On November 14, 1991, a former postal clerk furious about getting fired walked into a post office in Royal Oak, Michigan, at 8:46 A.M. and opened fire with a .22 caliber rifle. He killed four people before turning the gun on himself. Three other office workers were injured when they tried to jump from the second-story window.
Thomas McIlvane, a 31-year-old ex-Marine, had a long history of personal problems and had been let go from the Postal Services on August 8, 1990 for “insubordination” and cursing at his supervisors. The attack, which police estimate only lasted five to six minutes, would prompt a congressional investigation into working conditions at the post office.
Witnesses said he chose his victims as if he had a hit list. He fatally shot General Manager Christopher Carlisle, 33, who had started the disciplinary proceedings against him, first. His other victims were Rose Proos, Mary Benincasa, and Keith Cszewski. All were postal employees.
Some post-office employees contended that McIlvane had been a victim of abusive management at the post office, and described a toxic atmosphere with friction between supervisors and employees. One of McIlvane’s former colleagues told reporters at the time that a new supervisor had been particularly unpopular and had suspended a worker for whistling. He said, “They pushed the wrong guy too far.”
A congressional investigation into the shooting concluded the shooting was a preventable tragedy, and that management had created a “powder keg” environment.
When a tree was planted to commemorate the shooting on November 14, 2011, more than 50 employees who worked there at the time had wanted to put a plaque underneath the tree, but the proposed wording was rejected by the U. S. Postal Service because it described the shooting as a “preventable tragedy.”
Since 1983, 35 people have been killed in 11 post-office shootings across the United States. This has led to many people around the nation referring to workplace violence as “going postal,” a phrase that continues to circulate in pop culture despite the disapproval of the USPS.
Main photo: Thomas McIlvane [Southfield Police Department]