ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — Two people are dead and two more wounded after an employee opened fire at a fire hydrant plant in Albertville.
During a Tuesday press conference, Albertville police Chief Jamie Smith said Andreas Deon Horton, 34, of DeKalb County, Alabama, opened fire at about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday inside the Mueller Co. plant on the shop floor.
The gunfire struck Michael Lee Dobbins and David Lee Horton, both of Boaz, Alabama, killing both men.
Injured were Casey Sampson and Isaac Byrd, both of Albertville. Both were flown to a Chattanooga, Tennessee, hospital, and their conditions were unknown early Tuesday afternoon.
Smith said to his knowledge, neither Andreas Horton nor David Lee Horton are related.
When Smith arrived on scene, he estimated about 100 employees had been evacuated from the plant. The incident occurred during the plant’s regular third shift.
By 6 a.m., Smith said Andreas Horton’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was discovered by a Guntersville police officer on patrol on Carlisle Avenue near the Guntersville City Cemetery. Inside, Andreas Horton’s body was discovered with what appeared to be fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Smith said.
Several weapons were recovered from the vehicle, Smith said.
“At this time, detectives are processing the scene,” Smith said. “Officers are also working toward a motive as to why the shooting occurred which will hopefully be discovered in the coming days.”
Smith said he expects the Mueller plant to remain shut down for “at least a few more days” as the investigation continues. He said interviews with witnesses, first responders and the injured victims will be priorities in the investigation.
Will Strunk, supervisor of the Gadsden, Alabama, office of the FBI, said the FBI is in town and will provide any assistance requested.
According to the Marshall County Economic Development Council, Mueller employs more than 500 people at the Albertville plant.
Albertville Mayor Tracy Honea said Mueller has been an asset for the community for many years.
“Our hearts are broken for the families of the victims and the Mueller family,” Honea said early Tuesday.
“It is certainly a tragedy. You hear of this type of thing happening in other places, certainly not here in our community.
“We are thankful for our first responders and are glad there were no injuries to any of them.
“To Plant Manager Mike Lang and his team, our hearts and prayers are with them. If there is anything we can do as a community and a city, we will be there. We live in a resilient area where folks are eager to help each other. Several have already reached out to see what can be done.
“Our hearts are saddened. It’s a tough day for Albertville.”
Both Honea and Smith said city officials have received calls from across the country from people offering condolences and support to the city and the victims.
Yolanda Kokayi, media relations for Mueller, submitted a prepared statement, saying in part, “Mueller Water Products is shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that occurred early this morning at our Albertville facility. Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the Albertville community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time.
“Our entire focus is on the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, and we are committed to providing any and all support to them and their families.”
Smith said Tuesday’s shooting was not something the city sees often.
“We will get through this,” Smith said. “We are a strong community.”
The Mueller plant in Albertville was built in 1975 with production starting the next year. On April 10, 1990, the facility produced its 1 millionth hydrant, which is coated in chrome and placed on display outside the city’s Chamber of Commerce offices.
In 1999, the plant hit the 2 million milestone, followed by the 3 millionth hydrant in 2007 and its 4 millionth hydrant in 2016.
Mueller Co. is no stranger to workplace violence.
Mueller is vast corporation providing equipment for water works and fire protection, including hydrants, valves and pipe. The Albertville plant is the flagship plant constructing millions of hydrants distributed worldwide, making Albertville the Fire Hydrant Capital of the World.
Other Mueller plants include Pratt, Singer, U.S. Pipe and Echologics.
In February 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Henry Pratt Co., a suburban Chicago manufacturing plant, killing five colleagues before he was killed by police.
A subsequent investigation by Illinois state officials found Pratt employee Gary Martin allegedly carried a firearm in his vehicle and routinely made “off the wall” statements, according to fellow employees. However, no one reported his behavior because they didn’t believe he would do anything violent.
Martin was taking part in a Feb. 15, 2019, disciplinary meeting called because of his refusal to wear safety glasses. He allegedly walked to his workstation to retrieve something, put on a hoodie and went to the bathroom immediately before the meeting.
According to a report compiled by the Kane County state’s attorney’s office, Martin was told by Clayton Parks, the company’s human resources manager, that he had been fired, Martin used profanity and then began firing. Parks was among those killed.
The report gives an account of the police response, beginning with officers being dispatched to the scene at 1:24 p.m., and ending with Martin being fatally shot by law enforcement.
Also killed in the incident were 37-year-old Plant Manager Josh Pinkard, a native of Holly Pond and a former Mueller Albertville employee for 12 years; Trevor Wehner, a human resources intern; Russell Beyer, mold operator; and Vincent Juarez, stock room attendant and forklift operator.
Five police officers sustained gunfire-related injuries and recovered.
Albertville is about 190 miles northwest of Monroe, and about 75 miles northeast of Birmingham, Alabama.