ATHENS, Tenn. — Three people are dead after a shooting Thursday at the Thomas & Betts plant in McMinn County north of Chattanooga. The shooter’s body was found in a bathroom of the plant, dead of what “appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Athens Police Chief Chuck Ziegler said.
Witnesses described “some attempted shooting in the front office and actual shooting deep inside the factory on the north side and the middle,” Ziegler said. Police responded to the scene at 260 Dennis St. after the shooting occurred at about 4:15 p.m. Police officers arrived and found people “streaming” from all exits of the plant, the police chief said.
Authorities have not given the names of the shooter or any of the victims, who were all plant employees. The shooter apparently used a semi-automatic pistol, the police chief said. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents also responded to the scene, along with the Tennessee Highway Patrol to provide additional support.
Thomas & Betts Corp., with headquarters in the Southwind area of suburban Memphis, designs and makes electrical components used in industrial, commercial, lighting and utility markets. The 118-year-old company is a unit of Swiss industrial conglomerate ABB and reported about 1,300 employees in the Memphis area in 2015. The company, which ABB acquired in a $3.9 billion buyout in 2012, has been based in Memphis since 1992.
“Our loss is profound,” ABB said in a news statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families during this difficult time. We will have grief counselors available to all of our employees at the facility.” Ziegler said the parent company was sending teams of people to assist employees as they deal with the situation. The plant does not have its own security, he said.
“Everyone’s in shock,” Zeigler said. “I had several personal longtime friends in there when the shooting was going on.”
Authorities called Thursday’s shooting the city’s first case of mass violence in recent memory. “This is still a fairly small community, and folks know each other,” McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said.
Another news conference will be planned for Friday morning, the police chief said.