Joseph Wesbecker Essay, Research Paper
On the morning of September 14, 1989, Joseph Wesbecker walked into the printing plant of his employer, the Standard Gravure Corporation of Louisville, Kentucky, and began blasting away with an AK-47. When the shooting was over, twelve people were wounded and nine were dead. Wesbecker was included in the fatalities; a self-inflicted pistol shot to the chin killed him.
Joseph T. Wesbecker was forty-seven years old. He was twice divorced and the father of two adult sons. Wesbecker had voluntarily gone to hospitals for mental problems at least twice in recent years, and had attempted suicide at least three times (members.xoom.com, p. 1). He had recently won a determination from a human rights commission that hi employer might have discriminated against him because of his mental problems.
Wesbecker had been suffering from blackouts, fits of anger, and mental confusion. All of this combined with a long record of mental problems led his employers at Standard Gravure Corporation to give him disability leave until he could fix his problems (www.geocities.com, p. 1). In Wesbeckers mind the reasons for his leave were very different.
Wesbecker believed that the company was plotting against him. He thought they were deliberately exposing him to dangerous chemicals and purposefully putting him under stressful situations. He believed this is why he was feeling ill. While on leave, over the next seven months, he was plotting his revenge. One employee, Joe White, said: [t]his guy s been talking about this for a year. He s been talking about guns and Soldier of Fortune magazine. He s paranoid and he thought everyone was after him (members.xoom.com, p. 2).
At 8:30 a.m., on the morning of September 14, 1989, Wesbecker entered the building of the printing plant with a duffel bag containing an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, two MAC-11 semiautomatic pistols, a .38 caliber revolver, a 9-millimeter automatic pistol, a bayonet, and several thousand rounds of ammunition (members.xoom.com, p. 1).
[Wesbecker] took an elevator to the third floor offices, pulled the rifle out of his bag and opened fire (members.xoom.com, p. 1). He worked his way downstairs shooting anyone who got in his way. He eventually reached a pressroom in an annex and killed himself with the 9-millimeter pistol. In the aftermath, thirteen people were wounded and eight people were dead. One man died two days later of multiple gunshot wounds.
Wesbecker had gone to the third floor looking for the bosses (members.xoom.com, p. 1). Unable to find any of the bosses or the supervisors, he began to kill anyone who was close to him. Much of his anger was misplaced. All of the dead or wounded were people not unlike himself, the little people. Of those killed, mostly his co-workers, many had felt just as angry with the bosses as Wesbecker himself (www.geocities.com, p. 1).
Wesbecker had obtained all of his weapons locally and legally. His purchases were made two months after President Bush banned the importing of assault rifles. Although it is still not a violation of the law to own such a weapon, imported legally before the ban, if the owner has the proper permits (members.xoom.com, p. 1). Jack Tilford, owner of the store where Wesbecker bought his weapons stated that he was normal in every way (members.xoom.com, p. 1). On the required questionnaire for the purchase of such weapons Wesbecker was asked [h]ave you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or have you ever been committed to a mental institution (members.xoom.com, p. 1) he falsely answered no. If he had only answered correctly the law states that he could not have bought the guns. Mr. Tilford said gun shop owners have no way of confirming the validity of the information regarding mental status (members.xoom.com, p. 1).
Wesbecker attacked his victims in a highly symbolic and indiscriminate manner (Kelleher, 1997, p. 22). His mass murder was an attempt to annihilate the entire organization that he viewed as the singular source of his anger and frustrations (Kelleher, 1997, p. 22). His incident category would be labeled as revenge by a lethal employee (Kelleher, 1997, p. 22).
Even though Wesbecker s victims were selected at random, his crime was planned and carefully considered. This is a typical pattern and process in mass murder that occurs in the workplace. The mass murderer is often an individual who plans his crime carefully, even when his ultimate target is purely symbolic and highly depersonalized (Kelleher, 1997, p. 22).
Wesbecker was diagnosed with manic depression and had been on permanent disability leave due to his mental disorder. He had been seeing a psychiatrist and had been on Prozac for at least a month before the incident (www.pathfinder.com, p. 1). Survivors and families of the victims went to court trying to prove that Prozac had triggered the rampage (www.pathfinder.com, p. 1). This was never proven, and recently a FDA panel found no credible evidence of a link between Prozac and violent behavior (www.pathfinder.com, p. 1). A psychiatrist s notes found that Joseph Wesbecker rejected the doctor s suggestion that he enter a hospital just three days before he went o his killing spree (members.xoom.com, p. 2). During his September 11 session with the psychiatrist, Wesbecker wept and expressed tangential thought and an increased level of agitation and anger (members.xoom.com, p. 2).
On the Petee, Padgett, and York typology Wesbecker would be classified as an Anger/Revenge Specific Place killer. He targeted a specific place, the Standard Gravure Corporation, which he believed had wronged him in some way. Wesbecker also fits the stereotypical view of a mass murderer. He was a disgruntled worker who was a forty-seven year old white male that was a gun enthusiast. Wesbecker had six weapons at the crime scene, and upon further investigation police found that he had several more guns at his home. He also committed suicide at the end of the murder event. Wesbecker is a very good example of a mass murderer who killed because he was angry with his employers. He had been an employee for twenty years until he had finally had enough.