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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Lawsuit filed over shootings at Jeep

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A victim of the Jan. 26 shooting rampage at the DaimlerChrysler AG's Toledo North Assembly plant filed a civil lawsuit yesterday against the automaker, the plant's security firm, and the gunman's estate.

Paul Medlen, a team leader and hourly employee at the Jeep manufacturing plant, filed the complaint with his wife in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

The suit alleges that DaimlerChrysler and Wackenhut Corp. provided inadequate security in allowing Myles Meyers, 54, to enter the plant with a loaded shotgun.

Mr. Medlen, 41, of Toledo was among three people who were shot by Meyers before the gunman shot himself to death in an office area inside the plant. Roy "Tom" Thacker, 50, of Oregon, a supervisor and 31-year veteran of Jeep, was fatally shot by Meyers after he walked into an office area.

Michael Toney, 45, a production manager whom Meyers had had summoned to the office by another employee at gunpoint, entered moments later and was shot in the right arm. Mr. Toney was discharged Jan. 31 from St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

A third supervisor whom Meyers had identified by name as a target - Carrie Woggerman, 24, of Perrysburg - was in another cubicle in the office area. She made eye contact with the gunman just before Mr. Thacker walked in, then fled the area after Mr. Thacker was shot.

Mr. Medlen was shot in the chest, apparently while attempting to come to the aid of Mr. Toney. Mr. Medlen was originally hospitalized in critical condition in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

He was transferred to St. Charles Mercy Hospital and discharged on Feb. 11 into a rehabilitation center.

Mr. Medlen and his wife, Sally, are seeking compensatory damages in excess of $25,000, punitive damages in excess of $250,000, and attorney fees. The lawsuit was assigned to Judge Charles Wittenberg.

The shootings occurred the day after Meyers had a meeting with supervisors and union representatives over production defects that had passed through Meyers' repair area.

The lawsuit contends that Meyers had threatened or posed a threat to employees at the plant and that DaimlerChrysler was aware of the situation, but didn't take action that might have prevented the shootings.

The suit claims the defendants failed to take appropriate measures or install proper equipment to control guns or other weapons from being brought into the North Toledo plant, where the Jeep Liberty is made.

The lawsuit contends that guards employed by Wackenhut Corp., a security company in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., were negligent in not finding the shotgun that Meyers concealed under his coat.

Guards should have been suspicious to a stuffed toy animal on the back of his neck that Meyers apparently used as a protective pad from wiring that he used to keep his gun on a sling.

The Medlens are also suing the estate of Meyers, a Jeep repairman who had been legally separated from his wife, Evanjelina, since 2003.

Meyers took his estranged wife, known to family and friends as "Angie," and one of his sons out to dinner before going to the plant on the night of the shootings.

Shawn Morgan, a spokesman for DaimlerChrysler, said yesterday that the company couldn't comment on the lawsuit because it had not yet been served with a copy.

"At the DaimlerChrysler Group, our employees are our most important resource. Their security is a continuing priority," she said.

A phone call to Wackenhut Corp. for comment was directed to spokesman Mark Shapiro, who could not be reached yesterday.

The shooting at the Jeep plant led to calls from some workers there for the installation of metal detectors at the plant and reviews of security at many Toledo-area businesses. Security consultants interviewed by The Blade said identifying an at-risk worker early on is much more effective than metal detectors in preventing workplace violence.

"Jeep did it right. They had all the security measures that we would have recommended," Steve Cotner, of Corporate Intelligence Consultants in Perrysburg, said shortly after the shootings.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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