News Column

Minneapolis: Four Slain, Three Critically Injured in Workplace Shooting

Sept. 28, 2012

Tad Vezner and Mara H. Gottfried

Gunshots rang out and workers fled in panic from a Minneapolis sign company, where police say a gunman killed four people and critically injured three others before taking his own life Thursday afternoon.

"What's going on?!" Joe Sedlachek later said he yelled after coming out of his home near Accent Signage Systems in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. "But they weren't in any mood to answer. They were obviously very frightened."

The shooter was among the dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said Thursday evening. The gunman's identity and motive were unknown, but he was apparently fired from his job at the company earlier in the day.

Police received a 911 call from inside the business at 2322 Chestnut Ave.

about 4:35 p.m., Deputy Police Chief Kris Arneson said during an evening news conference two blocks from the business.

Police said early Friday that responding officers found four victims dead of apparent gunshot wounds.

Police had said earlier that at least two people had been killed before modifying the death toll to "several."

Three shooting victims were in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, spokeswoman Christine Hill said. A fourth was admitted with non-life-threatening injuries.

Arneson released few other details.

Police radio traffic during the incident indicated the killer had been fired from Accent Signage Systems earlier in the day.

Arneson said the shooter died inside the building of an apparently

self-inflicted gunshot wound. She said police did not fire at the shooter. Police radio traffic indicated the gunman was found shot in the head in the basement of the building.

None of the victims' names was immediately released.

Sedlachek was home sick Thursday and on his computer when he said he heard five gunshots.

"I knew right away they were gunshots," the Vietnam War veteran said. "They weren't firecrackers."

He went out to his deck and saw a man, then a woman, then two more

women running from the building. One fell down, got up and kept running, Sedlachek said.

About five minutes later, two police squad cars arrived, and officers ran inside the loading bay, where Sedlachek believes the shots came from.

Several employees stood at each door, urging officers inside as more showed up, he said.

Accent Signage Systems' website lists Reuven Rahamim, 61, as the company's founder and owner. Sedlachek said he's good friends with Rahamim.

"Really, everybody thinks so highly of him," he said. "I know two things: His car is still here, and his wife was crying."

The lights were off at Rahamim's St. Louis Park home Thursday night, and no one answered the door.

Sedlachek said the owner's son also works for the business. "Really good, good neighbors," he said.

On Thursday evening, police forced their way into a home in the 3700 block of 12th Avenue South in Minneapolis as part of the investigation, a police spokesman said. The spokesman would not comment further.

Neighbors said a single man lived in the home. Last week, they said, a man was arrested on the house's lawn. He was put in a squad car and kicked the window out, neighbors said.

Thursday's shooting occurred in a largely residential area just west of downtown Minneapolis near Interstate 394. Traffic was stopped on a nearby bridge along Penn Avenue, where officers had rifles drawn. Neighborhood residents were kept back.

Dozens of police squad cars and vehicles surrounded the sign company, and witnesses were gathered together to be interviewed.

Eight Accent Signage Systems employees were later seen standing in a prayer circle near the scene. Afterwards, they declined to comment on the shooting.

Marques Jones, 18, of Minneapolis said he was having his high school senior pictures taken down the street when he and the photographer heard gunfire.

"We heard about four to five gunshots," Jones said. "We were shocked at what happened, and we just looked at each other. We all just took off running to our vehicles."

Lisasia Kilgo was at home five or six blocks away, caring for her 1-year-old son and a 2-year-old brother, when she heard sirens and helicopters overhead.

"Initially, I thought this criminal was out and about and not in custody," she said. "I didn't know that he killed himself. We locked the doors right away and kept the kids inside because we thought he might be out somewhere.

"It didn't feel like something like this could happen that close to my house."

Mayor R.T. Rybak said the shooting happened at a "close-knit" and "true family business."

Accent Signage Systems employed 28 people as of July, according to a feature on the business in Finance & Commerce, a local business publication.

The paper reported that U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sanchez visited the company in August during a trip focusing on exporting and praised it for its innovation.

The company developed a patented technology for producing signs in Braille and had licensed out the technology to companies in 38 countries, the newspaper said.

Accent Signage Systems was incorporated in 1986 by Rahamim, an Israeli immigrant, according to Finance & Commerce.

Rybak said employees who were working when the shootings occurred were together and being cared for late Thursday, Sept. 27.

"We are deeply sorry about what has happened here," he said. He called the shootings "a horrible tragedy."

City council member Lisa Goodman, whose ward is home to Accent Signage Systems, said the business is highly regarded in the city and has been expanding.

"I guess nothing will surprise me anymore," she said. "Clearly, it's out of character for this neighborhood."

Gov. Mark Dayton extended his condolences to the victims and their families in a statement Thursday.

"I deplore this senseless violence," he said. "There is no place for it anywhere in Minnesota."

Frederick Melo, Leslie Brooks Suzukamo, Christopher Snowbeck and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: (c)2012 Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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