Graveyard Shift

The City of Denver's plan to stop workplace violence came too late to save John Adamo.

Brady's recreational vehicle was the key to his life outside work. He liked to fish and he liked to travel. "I know that one year he and his wife drove down to Branson, Missouri," DeFiore says. "One year they went to New Orleans, and one year to Vegas, though he wasn't much of a gambler."

He wasn't much for partying, either. "As far as going out and having a couple beers after work, Richard wasn't that type," DeFiore says. "I used to take the crew out to dinner or drinks one day a year, right around Christmas time, because they do me a good job. [Brady] would have a ball. That was one day of the year he really looked forward to."

Aside from those details, Brady's personal life was a mystery to his co-workers. They describe him as a family man, but some can't remember if he has three grown daughters or four. He pretty much kept to himself and to his rituals, sitting in a certain seat in a corner of the first-floor work bay every morning, drinking tea and waiting for 7 a.m.

According to San Francisco clinical psychologist Chris Hatcher, who helped make the Cartwright videotape used in Denver's violence-in-the-workplace training, many people believe a violent employee is someone who simply snaps. But the idea that a person is a regular guy one day and a killer the next is a myth, says Hatcher. "That's rarely the case."

Experts say perpetrators often give out warning signals, perhaps by making veiled threats. They may have a preoccupation with weaponry and a history of violence or substance abuse. And contrary to popular belief, the employees are rarely new to a company. They may also be articulate and bright. In addition, Denver's training manual notes, "individuals who commit workplace violence almost always have had some degree of success, both in the workplace and in their personal lives...However, these individuals do believe that something very important (a job promotion, raise or transfer, for example), has been unfairly taken from them...If the organization does not give this to them, they are willing to risk everything to strike back at the organization, even where there is the possibility of injury to co-workers or themselves."

Barker says that despite the fact that experts use profiles to identify high-risk individuals, "no one can predict with any kind of accuracy if they will commit violence. There are plenty of people who rate high on the scale but still don't do violence."

The incidents themselves, though, follow two basic scenarios. "First," says Barker, "there's the personal. A guy follows his estranged wife to work and shoots her after finding out she's going with another guy. On the other side, you've got someone who's experiencing trouble at work. They're being disciplined, terminated, fired."

The common denominator, Barker says, is that the perpetrators believe an injustice has been done to them. All the incidents, he says, "have a flavor of people having gone over the edge, because what sets them off are things we have to deal with all the time---being fired, falsely accused, going through a divorce. People just don't go home and lock and load.

"My own belief," the therapist continues, "is that most people have other avenues to help them deal with situations. Some people have religion, some have family, some have an internal belief that they're going to be okay no matter how badly the world is treating them.

"Other people feel helpless. They don't believe that anything is going to change. They don't believe they can start over and continue on. They just don't have peace--or if they had it, they lost it."

The Wastewater Management building sits along the Platte River near land that has become home to the homeless. The tents and shanties of transients are set up by the water, behind a barnlike structure that city employees call "The Butler Building." Vagrants have been known to wander onto the Wastewater grounds, steal city property and break into cars. For that reason, the city hired a security company to watch over the building and grounds after moving into the new headquarters building in 1993. A lone, uniformed officer made the rounds. Because Wastewater was not considered a dangerous post, the guards were unarmed.

John Adamo had been working for Wells Fargo and patrolling the Wastewater building for nearly a year when C&D Bonded Security Service won the city contract in November 1996. Adamo could have stayed with Wells Fargo and taken a post elsewhere, but he liked what he was doing, says C&D general manager Troy Thames. So Adamo accepted a job with C&D and stayed on the graveyard shift at Wastewater.

He patrolled the building from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. for the grand salary of $8 an hour plus benefits. Adamo was allowed to sign up for the life-insurance program, but he turned it down, opting instead for the equivalent amount in pay. "He was a young guy, not married," Thames says. "They don't think about dying."

Adamo didn't have much contact with Wastewater employees; though cleaning crews were in and out of the building at night, he was usually getting off work as the city's morning shift started.

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