Chief: 3 dead, including suspected gunman, in Tennessee factory shooting

Authorities are investigating a report of a shooting at Thomas & Betts in Athens, Tennessee, according to McMinn County dispatch.

ATHENS, Tenn. -- Three people were killed, including the suspected gunman, after a shooting Thursday afternoon at the Thomas & Betts factory in Athens, Tenn.  

Athens Police Chief Charles Ziegler said there was an attempted shooting in the front office area, but no one was hurt then. After that, the suspected gunman, who is an employee, continued shooting "deep inside the factory" and in areas the Chief described as in the north and middle side of the factory.  

As officers began clearing the building they learned that the suspected gunman's body was found in one of the bathrooms. Chief Ziegler said it appears he took his own life. 

The chief described the factory as a steel manufacturing organization. He said they didn't have their own security on-site. 

The shooting has shocked residents and officials in the small East Tennessee town of Athens, which is located about an hour southwest of Knoxville.  

"I don't think you ever want to think this will occur in your community," Sheriff Joe Guy said.  

The Athens Police Chief said he can't remember any other shooting incident in the area with three fatalities. 

As of Thursday night's press conference, officials said they've yet to do any type of investigation inside the plant and don't officially know the identity of the suspected gunman or the two victims.

The parent company for Thomas & Betts is sending a team to help with counseling or other services for the factory employees. 

Dispatch confirmed to 10News a call about the shooting came in around 4:16 p.m. Thursday.

The plant is located near McMinn County High School but school had dismissed at the time of the incident. 

Director of Schools Mickey Blevins said a number of athletic teams were still at school and a citizen alerted a rugby coach about the situation and they started moving kids inside. The school went on full lockdown. 

After getting the all clear, Blevins said students were dismissed to their parents and teachers walked drivers to their cars. 

The employees who witnessed the shooting have been taken to McMinn County High School so they can talk with investigators. Concerned family members are advised to go to the school. 

Authorities said they'll decide sometime overnight whether the high school will be in session Friday. 

Athens Police Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, fire crews, and EMS are all responding. 

A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesperson confirmed it had agents headed to the scene as well. 

Thomas & Betts is located at South Congress Parkway, near McMinn County High School. 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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