh Ann Barton and the two children. “I give you Matthew David Barton,” one note said, which seemed – like the others – directed at God. “My son, my buddy, my life. Please take care of him.”
He described Leigh Ann as “my honey, my precious love,” even though she apparently had decided to end their marriage of slightly less than two years. He killed her, he wrote, “because she was one of the main reasons for my demise, as I planned to kill the others. I really wish I hadn’t killed her now. She really couldn’t help it, and I love her so much anyway.
As the day progressed, fresh details about Barton’s shooting rampage came to light.
One of the three people named in the note – along with his mother and the father of his first wife – was a general practice attorney, Joseph H. Fowler, of suburban Atlanta, who issued a statement yesterday saying that he had handled “routine will and estate matters” for Barton.
On Monday, Fowler said, Barton had arrived in his office to “for additional routine will and estate issues.” In an interview last night, Fowler said Barton had returned Thursday morning, dressed casually in shorts, to request additional changes to his estate.
“There was nothing unusual about him” that morning, Fowler said. “Nothing that would make you suspect that he had planned or committed wrongful acts.” He said that Barton always had struck him as “a very gentle man.”
Just before 3 p.m. Thursday, Barton showed up at two stock market day-trading firms in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood. Witnesses at Momentum Securities, Inc., the first firm Barton visited, told police that Barton had commented “that it was a bad trading day, and something to the effect that it was going to get worse. But he was not excited and they were not necessarily frightened of him,” said Atlanta Police Chief Beverly Harvard.
Barton was at Momentum, to discuss a problem with his account, Beverly said, for about a half hour before opening fire, leaving four people dead. Then he crossed a busy street to the All-Tech Investment Group, where five others were slain. Investigators were still trying to determine today if Barton had had any relationships with the dead – eight men and one woman – or was shooting at random.
He fired about 40 shots, Harvard said.
Barton eluded police until shortly before 8 p.m., when he was spotted in his green Ford minivan by a Cobb County police officer in a gas-station parking lot north of Atlanta, some 20 miles from Buckhead. When police surrounded the van, Barton turned the gun on himself, dying instantly.
After Barton’s suicide, investigators found in his minivan a duffel bag stuffed with 200 rounds of ammunition and the two handguns used in the shootings – a 9mm Glock that Barton had purchased in November 1993 and was legally registered to him, and a Colt .45-caliber handgun that was not, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Two other handguns also were in the duffel bag – a .22-caliber H and R revolver, purchased in 1976 by Barton at a South Carolina pawnshop, and a .25-caliber Raven semiautomatic pistol, purchased in 1991 from a pawnshop in Georgia by someone other than Barton, ATF officials said. Investigators are attempting to determine how Barton came to possess the Colt .45, purchased in 1983 from a gun dealer in Richardson, Tex., by another person, whom ATF would not name.
In the note at his apartment, written on personal stationery and addressed “to whom it may concern,” Barton hinted that he somehow knew he was not finished with the bloodshed. His last sentence was: “You should kill me if you can.”
He also hinted, opaquely, at deep-seated problems within his extended family, writing that “the fears of the father are transferred to the son. It was from my father to me, and from me to my son. He already had it. And now to be left alone, I had to take him with me.”
Acquaintances reached today could shed no light on the relationship between Barton and his father. And there is little on the surface of Barton’s childhood to suggest the basis for his torment.
An only child, Barton grew up in a quiet, established neighborhood of Sumter, S.C., a city of 45,000 in the southeastern part of the state. His father was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, about 15 minutes from the house on Wren Street where his mother still lives. His mother always struck neighbors as especially religious and still works as secretary of St. John’s United Methodist Church.
In recent years, according to several of his mother’s neighbors, Barton had not returned often, although he sometimes made summertime visits with his two children and attended his father’s funeral in September 1997.
In high school and college, Barton appears to have made a mild impression. In the Sumter High School yearbook for 1973, the year he graduated, Barton’s photograph is missing from the senior class. He is not listed as having belonged to any school clubs, and the only information next to his name is that he was a semifinalist for a National Merit Scholarship.
The index of the yearbooks for 1971 and 1972 misspelled his name both years. Yesterday, reporters at the Item, the daily newspaper in Sumter, contacted about two dozen high school classmates, including a woman who has organized reunions. “No one remembers him,” one reporter there said.
In the fall of 1975, he entered the Sumter campus of the University of South Carolina, a two-year branch of the state’s public university system. Two years later, he transferred to the flagship campus in Columbus, about 45 minutes away, where he graduated in the spring of 1979 from the college of science and mathematics with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
A campus spokesman said yesterday that his picture did not appear in any of the yearbooks during his years there.
Barton married his first wife in 1979. A decade later, the couple moved to Texas so he could take a job at a chemical company. The job was a disappointment, though, friends recall, and Barton had ideas of starting his own company to market a chemical cleaner that he had invented. So in 1990, he moved the family back to Georgia.
They lived first with his wife’s parents in rural Lithia Springs, west of Atlanta. The following year, Barton moved his family to their own house about a half mile away. They still saw their in-laws, William and Eloise Spivey, often.
Neighbors recall nothing special; the family kept to themselves, but that did not seem unusual in a neighborhood where every house has its own satellite dish and front doors are hidden by groves of maple. Anne Englett, their next door neighbor at that time, recalls Debra Barton as short and pretty if a bit chunky, always walking her father’s dog or doing some yard work. Her husband, dressed in his trademark Docker’s and polo shirt, liked to hit golf balls in the front yard. He was not especially friendly, they said, but wouldn’t mind a quick chat.
Publicity over the the murder of his first wife and her mother got him fired from his job as a salesman for a Macon chemical company, and for a while he seemed to struggle with money. But he found another job within a year, said Hughes, one of the attorneys on the life insurance fraud case, which ultimately was settled.
In 1994 the family moved to a smaller more suburban house in Morrow, just south of Atlanta. Neighbors recalled Leigh Ann as “delightful,” “sweet,” “just a girl who fell in love with a guy.”
By now, he was spending more of his time as a day trader, but in recent days and weeks he had suffered large financial losses. And this week his resentment exploded in two brokerage offices and his own home.
In addition to his family, Barton’s victims were Russell Brown, 42; Dean Dellawalla, 52; Kevin Dial, 38; Vadewattee Muralidhara, 44; Edward Quinn, 58; Charles Tenenbaum, 48; Scott Webb, 30; Tamshid Havash, 45; and Joseph J. Dessert, 60.
Contributing to this report were staff writers Barbara Vobejda and Michael A. Fletcher and research editor Margot Williams in Washington; and special correspondent Jonathan Ingram in Atlanta. Goldstein reported from Washington; Pressley and Rosin reported from Atlanta.
Text of Atlanta Gunman's Notes
The Associated Press
Friday, July 30, 1999; 12:28 p.m. EDT
The texts of four notes found in Mark O. Barton's apartment along with the bodies of his wife, son and daughter, as released by Henry County, Ga., police. The first note, found in the living room, was generated on a computer on Barton's personal stationery. The others, found on each of the three bodies, were handwritten. The notes were read aloud by Henry County Police Chief Jimmy Mercer.
July 29, 1999, 6:38 a.m.
To Whom It May Concern:
Leigh Ann is in the master bedroom closet under a blanket. I killed her on Tuesday night. I killed Matthew and Mychelle Wednesday night.
There may be similarities between these deaths and the death of my first wife, Debra Spivey. However, I deny killing her and her mother. There's no reason for me to lie now. It just seemed like a quiet way to kill and a relatively painless way to die.
There was little pain. All of them were dead in less than five minutes. I hit them with a hammer in their sleep and then put them face down in a bathtub to make sure they did not wake up in pain. To make sure they were dead. I am so sorry. I wish I didn't. Words cannot tell the agony.
Why did I?
I have been dying since October. I wake up at night so afraid, so terrified that I couldn't be that afraid while awake. It has taken its toll. I have come to hate this life and this system of things. I have come to have no hope.
I killed the children to exchange them for five minutes of pain for a lifetime of pain. I forced myself to do it to keep them from suffering so much later. No mother, no father, no relatives. The fears of the father are transferred
to the son. It was from my father to me and from me to my son. He already had it and now to be left alone. I had to take him with me.
I killed Leigh Ann because she was one of the main reasons for my demise as I planned to kill the others. I really wish I hadn't killed her now. She really couldn't help it and I love her so much anyway.
I know that Jehovah will take care of all of them in the next life. I'm sure the details don't matter. There is no excuse, no good reason. I am sure no one would understand. If they could, I wouldn't want them to. I just write these things to say why.
Please know that I love Leigh Ann, Matthew and Mychelle with all of my heart. If Jehovah is willing, I would like to see all of them again in the resurrection, to have a second chance. I don't plan to live very much longer, just long enough to kill as many of the people that greedily sought my destruction.
You should kill me if you can.
Mark O. Barton
I give you my wife, Leigh Ann Vandiver Barton. My honey, my precious love. Please take care of her. I will love her forever.
I give you Matthew David Barton. My son, my buddy, my life. Please take care of him.
I give you Mychelle Elizabeth Barton. My daughter, my sweetheart, my life. Please take care of her.
© 1999 The Associated Press
Day Trading: A Risky, Stressful Business
By Ianthe Jeanne Dugan, Ellen Nakashima and and Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 31, 1999; Page A1
Mark Barton’s application for a desk and a terminal at Momentum Securities shimmered with the cocky optimism required of any day trader. Barton claimed a net worth of $750,000 and plunked down $87,500 to start trading stock.
On June 9, Barton activated his account. On Tuesday, he got the news that eventually comes to more than three-quarters of day traders, the adrenaline-addicted, thrill-seeking cowboys of the electronic range. Margin call. Cough up the cash you owe the brokerage, or your account will be closed. Momentum’s Atlanta office manager interrupted Barton’s trading – the ex-chemist was frantically trying to dig out of heavy losses – to inform the investor that to keep his account open, he had to pay. Now.
That day, police say, Barton killed his wife and stuffed her in a closet.
Barton immediately wrote a check for $50,000. On Wednesday, Momentum’s manager said the bank would not honor the check.
That day, police say, Barton killed his two children.
On Thursday afternoon, Barton was back at the office, promising to transfer $200,000 to Momentum from an account he had at Charles Schwab. The office manager was at lunch, but Barton reached him on his cell phone. “I’m good for the money,” Barton said, according to someone who spoke to the manager later.
The manager said he would review Barton’s paperwork when he got back. Wait there, he said.
Barton stepped into Suite 310, the trading room, a small office with about 20 desks and computers. He wandered about, calmly greeting his fellow traders.
“Hey, how are you doing?” one trader asked Barton.
“I’m fine,” Barton said.
Then he pulled out his guns and began shooting. Blood splattered onto computers. Traders dove to the floor. Four men died.
Susan Strobel was checking e-mail at her desk in the insurance office next door when she heard the shots. She retreated into a back office, where she found a young man on the floor, face down, moaning in pain. Trader Bradley Schoemehl, 24, had been shot in the right shoulder and above the waist, Strobel said.
“Mark – he’s lost all his money,” Schoemehl told Strobel. (Local hospitals, at the request of victims’ relatives, are not divulging information about individuals Barton shot, but said their conditions ranged from satisfactory to good.)
In his eight weeks at Momentum, Barton had suffered $105,000 in losses, according to sources with knowledge of his account.
Barton’s troubles beyond the financial realm have already revealed a more complex genesis of his murderous rampage, but the shootings in Atlanta nonetheless have shaken the small but burgeoning world of investors who spend long, intense days glued to computer terminals, their fingers at the clicker, their eyes constantly scanning for the fluctuations in stock prices that – over hundreds of trades – could make them rich.
At trading rooms from Atlanta to Arlington, the several thousand amateur investors who dream of riding the technology boom to near-instant wealth without ever having to don a tie or create a product have suffered a jittery few weeks. The stocks that have reliably soared for them have been drooping since April.
Yesterday, as traders jockeyed to squeeze their wagers between their own emotional strain and the demands of a suddenly curious public, the impact of Barton’s bullets was evident:
At Net Trade in Arlington, a blackboard listing a dozen tips for successful day trading (“Do not overtrade,” “Cut your losses decisively”) showed a late addition: “Do not blame others for losses.”
The high-stakes, high-speed stress of day trading – at Net Trade, for example, each trader makes an average of 500 trades a day – is a drug that had attracted but a small club of investors only a decade ago. It wasn’t until the advent of real-time instant online trading and the boom in Internet stocks last year that the phenomenon really took off.
The field has exploded with such ferocity – most estimates put the number of traders somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000, working in about 100 centers nationwide, with many more trading from home – that federal and state regulators have sought unsuccessfully to get a handle on the dramatic risks and wild volatility endemic to the practice.
At least two states have sued day-trading firms for false advertising, fraud and failing to screen customers. When Barton signed up at Momentum, he was required to read and sign a letter from Securities and Exchange Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. declaring day trading a risky venture.
Day trading was particularly dangerous for someone like Barton because he did not man his account daily, according to sources familiar with his trading. Day-trading experts preach that traders must buy and sell stocks full time if they’re going to do it at all. They also encourage investors to close out their accounts by the end of each day so they are not vulnerable to overnight swings in stock prices.
But Barton showed up at Momentum only sporadically and often left with his accounts open. While he was out, his account plunged and peaked. By Tuesday, he was down $105,000 trading on volatile Internet stocks such as bookseller Amazon.com. And it emerged that Barton had also racked up enough debt across the street at All-Tech for that company to shut down his account last April.
“He had become very compulsive about trading,” said someone who knew Barton.
Momentum and other day-trading companies say they are getting tougher about extending credit and deciding which new customers to accept. Momentum requires an initial deposit of $50,000.
And All-Tech’s Web site features this notice on its home page: “Warning: Active electronic stock trading is risky.”
At Traders Advantage, a two-year-old Atlanta day-trading firm, president Ira Lazar said that in addition to requiring a minimum investment of $25,000, he vets potential clients to make sure they can weather the risk. “If a person comes in and he has a wife and two kids and makes $25,000, we’re not going to let him open an account at all,” he said.
Barton’s Momentum application listed his annual income at $85,000.
Lazar defended his trade against the argument that it is taking advantage of uninformed investors’ money lust. “It’s not gambling,” he said. “It’s informed speculating.”
Even so, over time, most day traders will end up with less than they started with, according to some of the trading firms themselves.
Like most day-trading firms, Momentum was an aggressively casual workplace, where traders dressed in shorts and came in unshaven. Office administrator Kevin Dial – one of those killed by Barton – would supply his traders with pizza and ice cream to enable customers to stay through the lunch hour and keep trading, said Aetna insurance agent Dan Kirk, who works next door .
“That’s how you make money,” Kirk said. “They would keep ’em in there, keep ’em trading.” Most day-trading firms charge their clients a rental fee for the computers and desks and a per-trade fee of $25 or less, depending on the number of trades they’re making.
Barton traded at Momentum on 15 days over the past two months; on four of those days, he ended up in the black, according to a letter from Momentum president James Lee to SEC chairman Levitt.
Losses are part of the game for day traders, most of whom have seen one of their colleagues get at least momentarily frantic. At Net Trade’s nerve center, a windowless chamber decorated with framed Russian rubies, the young men who spend their days together recall a moment four months ago when they had an unnerving taste of what can happen when losses mount.
A struggling day trader became obsessed with the idea that people were watching him and even accused co-workers of being out to get him. It was an extreme case of the paranoia that many day traders say they can feel when they are deep in the zone, submerged in the real-time river of information tracing every minute movement of stocks. Traders described a fear that someone – another stock broker, the entire stock exchange, your office manager – is watching your every move.
“I said two months ago that something like this was going to happen,” said Lawrence Black, a baby-faced trader who has set up his battle station with six monitors, a cell phone, a cordless phone and a fortune-telling eight-ball. “I think it’s inevitable. People aren’t getting the proper training to do this.”
Black, 27, believes the business is expanding too rapidly, with too many inexperienced day traders jumping in without the ability to tolerate the stress. Of Barton, he said, “Obviously the guy had issues. It’s stressful, but it doesn’t make you kill people.”
“The successful people who do this don’t always want to win,” said Stephen Boren, a psychologist who dabbles in day trading at Net Trade and has been studying what makes a successful day trader. “They want to master a skill. It’s a stressful profession. It’s a lot like being in law enforcement or a firefighter.”
Losing lots of money can put anyone over the edge, Boren said. “But not everyone would go on a shooting spree.”
In the online chat rooms where traders commiserate and gloat between trades, investors yesterday trashed the news media both for hyping day trading and for creating too casual a link between the practice and Barton’s crimes.
“Too many common inexperienced folk out there are playing this game and giving up their careers to turn a quick buck,” one woman wrote on the Silicon Investor Web site. “This has a negative impact on the stock market and can put personal lives in ruin. The media should downplay the glamorization of day trading.”
An Atlanta investor, spooked that he had made his first trade just down the street from the shooting site, worried that an economic downturn could prompt similar horrors. “I hope we don’t hit a bear market, else we’ll see more of this,” he wrote.
Barton’s shooting frenzy created a horrific window to the volatility of day trading. And Friday afternoon, even as workers removed bloodied carpeting and investigators sought to reconstruct Barton’s final days, Momentum Securities received a coda to the week’s wild swings: Barton’s bank informed the brokerage that the $50,000 check he had written on Tuesday had, contrary to first indications, cleared.
Dugan reported from Pennsylvania, Nakashima from Atlanta and Fisher from Washington. Staff writers Emily Wax and Jerry Knight in Washington contributed to this report.
© 1999 The Washington Post Company