What causes people to “go postal,” and where did the phrase originate? The St. Petersburg Times published the phrase on Dec. 17, 1993, in response to a symposium on violence in the workplace, and in 1995 the movie Clueless used the phrase repeatedly, solidifying its popularity. As to why people go “postal,” that would obviously be different in every incident, but some common reasons are a feeling of being boxed in and powerless in attempts to alleviate stress, made to feel humiliation from management (who are more interested in numbers than in people), and other long-standing mental problems which the environment may exacerbate. Some of the most famous shootings are listed below.
* On August 20, 1986, 14 employees were shot and killed and six wounded at the Edmond, Oklahoma post office by Patrick Sherrill, a postman who then committed suicide with a shot to the forehead.
* A former United States Postal Worker, Joseph M. Harris, killed his former supervisor, Carol Ott, then killed her boyfriend, Cornelius Kasten Jr., at their home. The following morning, on October 10, 1991, Harris shot and killed two mail handlers at the Ridgewood, New Jersey Post Office.
* On November 14, 1991 in Royal Oak, Michigan, Thomas McIlvane killed five people, including himself, with a Ruger rifle in Royal Oak’s post office, after being fired from the Postal Service for “insubordination.”
* Two shootings took place on the same day, May 6, 1993. At a post office in Dearborn, Michigan, Lawrence Jasion wounded three and killed one, and subsequently killed himself. In Dana Point, California, Mark Richard Hilbun killed his mother, then shot two postal workers dead. As a result of these two shootings, the Postal Service created 85 Workplace Environment Analyst jobs to help with violence prevention and workplace improvement. (In February 2009, the Postal Service eliminated these positions as part of its downsizing efforts.)
* Jennifer San Marco, a former postal employee, killed six postal employees before committing suicide with a handgun, on the evening of January 30, 2006, at a large postal processing facility in Goleta, California.
According to media reports, the Postal Service had forced San Marco to retire in 2003 because of her worsening mental problems. Her choice of victims may have also been racially motivated. San Marco had a previous history of racial prejudice, and tried to obtain a business license for a newspaper of her own ideas, called The Racist Press, in New Mexico.
* Grant Gallaher, a letter carrier in Baker City, Oregon, pleaded guilty to the April 4, 2006 murder of his supervisor. He reportedly brought his .357 Magnum revolver to the city post office with the intention of killing his postmaster. Arriving at the parking lot, he reportedly ran over his supervisor several times. Subsequently he went into the post office looking for his postmaster. Not finding the postmaster, he went back out to the parking lot and shot his supervisor several times at close range, ostensibly to make sure she was dead. Gallaher reportedly felt pressured by a week-long work-time study. On the day of his rampage, he was ahead of schedule on his route, but his supervisor brought him more mail to deliver. Years earlier, the union steward at the Baker City post office committed suicide.
There have been other shootings, including two in 2017. One at a San Francisco postal facility, and one in Dublin, Ohio in which the perp shot his supervisor and then beat the postmaster to death over his pending dismissal.
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