SECURITY AT WORK
calls for security
by firms hoping
to curb trouble
As companies shut down or downsize,
they increase security to head off any
violence in the workplace
Workers urged to get helpStar-Bulletin staff
It's the ugly side of Hawaii's down economy.
As local companies cut back, outsource or shut down, many are beefing up their security staffing or are relying on additional workplace safety training to head off potentially violent incidents like the one that claimed the lives of seven Xerox Corp. employees yesterday.
"The economy is tight and I think that's when you see things like this happen," said Boyd Andrade, training officer at Wackenhut Corp., one of the isles' largest private security firms.
Spike Denis, president of Safeguard Services Inc., a 500-employee local private security firm, said several clients called yesterday after they became concerned about their workplace safety after hearing about the killings at Xerox.
Denis noted that several of his company's large corporate clients have asked him to develop a security strategy for future downsizing plans.
Kenny Chang, operations manager at Burns International Security Services, said he's seeing a similar trend. Chang said Burns recently has received many calls for additional security for firms that either are financially troubled or are going out of business.
For instance, Burns last month doubled the number of its security guards at the Honolulu Advertiser Building when the owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership, announced plans to close the 117-year-old afternoon daily.
The closure has been put on temporary hold by court order.
Xerox Corp., meanwhile, brought in security guards to patrol its location last night.
In the past, the 1200 N. Nimitz Highway building, where the shootings took place, was not guarded by security workers, but Xerox decided to bring in Royal Guard Security yesterday "to keep curiosity seekers away" and keep out people who might vandalize the property, said Clarence "Rags" Scanlan, Royal's president.
Workers urged to get helpBy June Watanabe
If there's any bit of advice Sherri McNeil can give co-workers and family members of the seven men shot to death yesterday at the Xerox Corp. building on Nimitz Highway, it's to seek counseling.
"I can't express the need more that they should get therapy," McNeil said today. "It would have helped me a lot."
Nearly four years ago, McNeil, then Sherri Davidson, was a secretary at Seal Masters of Hawaii on Sand Island Access Road, just a couple of miles from where seven Xerox Corp. employees were gunned down by a co-worker yesterday.
On Feb. 6, 1996, John Miranda, a 28-year-old former employee armed with a sawed-off shotgun and knife, shot vice president Guy George in the leg and took employee Tom McNeil -- soon to be Sherri's husband -- hostage, holding the gun taped to his neck for five hours.
Unlike the quiet, methodical way in which Byran Uyesugi allegedly killed seven men before driving away and eventually being captured yesterday, Miranda's bloody rampage was played out on TV. Miranda burst into the offices of Seal Masters at 6:55 that morning, saying someone was going to die because he had been fired eight months before. He accused company officials of racism, firing him because he was Hawaiian/Puerto Rican.
Miranda shot George, whom he blamed for his unemployment, in the leg. George, seriously wounded, managed to escape through an office window, falling more than 10 feet.
At one point, Miranda told a radio station, "Believe me, there's people going to die."
Miranda let three employees go free, but held McNeil captive for hours, often marching back and forth outside the Seal Masters building, going up and down the stairs. All this in full view of police and TV cameras. At one point, Sherri McNeil watched the scene through binoculars from the nearby Kilgo's store, where police had set up a command station.
Suddenly, at 2:35 p.m., police sharpshooters seized an opportunity and shot Miranda after McNeil managed to spin away. Miranda was taken to Queen's Hospital and pronounced dead.
McNeil was treated for scrapes and bruises but was otherwise unharmed. Sherri McNeil credits his calm personality for helping him to survive. George was hospitalized for weeks and now runs his own company, Sherri McNeil said.
McNeil joked today that she and Tom were married six days later in a "shotgun wedding." Harry Lee, the owner of Seal Masters, gave her away.
Yesterday's shooting at the Xerox building brought back vivid memories of Miranda's rampage for her. She remembers arriving at the office at 8:05 on Feb. 6, 1996, greeted by two police officers standing at the bottom of the stairs leading to her office. But at that point, no one realized there was a gun involved, she said.
However, when she went upstairs and unlocked the door, "John Miranda stuck a gun in my face. At that time, police saw the gun and that's when everything erupted."
She said Miranda, "a friend," smiled at her. "I thought it was a toy gun" he was holding until she saw police had their guns drawn. She looked back at Miranda "and he said, "Sherri, get the hell out of here.'"
She quickly left. It was only about two hours later that she discovered Tom's involvement in the stand-off.
Immediately after the ordeal, Sherri McNeil said all she wanted was for "it to go away. I didn't want to talk about it; I wanted the (news) media to leave us alone; I wanted to forget it ever happened." But McNeil said she and her husband were besieged by radio stations, TV show producers.
Eight months later, "all of a sudden I developed full-blown panic attacks. I was in the emergency room three times in that year, thinking I was having a heart attack. When I was finally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. The reason being I did not seek therapy or counseling immediately afterward. They call it debriefing. So my thing to the co-workers, the families is to please take the services that are offered."
Suggested ways to defuse workplace violence, from Baldwin-Wallace College sociology professor John King, clinical psychologist and consultant Dennis Johnson of Stuart, Fla., and a survey of workers conducted by Northwestern National Life Insurance Co.:
Encourage communication, starting with the employment interview.
Watch for warning signs, such as marked behavior changes and despondency.
Set up a system for pre-employment screening.
Train supervisors and employees to resolve conflicts.
Provide personal counseling through an employee assistance program, and offer job counseling to employees who have been laid off or fired.
Set up a plan for immediate response to crises.
Be more sensitive to workers' personal circumstances.
Provide employee safety education programs.
Conduct analysis of crises after they happen.
Associated Press Some signs may forewarn of employee-to-employee violence, according to Gary M. Farkas, a Honolulu psychologist specializing in workplace conflict. Among them:
A history of violence.
Abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Poor conflict management skills.
Blames others for his faults.
Believes people owe him things.
Depressed or suicidal.