by Tabetha Cooper

A History of Violence
A History of Violence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Violence is a continuing problem in the world.  This is evident every night when a person watches the evening news.  What has been seen more and more in recent years is the increase of school and workplace violence.  There is much speculation of why this is and research will continue until the phenomenon decreases or stops altogether.  A definition of both school and workplace violence will help with identifying what events would fall in this category.  Also, an example of a real event of workplace violence will help to connect the definition with the crime.  An exploration of the person who committed the crime, the events surrounding the crime, and what was done in response to the crime committed will be discussed.
            Workplace violence sometimes starts with psychological degrading which causes stress and can lead to a violent incident.  Workplace and school violence is defined as a physical incident that takes place within the workplace or school by an employee or a visitor against an employee or visitor of the place of business or the school that causes injury or death.  Gang related incidents and drug dealing on school property has also been included in the definition of school violence.  The reason that schools and workplaces are prominent places for violence is because each are miniature communities where people from different cultures with different beliefs are put together on a daily bases (Meadows, 2007).  Children generally do not get to choose where they attend school and adult cannot always pick where they work or are able to quit because of an uncomfortable situation that may be going on.
            Patrick H. Sherrill was a man that could not hold a steady job.  When he was nineteen year old he was awarded a wrestling scholarship from the University of Oklahoma.  He only attended college there a year before dropping out, due to really bad grades (Bell, N.D.).  With his life going nowhere, Sherrill decided to join the Marine Corps and was stationed in North Carolina.  There he became an expert marks man.  Once his duty in the Marines had been served, Sherrill received an honorable discharge and later became a handgun instructor for the Air National Guard.  Sherrill moved back in with his mother after his stint in the Marines.  He tried to hold a study job and was unsuccessful.  People in the neighborhood started to call Sherrill “Crazy Pat” because of is odd behavior.  He would mow the grass and walk around in “army fatigues” late at night (Belle, N.D.).  He was noticed by neighbors looking through windows and become known as a peeping tom in his neighborhood.  He had even been known to chase the children in the community when they would call him “Crazy Pat” (Lamar, Jr., 2001).  Sherrill never did marry or have any children, many believe this was because of his unusual behaviors.
            Sherrill had started working for the Edmond post office in 1985.  This was his second time as a postal work although it is unclear which post office he worked in prior to the Edmond office.  The first time didn’t work out because he was very inefficient at his job (Bell N.D.).  After he began working as a part time letter carrier in 1985, Sherrill had had numerous complaints and had been called into the supervisor’s office on several occasions.  The last time he had been called into the supervisor’s officer was April 19, 1986.  He reportedly had talked to someone with the American Postal Workers Union that day, complaining that he had been mistreated and telling them that he “had to get away from there” (Lamar, Jr., 2001).  It has been speculated that he thought that they next time he would be called to the supervisor’s office that he would have to turn in his uniform (Yates, 2009).  Unable to face the rejection from yet another employer, Sherrill went into work on April 20, 1986 and done the unthinkable.
            Sherrill walked into work that dreadful morning armed with two .45 colt semiautomatic handguns, a .22 caliber pistol, and large amount of ammunition that he had placed down in his mail carrier’s bag.  Two of those handguns had been stolen from the Air National Guard (Lamar, Jr., 2001).  He walked in the door, locking it behind him, where he was confronted by two of his supervisors, one of which was the one that had issued the reprimand the day before.  With a gun in both of his hands he preceded to shot and kill both of them.  He then walked through the post office shooting other co-workers, in a rampage that lasted approximately twenty minutes.  One co-worker that had not been harmed in the shooting that day, Debbie Smith was quoted by Time Magazine as saying, “I froze.  I couldn’t run.  He came to shoot the clerks in the box section next to mine.  I just knew I was next” (Lamar, Jr., 2001).   During this horrifying incident Sherrill ended up hurting six co-workers and killing fourteen more, before turning his gun on himself, dying from a wound to the head.  What was later dubbed the Edmond Post Officer Massacre is considered to be the third worst mass killing in the history of the United States.    
            It only took the Edmond SWAT team minutes to respond to 911 call of shots fired at the Edmond Post Office.  A negotiator spent forty five minutes trying to communicate with Sherrill, unsuccessfully.  When no one could be reach on the telephone or through the bullhorn and it was apparent the gunfire had ceased, SWAT stormed the building to find all the carnage of the morning’s events (Lamar, Jr., 2001).  Rescue teams evacuated the survivors, EMT personnel began treating the injured, and the corner began processing the bodies of the dead victims: Patricia Chambers, Judy Stephens Denney, Richard C. Esser, Jr., Patricia Gabbard, Jonna Gragert, Patty Husband, Betty Jared, William F. Miller, Kenneth W. Morey, Leroy Phillips, Jerry Pyle, Paul Rockne, Thomas Shader, Jr., and last but not least Patti Lou Welch (Everett, 2000).  The community started showing their support immediately following the massacre.  The next morning the postal workers that returned to work found that the office had been cleaned up and wreaths were placed everywhere, along with letters of condolences and flowers found in many mailboxes (Lamar, Jr., 2001).
            The year following the Edmond Post Office Massacre a U.S. Postal Inspector’s report was published that analyzed the entire chain of events (Everett, 2000).  This was just the first of fifteen events of workplace violence dealing with post offices from 1986 until 1999.  Because of all these incidents of workplace violence involving employees of the post office the term “going postal” was coined in reference to workplace violence.  Also as a result of the fifteen postal worker violent events, criminologists have taken an interest in studying workplace violence.  In the long run new more extensive hiring procedures have been put into place; along with new ways to manage employees and safety training have gone into effect for the United States Postal Service.  In addition, in 1996 new federal laws dealing with federal employees was implemented to include harsher punishment for federal employees who harm other federal employees (Everett, 2000).
            It can be determined that Sherrill felt that he was being mistreated at work.  Some would look at this like he felt he was being “picked on” which could be looked at as psychological issues.  His reprimands had put him under a stress level that for whatever reason he was unable to control.  Instead of seeking help, Sherrill decided to go into his place of business and take fourteen innocent lives before taking his own.  This was the first notorious post office murder and as a result it started a chain of events that caused people to look into the causes of workplace violence.
            The case presented in this essay included an incident of workplace violence that resulted in death.  Not all workplace or school violence concludes with the death of a person, some instances are merely a physical altercation within a business or school.  Anything that takes place in a business or school that could result in injury, whether or not death is included in the aftermath, is considered workplace or school violence.  The definition to these events can be seen in the Edmond Post Office Massacre case.  Often it takes a horrible event to change policies in an effort to better a situation for a person or group of people.  Most people are exposed to horrible events that happen within their own communities almost on a daily basis.  It is awful that these events take place, but who knows what tragic incident that takes place will result in policies that will benefit hundreds or thousands of people.


Bell, R. (N.D.). “Going Postal”. Retrieved from            http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/mass/work_homicide/4.htm l

Everett, D. (2000). Edmond Post Office Massacre. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History &             Culture. Retrieved From                                                                                                                 http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/E/ED003.html

Lamar, Jr., J.V. (2001). “Crazy Pat’s” Revenge. Time Magazine. Retrieved from                             http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,144859,00.html

Meadows, R.J. (2007) Understanding Violence and Victimization 4th Ed. Upper Saddle,             NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall.

Yates, J. (2009). Workplace Violence a Serious Consideration in Recession. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/adventures-in-nashville/workplace-violence-a-   serious-consideration-recession

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