The fatal shootings of seven people by disgruntled worker Michael McDermott at Edgewater Technology Inc. in Wakefield a day after Christmas 2000 prompted efforts to prevent future violence. Some progress was made but some answers remain elusive, said Jack McDevitt, an associate dean in the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University who was involved in the project.
High-profile incidents of workplace violence around the country have prompted changes at many small and mid-sized businesses that previously didn't have plans for dealing with the termination of employees, he said.
"What we've learned so far is the best way to handle these kinds of situations is to do the termination in a very professional way, to try to not be personal about it and let the employee have as much dignity as they can when you're in a difficult situation," McDevitt said.
But McDevitt said there is still little research to indicate which employees might act on their anger.
"The problem with these kinds of incidents is that they are so hard to predict,'' said McDevitt. "It's easy in hindsight to say this person was disgruntled or angry, but there are a lot of disgruntled or angry people who are let go in companies every day who don't do this.''
McDermott is serving a life sentence for the slayings. The defense claimed he was suffering from schizophrenia and was psychotic at the time of the slayings. But prosecutors contended he was faking mental illness and opened fire because he was enraged that the company intended to seize part of his wages to pay off a $5,000 debt that the Internal Revenue Service said he owed.
After the killing spree, Wakefield police and Northeastern University's College of Criminal Justice conducted a broad survey of businesses in Wakefield and worked with them as part of a pilot program to prevent workplace violence.
In the Connecticut case, officials said a warehouse driver who was asked to resign his job at a beer distributor in Manchester, went on a rampage that left nine people, including himself, dead and others wounded.
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