HANFORD, Calif.-A disgruntled worker on the verge of losing his job opened fire Aug. 21 on co-workers at Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp.'s Hanford plant, police said. No one was hit. Maurice Curtis, 27, of Lemoore, Calif., faces two charges of attempted murder. He's being held in Kings County Jail on $230,000 bond.
PATC management at the factory brought Mr. Curtis in for an 8 a.m. disciplinary hearing, police reports said. Neither union nor company officials would comment on the nature of the meeting, and Pirelli Armstrong officials declined comment on the entire incident.
``Apparently, during the course of the meeting he got angry,'' according to Lt. Dean Murrow of the Kings County Sheriff's Department. ``I guess (Mr. Curtis) was going to be terminated.''
During a break in the hearing, Mr. Curtis allegedly pulled a .45-caliber semiautomatic weapon from his pants and fired one shot at plant personnel director Ryan Price and another at employee Robert Rodriguez, police said.
``He said something like, `If you're going to fire me, take this,' '' according to Doug Godin-ho, chief steward of the union local at the plant and one of four men at the meeting.
However, Mr. Curtis was unable to fire the gun at first, giving officials time to clear the room, Mr. Godinho said. No one tried to stop Mr. Curtis because of his large size, he added.
One of the men at the meeting was cut when he tried to jump out a window and another hurt after running into the glass front door. Both were treated at a hospital and released.
After firing the shots, Mr. Curtis fled and was arrested at about 4:30 p.m., when Kings County deputies stopped his pickup truck in Stratford, Calif., on a traffic violation, according to Mr. Murrow.
He said the suspect has no police record of violent behavior. ``He's been arrested before, but I can't say for what. All I can say is that it wasn't for an act of violence.''
Mr. Godhino said he was surprised by Mr. Curtis' actions, describing the gunman as a ``real nice guy.''
Since the incident, PATC has brought in a security force to protect workers at the plant.
``There is a lot of tension,'' Mr. Godinho said.
Mr. Curtis, who worked a 12-hour graveyard shift, was hired along with 600 replacement workers during an eight-month union strike at the plant, he said. The company retained about 300 of the strikebreakers when union members returned to work in March.
Pirelli Armstrong didn't check the backgrounds of the new workers, Mr. Godinho claimed, and now ``you really don't know who you're sitting with'' during these meetings.
Most of the replacements are good workers and most of the resentment from the strike is gone, he said. But Mr. Godinho believes there could be others like Mr. Curtis out there and said Pirelli Armstrong and the union are looking at ways to avoid another crisis.
``It was an eye-opener,'' Mr. Godinho said.
The 800-employee Hanford plant manufactures all Pirelli-brand tires produced in the U.S. and some Armstrong-brand tires.