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Accent Signage employees fought for lives with shooter

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Accent Signage Systems
A Minneapolis police officer stands at the entrance of Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
AP Photo/Craig Lassig

Two employees at Accent Signage Systems fought for their lives and tried to grab a gun from former co-worker Andrew Engeldinger to prevent the deadliest workplace shooting in Minneapolis history, according to new details about the Sept. 27 incident released by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Company executives John Souter and Rami Cooks met with Engeldinger in Souter's office at Accent Signage Thursday afternoon to fire him for "continued poor performance and lateness," the police statement said. They gave him his final paycheck. Engeldinger responded by pulling out a Glock 9mm handgun. 

Souter and Cooks struggled against their former co-worker and tried to grab the weapon. Engeldinger shot both of them. Cooks later died at Hennepin County Medical Center. Souter was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.

The terrifying attack continued. Engeldinger reloaded his gun and left the room where the two men lay bleeding and badly injured. Company owner Reuven Rahamin stepped out of his office next door. He was shot in the head. He died at the scene. 

Engeldinger then walked through the building away from the executive offices, holding the gun in his hand. He passed through double doors into the sales and display area, where Jacob Beneke was working. Engeldinger shot and killed Beneke and walked into the loading dock area. UPS driver Keith Basinski was there, standing in his truck. Engeldinger turned his gun on Basinski and killed him.

Andrew Engeldinger
This July 2012 photo shows Andrew Engeldinger working at Accent Signage in Minneapolis. Police say he was the gunman who killed five people inside the Minneapolis sign company Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, hours after he had been fired from his job there. Engeldinger, 36, lived in Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Finance and Commerce, Bill Klotz

With five people, including four of his former co-workers, fatally wounded, Engeldinger headed to the production area. He saw two employees and fired shots at both of them, "grazing one and hitting the other," the police statement said. The employee who was hit, Eric Rivers, remains hospitalized.  The other employee was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Engeldinger then turned around and walked back the way he came, passing by the areas where he had killed his former co-workers. He walked down the stairs to the basement and shot himself in the head. 

WORKPLACE SHOOTING
• Five killed in Minneapolis workplace shooting
• Mayor expresses sadness
• Photos: Minneapolis neighborhood in shock
• Shooting victims, suspect, identified; six dead
• Triggers that lead to workplace violence
• Alleged shooter had gun at workplace
• Accent Signage 'devastated' by shootings
• Businessman, tinkerer Rahamim looked to bright future 
• Family, friends mourn victims

According to police, Engeldinger was having problems at work leading up to the shooting, but he apparently did not threaten to harm anyone. Managers tried to counsel him to improve his job performance. A week before the shooting, the company sent Engeldinger a letter of reprimand. "He was told at that time that his performance must improve immediately or he would be terminated," the police statement said.

Police searched Engeldinger's home after the shooting and found another loaded Glock 9mm handgun, "spare Glock magazines, several boxes of ammunition, an ankle holster, two gun cases, targets, gun cleaning supplies, permit to carry application materials, certification of completion for concealed carry training and empty shipping boxes that could have delivered approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition," the statement said. 

Engeldinger bought the guns legally, police officials said, although they declined to say whether Engeldinger has a permit to carry a weapon, citing a state law that says permit information is private.

The shooter "was reported to have practiced at the Burnsville Rifle & Pistol Range," the statement said. The range has been closed due to a fire on July 31, according to the company's voicemail message. The company did not immediately respond Monday to an email and voicemail message seeking comment. 

EVENT TIMELINE

• Near the end of the workday, Engeldinger was asked to come to a meeting in the office of John Souter. Prior to going to Souter's office, Engeldinger left the building, went to his car, and then returned to meet with John Souter and Rami Cooks.

• Engeldinger was informed that his employment was terminated and he was given his final paycheck.

• Engeldinger pulled out a gun and a struggled ensued between the men over the gun.

• Souter and Cooks were shot inside Souter's office.

• Engeldinger dropped a partially loaded magazine during the struggle. He reloaded and stepped out of Souter's office.

• Reuven Rahamin stepped out of his office which is adjacent to Souter's office.

• Engeldinger shot Rahamin.

• With the gun in his hand, Engeldinger walked east in the building away from the executive offices, through double doors and into the space for sale's staff cubicles and sign displays.

• Engeldinger shot Jacob Beneke in the display area.

• With the gun in his hand, Engeldinger walked east in the building through another set of double doors into the loading dock area.

• In the loading dock area, Engeldinger shot Ron Edberg. He then turned and shot UPS driver Keith Basinski who was standing in his truck at the loading dock's edge.

• Engeldinger walked east through large sliding doors from the loading dock into the production area.

• Just on the other side of the doors, Engeldinger encountered two employees. He fired shots at them grazing one and hitting the other, Eric Rivers.

• Engeldinger turned around and walked back the way he came toward the loading dock and the western portions of the building including the stairway to the basement.

• Unwitnessed, Engeldinger walked downstairs into the basement where he took his own life. His body was located there by MPD officers. With him was the Glock 9mm.

VICTIMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

• John Souter was shot in his office in the northwest area of the building. He transported to HCMC where he is being treated.

• Rami Cooks was shot in Souter's office. He was transported to HCMC where he died.

• Reuven Rahamin was shot outside the door to his office in the northwest area of the building. He died at the scene.

• Jacob Beneke was shot in the sales/display are of the building. He died at the scene.

• Ron Edberg was shot in the loading dock. He died at the scene.

• Keith Basinski (UPS) was shot in the loading dock. He died at the scene.

• Eric Rivers was shot in the production area at the eastern end of the building. He transported to HCMC where he is being treated.

• BW was grazed by a bullet in the production area. He was transported to HCMC where he was treated for a graze wound and released.

PREVIOUS ARREST

Engeldinger had been in trouble with police before. He was arrested in 1997 for leading a police officer on a high-speed chase, when he was 20 years old.

Records show he was driving with an expired vehicle registration in Bloomington on Jan. 21, 1997 when a police officer in a squad car motioned for him to pull over.

Instead, he accelerated to between 90 and 100 mph, ran a red light, and nearly hit a pedestrian who "dove for the snowbank" to avoid being struck, according to an incident report. He then crashed into a fence next to Highway 62 and was arrested.

PARENTS URGED TREATMENT

According to The Associated Press, Engeldinger's parents pushed him for two years to seek treatment for what they suspected was mental illness. 

But Minnesota law doesn't allow people to be forced into treatment without proof that they are a threat to themselves or others.

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• Follow Madeleine Baran on Twitter: http://twitter.com/madeleinebaran