Via Joe Scarborough, it’s interesting that the cops would mention the conversion angle so soon in the investigation. The suspect, Alton Nolen, had just been fired from the business, a classic trigger for the sort of rampage people typically think of when they hear about “workplace violence.” But the fact that this was a beheading and that it happened after weeks of U.S. intel officials warning the media that reprisals at home for bombing ISIS are likely to come from “lone wolves” is why people as prominent as Scarborough are paying attention to it.
An enraged man seeking revenge for his termination or seeking revenge for something more?
Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said Friday that 30-year-old Alton Nolen had been terminated from Vaughan Foods in Moore shortly before the incident took place on Thursday afternoon.
Colleen Hufford, 54, was beheaded and another woman, 43-year-old Traci Johnson, was stabbed. Both victims were employees of Vaughan Foods, but according to Lewis, it appeared the women were not targeted and were instead stabbed at random…
According to Lewis, statements were made to investigators that Nolen had been trying to convince employees to convert to Islam. It is unclear whether this is why Nolen had been terminated from the business.
How was Nolan stopped? Turns out the chief operating officer of Vaughn Foods is also a reserve sheriff’s deputy and had his gun with him at work. He shot Nolen, which ended the attack. (Nolen’s in the hospital but is expected to survive, so cops will soon have an idea of motive straight from the horse’s mouth.) “This was not going to stop if he didn’t stop it,” said one cop of the COO’s heroism. “It could have gotten a lot worse.”
Here’s video of the police presser this morning. One potentially key detail at around 1:20 below: Apparently, Nolen’s rampage began while he was “in the process of being terminated.” They had called him to the building that houses the human resources department to give him the news, whereupon he jumped in his car, drove to another building near the front entrance, and started stabbing people. If that’s true, it’s more in line with a “fired employee snaps” scenario than a “lone wolf lying in wait” one, but that could be hard to disentangle depending upon what his “conversion” message was.
The part about conversion is at 2:35 below. The cop explains that, because of that and because of the manner of death (i.e. beheading), they asked the FBI to help investigate Nolen’s background. Interestingly, as I’m writing this, the AP report at WaPo on the police presser mentions that the FBI’s been asked to join the case in part because of “the nature of the attack” — but the religious detail is entirely omitted.
Update: New details from NBC:
The circumstances of Nolen’s firing weren’t made public. Some co-workers told police that he had recently converted to Islam and had been trying to convert them. Law enforcement officials told NBC News that his conversion took place during his recent stint in prison, which ended in March 2013, records show. A search of his home and car didn’t immediately yield any connection to radical fundamentalism and there’s no indication he had been in contact with terrorists groups such as ISIS, sources said.
Local authorities are working with the FBI to do an extensive background investigation on Nolen, Lewis said. Law enforcement officials say they are looking into his online activities and whether a Facebook page that contains materials with terrorist and fundamentalist themes was maintained by Nolen under an alias. Nolen does have an extensive rap sheet, including assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention, according to NBC affiliate KFOR.