Internal Lockheed Martin documents obtained by ABC News show that what the company has called a case of tragic workplace violence was far more complicated and was what some are calling the worst hate crime against African-Americans since the civil rights movement.
An investigation by ABC News' "Primetime" found that Doug Williams, an employee at a Lockheed aircraft plant in Meridian, Miss., taunted and made death threats against black co-workers as early as a year and half before he went on a shooting spree in July 2003 that left six dead and eight wounded. After killing his last victim, Williams shot and killed himself on the plant floor.
Many employees have said that those threats continued until the day of the killings. "Zero tolerance means zero response to intolerance," said Mary Frances Berry, the former chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. "The company, in my view, failed in its responsibility."
Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the country, maintains the shootings were the "senseless acts of a single man," and not the result of unlawful racial harassment at the plant.
But the lawyer for the family of one of Williams' victims, who are now suing Lockheed for racial discrimination, said the case was clear-cut.
"I can't imagine a hate crime that had more forewarning than this one," lawyer Bill Blair said.
A longtime Lockheed employee, Williams fumed when blacks at the plant complained about his racial slurs or received better-paying jobs, according to several co-workers. He once wore the bootie of a white protective suit on his head in the shape of what black workers said looked like a Ku Klux Klan hood. Given the choice by management to remove it or go home, Williams left. Lockheed took no disciplinary action against him for the incident, according to Lockheed documents.
Many who knew Williams had feared, even predicted, violence would eventually erupt.
"He said, 'You know, one of these days, I'm goin' to come in here and kill me a bunch of niggers and then I'm goin' to kill myself,'" according to Aaron Hopson, a black employee at the plant who says Williams threatened to kill him in 2001.
That threat was reported to the plant managers and a company equal employment officer was sent to Meridian to investigate the matter in December 2001. Lockheed company documents obtained by ABC News show that Darold Sawyer, based at Lockheed's offices in Marietta, Ga., interviewed several workers in Meridian and took extensive notes detailing Williams' threats to kill black workers.
According to Sawyer's notes, one black worker, Thomas Willis, told Lockheed management he expected "the policy on harassment to be enforced," a reference to Lockheed's stated "zero tolerance" policy on racial harassment. Sawyer finally recommended Williams keep his job and attend anger management counseling.
Sawyer's notes also show that Lockheed veteran Lynette McCall reported to management that Williams told her he saw "a race war coming," and that she "was on his list too." McCall told Sawyer that she took Williams' death threats seriously. On the day of the killings, Williams stalked his way to McCall's work station where witnesses say he taunted her before shooting her at point-blank range.