2 supervsiors killed by employee at East Tennessee factory

Courtesy: Sheriff Joe Guy via Instagram
Courtesy: Sheriff Joe Guy via Instagram

ATHENS, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has identified the victims and gunman of a fatal shooting at an Athens factory Thursday afternoon.

The TBI says James Zotter, 44, and Sandra Cooley, 68, both of Athens, were shot and killed shortly before 4 p.m. at the Thomas and Betts plant. The shooter has been identified as Ricky Swafford, 45, also of Athens.

The preliminary investigation revealed that Swafford, a longtime employee of the plant, became upset at a meeting with Zotter and Cooley, who were his supervisors.

Police say Swafford abruptly left the building and went to the parking lot, only to return a short time later. He then went to the office where Zotter and Cooley both were and shot them.

Authorities said employees were able to warn each other about the shooting and most were able to evacuate the building. Others locked themselves in whatever rooms they were in.

Swafford was later found in a bathroom of the plant, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The TBI has confirmed that Swafford had a concealed weapons permit.

All three bodies have been transported to Knoxville for autopsy.

No other employees were hurt.

The TBI investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

During a media briefing Friday, the company’s Area Operations Manager Pat Joyce spoke about the impact of the shooting.

“We as a company are heartbroken,” he said. “We ask for your understanding and for your prayers.”

He told reporters that employees will be paid while the plant is closed.

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