Survivors describe escaping a killer at workplace

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 6, 2012 - 8:24 AM

Witnesses told police how they survived the workplace at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis.

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Andrew Engeldinger

Photo: Bill Klotz, Associated Press

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As three shots rang out in an office next to hers, Sheryl McAdams, a project manager at Accent Signage Systems, piled empty boxes around her to hide behind.

Amanda Crotty, an executive assistant, watched one of her co-workers, Andrew Engeldinger, fire twice at the company owner, then point his handgun at her. She hid under a desk. He moved on.

"Oh, my God, it's Andy! He's got a gun!" Yosef Ben Harush, a manager, shouted to other employees as he ran downstairs to the basement to tell workers to get out of the building.

Interviews with survivors of the state's worst workplace shooting in memory were made public Friday by Minneapolis police. Accent workers described the minutes filled with terror and bloodshed at the Bryn Mawr sign factory on the afternoon of Sept. 27. Some watched as Engeldinger calmly walked or jogged by them, wordlessly shooting employees while sparing others.

Five people died and three were wounded in the rampage. Engeldinger, 36, then took his own life.

Some employees interviewed by police said they knew that Engeldinger, the strange and quiet man who worked on the production floor, would be fired that day. His employment file "indicated there were issues regarding quality of work, showing up for work on time and dealing with other employees," according to the police report.

Ushered into the office of John Souter, director of operations, after 4 p.m., Engeldinger was told by Souter and his supervisor, Rami Cooks, that he was losing his job. "Oh, really," said Engeldinger, according to witnesses.

He pulled out a 9mm Glock handgun from his waist. Souter was shot in the chest. But he and Cooks struggled with Engeldinger before Cooks was shot twice and fatally wounded.

Receptionist Laura Ventura heard the shots and saw Souter come out of his office "kind of slumped over." Call 911, Souter told her. She tried, but couldn't get through.

Engeldinger emerged from the office with the gun in his right hand. Ventura slowly put the phone down as Engeldinger walked toward her. He kept walking.

Hearing the shots, Crotty got up from her desk and went to see what was going on. She saw company owner Reuven Rahamim on the floor, holding Souter, and Engeldinger holding the handgun. Engeldinger killed Rahamim, then pointed his gun at Crotty. But then he walked away.

Christie Cutter, a marketing specialist who had been hired only six weeks earlier, was in a conference room facing the reception desk when she heard loud noises and saw Engeldinger "look right at her," then jog past, holding the gun.

She saw Souter and Rahamim on the floor. Call an ambulance, Souter told her.

Kimberly Ann Russell, a project manager, came out of her office. Russell told Cutter she had seen people shot and told her to leave the building. Cutter grabbed her purse and fled.

More shots were heard as Engeldinger headed east through the building. No witnesses saw him kill Jacob Beneke, but Joseph Bailey found Beneke on the floor. Bailey yelled for his co-workers to get out, then accompanied one out the door.

Ana Munoz-Pizzaro, hired in July to make frames at the company, was ending her shift and went to the shipping area door to wait for her mother to pick her up. The clock read 4:32 p.m., she recalled.

She saw Engeldinger walk into the dock area and shoot Ronald Edberg, who fell, mortally wounded. Then he turned and fired at Keith Basinski, a UPS driver, killing him as well.

Engeldinger turned to look at Munoz-Pizzarro. She ran onto Chestnut Avenue in front of the building. She heard two or three more shots as she ran.

Battites Wesley was moving pallets near the shipping area with his supervisor, Eric Rivers, when they saw some sliding dock doors open and Engeldinger point a gun at them. Rivers was shot, and Wesley dove under a saw. He was grazed by a bullet. Wesley pulled out his cellphone and called 911 but no one answered, he said. The dispatch system probably was overwhelmed by the number of 911 calls about the incident and it's not known how long callers allowed their phones to ring before hanging up, Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty said Friday night.

When police entered the building, employees who had not yet left were placed on the floor at gunpoint and searched. In one of the offices, officers could hear a man's voice calling for help. Police instructed him to come out with his hands up.

The man said he could not move because he had been shot.

Families began calling police, wondering about their loved ones. One caller identified herself as Carolyn Engeldinger, asking about her son. She wanted to know what happened and if he was all right. Police interviewed her that night, and she described her son's struggle with mental illness and how he had cut off contact with his family.

On Friday, Ventura declined to discuss the shootings, saying "I just don't want to relive it."

Harush echoed her, saying, "when it comes to sharing the details of what I saw, I don't think I'm ready for that right now."

Rivers remains in critical condition at the hospital. Souter is in serious condition.

Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. | Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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