Several of the biggest manufacturers in Columbus are reviewing security procedures following a murder-suicide that left two employees dead inside a Cummins facility in Seymour.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigations maintain training material for large employers on preventing and responding to an active-shooter scenario involving a disgruntled employee. Federal recommendations define an active shooter as an individual indiscriminately attacking multiple people with a firearm in a single setting such as an office or school.

While this does not match what occurred March 10 at the Cummins Technical Center in Seymour, attached to the company’s Seymour Engine Plant, where about 1,000 people combined work, this material still serves as a framework for several area companies’ safety and security plans, based on statements by local manufacturers.

“We have a standard evacuation plan, but that doesn’t exactly cover an active shooter,” said Steve Massey, human resources director at Impact Forge, a metal working shop at 2805 Norcross Drive, which employs about 280 workers.

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Since the shooting in Seymour, his company has begun accelerating existing plans to create more specific active-shooter training, using the Homeland Security material, Massey said.

This includes the “run, hide, fight” technique.

Under this system, employees first attempt to evacuate or run away from an active shooter. If this is not possible, employees are urged to hide in a secure location and wait for police. If all other alternatives fail, then employees are urged to aggressively confront the shooter and attempt to physically incapacitate the person.

Since there were no witnesses to the Seymour shooting, police do not know specifically how Cummins manager Ward Edwards II responded when Qing Chen, whom he supervised, drew his 9mm Glock handgun inside a second-floor conference room no larger than 6 feet by 8 feet.

Autopsy results indicated that Edwards, 49, of Columbus, died instantly of multiple gunshot wounds. Chen, 37, of Seymour, also died instantly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the autopsy showed.

After he fired three or four shots in the murder-suicide, Chen had 45 bullets left between one that was in the handgun chamber and others in magazines, Seymour police said. Chen also had a bag containing another 23 bullets near a desk where he had been working before going into the conference room to meet with Edwards, a Cummins employee since 1989. 

Chen, who is from China, worked for Cummins for two to three years and was in the United States on a 5-year work visa, Seymour police said.

The Seymour department, the lead agency in the investigation, continues to work to learn how Chen was able to get the handgun inside the Cummins building and what his motive was to shoot Edwards.

“We know that he wound up using the gun. But from video security, we don’t see it on him when he enters the building,” Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said the day after the shooting.

Chen had no other guns or ammunition in his vehicle parked in the company lot, but police did find four other guns and additional ammunition in his apartment on Sycamore Road in Seymour, police said.

Readiness training

Local auto parts manufacturer Faurecia stages various emergency situations — including active-shooter incidents — often as part of its workplace training, said Tony Sapienza, the company’s communications director.

It employs about 1,600 at two Columbus locations, 950 W. County Road 450 and at 601 S. Gladstone Ave. Those employees are not notified in advance that the training exercises are coming, he said.

During training, local law enforcement officials are on hand to observe how employees react and provide feedback to the company and its employees on the effectiveness of their response, he said.

Often, the smallest oversights cause the biggest security concerns, Sapienza said.

For example, trainers frequently point to employees holding open doors for strangers without checking identification badges, he said.

Faurecia contracts with an outside security firm, but its procedures are still based on federal recommendations, Sapienza said.

The “run, hide, fight” model is nearly universal in corporate emergency training, Sapienza said.

“We absolutely do not want our employees confronting an active shooter unless there is no other choice,” he said. “But if there is no other choice, then, absolutely, fight back.”

Limiting building access

Homeland Security recommendations also focus on controlling and limiting access to a facility.

Three out of four large Columbus manufacturers interviewed reported that they regulate entry into their buildings either electronically or through checking employee identification badges.

At Impact Forge, controlling access involves the use of small fobs which attach to employee key chains. These electronically unlock doors to areas in which employees are authorized to work or visit, Massey said. Each device is connected to an individual person so the company can track which employees are in each part of the building.

Similarly, both Faurecia and NTN Driveshaft, which also has about 1,600 employees and is located at 8251 S. International Drive, use identification badges to regulate access to their facilities.

NTN Driveshaft limits access to a single point-of-entry into the building, said Barry Parkhurst, the company’s general manager.

Faurecia goes one step farther, limiting movement between departments within the same building, Sapienza said.

Among large Columbus manufacturing companies contacted, only Enkei America does not utilize electronic monitoring or visual inspection of employee badges for people entering or inside the building, said Ron Thompson, its general manager.

However, the company — which employs more than 800 workers at its plant at 2900 Inwood Drive — was already in the process of reviewing its security policies prior to the shooting in Seymour, Thompson said.

It’s likely stricter controls will soon be in place, he said.

Cummins practices

Cummins also uses identification badges to regulate entry into its buildings and — like the companies interviewed — has a no-gun workplace policy. However, under Indiana statute, businesses cannot prevent licensed conceal-carry permit holders from legally storing a firearm in their car.

After the Seymour tragedy, Cummins said it was heightening its security at all plants in Indiana, including Columbus where the Fortune 200 engine manufacturer is headquartered. Cummins employs more than 9,500 in Indiana, most of them in Columbus. 

“It was an isolated incident but it is still really unfortunate, traumatic and trying for all of our employees and the community,” Cummins spokesman Jon Mills said on the day of the shooting in Seymour.

“We’re going to continue to evaluate going forward at all of our facilities, and we’re trying to make improvements at all times,” he said afterward.

Cummins has “a great security process in place, including an active-shooter initiative, but an effort is always being made to get better,” Mills said.

Cummins briefly allowed Technical Center employees to return to the building to collect their personal items after the center was deemed safe, but then closed the building and last Monday assigned them to work from other company locations. 

Cummins, which provided support and resources to employees wishing to utilize them as they returned to work, expects the technical center to reopen sometime this week, Mills said.

The Tribune of Seymour, a sister publication of The Republic, contributed to this report.

Warning signs of a potential active shooter
  • Increased use of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism, vague physical complaints
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance or hygiene
  • Depress or withdrawal from social activities
  • Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedure
  • Repeated violations of company policies
  • Increased severe mode swings
  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses
  • Explosive outburst of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal comments about “putting things in order”
  • Paranoid behavior
  • Increasing talk of problems at home
  • Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace; talk of severe financial problems
  • Talk of previous incidents of violence
  • Empathy with individuals committing violence
  • Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons or violent crime

Source: Department of Homeland Security, “Active Shooter: How to Respond”

Active-shooter advice: Run, hide, fight

Run: If there is an accessible escape route, attempt to evacuate.

Hide: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.

Fight: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the active shooter.

Source: Indiana Department of Homeland Security