CHICAGO - A man who was fired from his job at an auto parts company six months ago returned yesterday with a handgun and shot six former co-workers, killing them all, before being mortally wounded in a gunbattle with police, authorities said.
Salvador Tapia, 36, who had been arrested a dozen times on weapons, assault and other charges, died after being taken to a hospital, police said.
Four of his victims were pronounced dead at the scene, shot down among a maze of engine parts, crates and 55-gallon drums at Windy City Core Supply Inc. The two others died at local hospitals, officials said.
Though Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States, the city's acting police superintendent, Phil Cline, speaking at a news conference hours later, suggested that they do not go far enough.
"The problem here is access to firearms," Cline said. "Here's someone who never should have had a gun, who had a gun."
Carrying a semiautomatic pistol, Tapia arrived at Windy City, which refurbishes used car parts, about 8:30 a.m., when all but two of the company's nine employees were at work.
For reasons that were unclear, Tapia tied up one employee but did not hurt him. Then he began methodically hunting the others among thousands of stacked auto parts and drums of solvent in the one-story warehouse.
The man who was tied up managed to escape through the only door to the business. As the man escaped, he encountered another worker on his way in. The two ran to a nearby pay phone and called 911.
The first officers arrived one minute after the call - less than 10 minutes after the incident began, police said. They found the former hostage, with his hands still tied behind his back, who told them that five of six co-workers inside had been shot and that the gunman was still in the warehouse.
Minutes later, eight or nine officers approached the door to the warehouse with their guns drawn. As they crept forward, Tapia appeared at the entry and opened fire, then ducked back into the building, Cline said.
Twice more he came outside, police said, with officers screaming at him to drop his gun; he fired instead, and police shot back before he vanished again.
Police phoned the auto parts business and tried various ways to communicate with Tapia, authorities said, but he did not respond. Believing there might be workers still alive, police decided to go inside.
Officers found Tapia hiding behind boxes. When they told him to drop his gun, he raised it as if to fire and was shot by police, officials said.
Tapia had been fired for arriving late or not going to work, Cline said, and had made threatening phone calls to at least one of his former bosses.
Police said Tapia had been arrested a dozen times over 14 years, mostly for domestic violence, gun possession and driving offenses, though he never served time in jail. His most recent arrest, for domestic battery, was in July 2001.