As Massachusetts authorities continue a probe into what may have led a software tester on a vicious rampage through his office building on Tuesday, more details are emerging about the days and minutes leading up to the deadly shootings.
Thirty-six hours before the shooting spree that killed seven, police were looking for 42-year old Michael McDermott for allegedly test-firing a shotgun on a street, a gun that may have been used in the office slayings at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, Mass., according to published reports.
Authorities in the Haverhill area where McDermott lived were investigating reports from a resident who said he heard “five to seven” shotgun blasts late Christmas Eve.
McDermott’s car, with its distinctive “Mucko” vanity license plate, was spotted on a street where two spent shotgun shells were found, but police were unable to locate him until he was arrested on Tuesday.
McDermott often went by the nickname “Mucko,” which originated when his nieces and nephews could not pronounce his first name.
Haverhill police ran a check on the plate and went by McDermott’s address several times on Christmas Day but never saw the car there, according to Sgt. Stephen Brighi.
Surrounding departments were also on the lookout for McDermott. “With a little bit of luck, we could have changed history,” Brighi told the Boston Herald.
Possible ‘Prozac’ Defense
In another report that could provide insight into a motive for the slayings, The Boston Globe said today that just minutes before the mass killing, McDermott received a brief telephone call from a financial company informing him that his car would be repossessed. The Internal Revenue Service was also considering garnishment of the suspect’s wages, officials said.
The Globe, citing “a source familiar with the call,” said a Chrysler Financial supervisor told McDermott his 1994 Plymouth Acclaim, with a book value of $5,390, would be seized for nonpayment of a 1997 loan.
The call came at 11:07 a.m. Three minutes later, the deadly shooting rampage began and lasted several minutes.
McDermott has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of murder and is being held without bond. His attorneys are considering an insanity defense, the Globe reported, in which blame would be placed anti-depressants — including Prozac — the suspect had been taking for more than a year.
The so-called Prozac defense, tried numerous times, is believed to have been successful only once. Last February, a Connecticut judge acquitted an insurance agent who robbed a bank on the grounds his judgment was impaired by Prozac and another prescription drug, Xanax.
Officials Investigating Arsenal
Police said McDermott, a software engineer and ex-Navy submariner, walked into the Internet consulting company’s headquarters late Tuesday morning armed with a shotgun, a semiautomatic assault rifle and a semiautomatic pistol.
Authorities searching McDermott’s apartment also seized bomb-making chemicals, blasting caps and magazines on explosives, but found no indication of plans to use the materials.
How the suspect collected such an arsenal even though he lacked a gun permit and despite strict gun laws in Massachusetts remains a mystery to officials, although they have made some progress on tracing the guns found on the suspect.