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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Deadly Shooting Rampage in Mississippi

Aired July 8, 2003 - 20:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: It happened in Meridian, Mississippi. Police there are trying to figure out what prompted Doug Williams to go on a shooting rampage at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, where he worked. Police say Williams, armed with a shotgun and a rifle, killed five of his co-workers and wounded eight others before turning the gun on himself. Authorities say he went through the entire plant, shooting employees apparently at random.
I'm joined now by one of the authorities working this case. Billy Sollie is the Lauderdale County Sheriff. He joins us from Meridian, Mississippi.

Thanks so much for being with us, sir. We know how busy you've been today.

BILLY SOLLIE, LAUDERDALE COUNTY SHERIFF: It's been an extremely long day.

ZAHN: Yes, I'm sure an extremely taxing day.

First off, do investigators have any idea what set off the shooter?

SOLLIE: We are in the process of interviewing the 138 employees that were there this morning, also interviewing family members and other members of the community that might have known Doug Williams and can give us any indication as to what caused him to snap today into this irrational behavior. At this time, we had some interviews, but not enough.

ZAHN: Are you aware of any complaints that were filed against him in the workplace?

SOLLIE: The Lockheed Martin administration is going to be supplying us with his work folder, his personnel folder. And that will be part of our case file. At this time, we have no documentation to back up those allegations.

ZAHN: You no doubt know there are a number of reports out there suggesting that this was a man on a mission. According to the Associated Press tonight, a gentleman by the name of Booker Steverson talked to a reporter. And he said -- quote -- that "Mr. Williams was a known racist who did not like blacks." Do you have anything to confirm that?

SOLLIE: Again, our investigation is just beginning, as far as talking with people who knew him personally. If you take a look at the victims, both those who are deceased and those who are wounded, it's biracial. There is no one particular class of citizens that were targeted, if you look at the race only.

ZAHN: Tell us about the gunman's ability to get into the plant. Because he had worked there, was it pretty easy for him to get through all the passages he needed to, to do this?

SOLLIE: Again, this particular plant is a very low-security-type plant that does assembly work of airplane components. He had worked there since late 1984. He had free access into the building and back into the parking lot. And that's what we believe happened.

He left a meeting he was in, walked to the parking lot, armed himself, and came back in and began the shooting spree.

ZAHN: This is a close-knit community where this has happened. Just describe to us the vulnerability of those who work there and those who have lost family members and friends.

SOLLIE: As we're speaking right now, there is a prayer vigil being conducted on the city hall steps just a few blocks from here. This community has come together. This part of the state has come to our aid. The governor's office has sent assistance over here.

We've had support from around the state, other law enforcement agencies. The state crime lab came in, and they're processing the crime scene itself. This has been a total community effort to bring this to a closure.

ZAHN: Well, we are so sorry about this tremendous loss your community has suffered. Sheriff Billy Sollie, thanks for taking some time out from the investigation to bring us up to date on what you're all doing there. Appreciate your time and good luck.

SOLLIE: Thank you, ma'am.

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