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Friday, July 25, 2014
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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

Workers' quick action saved lives, police say

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Yiesha Martin was in a no-win situation.

As Myles Meyers pointed a loaded, double-barreled shotgun at her at DaimlerChrysler s Toledo North Jeep Assembly plant Wednesday night, she was forced to make a horrible choice.

Meyers told her he was there to kill three supervisors. He wouldn t hurt her, but he wanted her to radio one of the three to come into the body shop office. She tried to talk to him about it, but he was insistent. Ms. Martin made the call.

She was between a rock and a hard spot, said Police Chief Mike Navarre, who spoke later with the teary-eyed, shaken 27-year-old woman. She felt absolutely terrible, she did. Under the circumstances, she didn t have a choice.

As they walked into the office, Meyers fatally shot one of his supervisors, Roy Tom Thacker, 50, of Oregon, who collapsed outside the office, and wounded another of his targets, supervisor Michael Toney, 45, in the right arm as he fled.

Martin Martin
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Ms. Martin also decided in a split moment to flee the office area, a decision that Chief Navarre said saved not only her life but countless others. As she fled, Ms. Martin began yelling into her radio that there was a man with a gun in the office and that everybody who could hear her should get out of the plant.

Meyers, meanwhile, reloaded, went into the body plant area, and shot Paul Medlen, a 41-year-old team leader who was not on his target list, in the chest. The gunman then walked back into the office area, reloaded the weapon with a slug rather than the pellets he had used on the supervisors, and shot himself in the head.

Mr. Medlen, an hourly worker who has been with Jeep for 21 years, remained in critical condition last night at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. Mr. Toney, a production manager there for nearly 20 years, was in fair condition at the hospital. Both men are from Toledo.

As Toledo police investigators yesterday continued to unravel what drove Meyers to the murderous rage that led to his suicide, and as Jeep workers tried to make sense of the tragedy, the Lucas County coroner s office went about its work.

Mr. Thacker died at St. Vincent from a shotgun wound in the left side of his chest less than an hour after the shooting. The pellet ammunition had done extensive damage to the organs in his chest, said Dr. Diane Barnett, Lucas County deputy coroner.

She said Meyers, 54, died instantaneously of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in the mouth.

Meyers first spoke to Ms. Martin at 8:34 p.m. Wednesday and said he was going to kill Mr. Toney, Mr. Thacker, and a female supervisor.

Meyers had been having difficulties at work for a while and felt supervisors were singling him out, said longtime co-worker Dan Henneman, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 12 s Jeep unit.

Meyers Meyers
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He said some defects had passed through Meyers repair area, such as a Liberty with a wrong-style of hood that prompted a meeting Tuesday night with Mr. Thacker, Mr. Toney, union committeeman Mark Epley, and shop steward Chuck Huddleston.

Mary Beth Halprin, a Chrysler Group spokesman, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Meyers had been disciplined for a minor infraction. The statement supported information obtained from workers at the plant who knew Meyers.

But Mr. Henneman said yesterday that Meyers was not formally disciplined. After the meeting ended with handshakes, smiles, and vows to work together, Meyers was allowed to leave the plant early that night.

He said, Hey, thank you. I love you. I ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Huddleston said.

Meyers was to report to work as scheduled Wednesday but did not appear at the plant until 8:34 p.m. and was armed with the 20-gauge shotgun hidden under his clothing with the help of a sling and wiring that included a stuffed animal for padding.

Yesterday, Ms. Halprin stated that there was no formal disciplinary action involved. We had no indications that anything might be of concern.

Medlen Medlen
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Before the shootings, Mr. Henneman said he was told that Meyers said hello to people on his way to the body shop office. In fact, he said Meyers took his estranged wife and one of their two sons to dinner just before the shooting.

Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler s executive vice president of manufacturing, declined to comment yesterday on whether Meyers a repairman who worked at Jeep for 21 years ever had been suspended.

Mr. Henneman said Meyers never had been suspended or disciplined.

Mr. Huddleston who knew Meyers for more than 20 years and went on hunting trips with him said Meyers had prior discipline issues, none of them serious or out of the ordinary.

Relatives at Meyers East Rowland Road residence declined an interview. A neighbor, Lizzette King, said she and the family were in shock over the shootings.

I don t know him to be [violent]. I ve never seen any trace of it. He s always been nice to me, she said.

Toledo Police Capt. Ron Spann shows the 20-gauge, double-barreled shotgun that was used in the fatal shooting at DaimlerChrysler s Toledo North Assembly plant on Chrysler Drive.
Toledo Police Capt. Ron Spann shows the 20-gauge, double-barreled shotgun that was used in the fatal shooting at DaimlerChrysler s Toledo North Assembly plant on Chrysler Drive.
MORRISON / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mrs. King said several years ago she called Meyers to help her husband after he fell. He brought bags of apples from trips to Michigan and fresh fish he caught.

Meyers has two sons and is legally separated from his wife, according to court records. Police said he was staying with his girlfriend in West Toledo.

He was scheduled to be sentenced March 3 in Lenawee County District Court on two misdemeanor drug charges stemming from a traffic stop Dec. 2 in Tecumseh, Mich.

Lenawee County District Court officials said Meyers pleaded guilty Dec. 21 under a plea agreement to reduced charges of attempted possession of drugs and possession of marijuana. A charge of possession of a firearm in a nongame area for a 12-gauge shotgun sitting on the back seat was to have been dismissed at sentencing under the agreement, and the gun destroyed.

Toledo police Capt. Ron Spann said authorities are tracing the origins of the shotgun used in the plant shooting.

While police continued their investigation, Jeep workers poured into St. Vincent hospital to comfort the victims and their families.

The fl ags outside the Toledo North Assembly plant are lowered to half staff. Production was scheduled to resume today.
The fl ags outside the Toledo North Assembly plant are lowered to half staff. Production was scheduled to resume today.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

Friends and family also gathered at the Oregon home of Mr. Thacker, who worked at Jeep for 31 years. They brought food to those who grieved inside. Family members declined to comment.

In the neighborhood from which the Thackers recently had moved, shocked former neighbors spoke of the tragedy. Lila Shousher lived next door to the Thackers for about 10 years before the family moved to a new home they had built. She said Mr. Thacker decided to build a new home complete with enough garages to house both his fishing boat and that of his son s once Jeep decided to stay in Toledo a few years ago.

It was their dream home, their retirement home, Ms. Shousher said.

Harvey Deaton, 61, of Monroe, is a supervisor at the old Jeep plant who filed an age and race discrimination claim against DaimlerChrysler in 2002 after he was permanently laid off. Ten other men, including Mr. Thacker, joined in the claim and a later lawsuit. Settlements were reached with all of the men except Mr. Deaton, whose appeal is still pending.

It was through meetings about their litigation that Mr. Deaton got to know Mr. Thacker. He was a nice guy. Got along with everyone, Mr. Deaton said.

Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, said the union will take up collections for the survivors.

Mr. Ewasyshyn said Chrysler s focus is on the victims, their families, and employees. This is a very difficult day for us.

Mr. Ewasyshyn said Chrysler will review safety measures at Toledo Jeep Assembly, where workers use electronic badges to pass through security gates but there are no metal detectors.

Certainly the safety of our employees is very important to us, he said. We think this is an isolated incident.

Mr. Baumhower said security at the Jeep assembly plant is adequate, although it should be reviewed.

I can t think of too many work sites that have a better security system than we do, other than a federal building, he said.Mr. Henneman said his only security concern is that guards at the plant do not have guns, so there would be no way for them to stop an attack.

Chrysler decided to halt production of both Jeep Wranglers and Jeep Libertys until today so workers could have time to grieve and get counseling offered at the plant.

Counselors will be at the plant as long as necessary. American Red Cross workers also were at Local 12 hall yesterday.

Mr. Henneman said workers are to report to their shifts today, and small, town hall-like meetings will be held to talk about what happened and answer questions. He said the determination then will be made on whether workers are ready to resume making Jeeps.

Staff writers Erica Blake, Julie McKinnon, Larry Vellequette, Tad Vezner, and Mike Wilkinson contributed to this report.

Contact Chris Hall at:chall@theblade.com419-724-6007.



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