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Four Shot Dead, One Wounded in Shooting at Post Office

March 22, 1995

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (AP) _ A holdup just before closing at a suburban post office ended with two employees and two customers shot to death, and another patron critically wounded.

Police searched the quiet New York City suburb door-to-door Tuesday night but made no arrests.

Authorities said they didn’t know whether there was more than one gunman. The Record of Hackensack said investigators recovered a 9 mm pistol.

The victims were found by a postal truck driver who came to pick up mail and saw a body on the floor. After he called for help, police waited 15 minutes before entering the building because they believed there may have been hostages inside.

The injured man, 45-year-old David Grossman, was in critical condition today with two gunshot wounds to his head. His sister-in-law, Alison Cross, said he might have stopped for stamps or to pick up mail from a postal box.

The holdup occurred right before the post office closed at 4 p.m.

Bill Murphy, who works at Watchung Booksellers a few stores from the post office, said he heard what may have been three shots.

``I didn’t know what they were,″ he said. ``I thought it was a car backfiring. Then someone came in and told us what happened.″

Girls playing field hockey at a nearby playground saw a man run from the post office with a gun. The girls started screaming and were ushered to the sidelines by their coach, The New York Times reported.

After the shooting, children and parents in a doctor’s office next to the post office were kept inside by police for safety. When they were allowed to leave, some ran screaming from the office.

Police Chief Thomas Russo identified the dead postal workers as Stanley Scott Walensky, 42, and Ernest Spruill, 56. The two slain customers were Robert Leslie, 38, and George Lomoga, 59. All the victims lived in Montclair.

U.S. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said in a statement he was ``shocked and saddened by the shootings″ and that the events ``underscore how vulnerable we all are in a society today where guns and violence have become the norm.″

Montclair, about 15 miles west of New York City, is a mixed-income community of about 38,000 residents.

``This town is what I would describe as rural suburbia,″ said resident Brent Balasa. ``You can get to the city easily but it’s far enough away so you feel safe and isolated from crime. But I’m not so sure if the suburbs are safe anymore.″

In 1991, a fired postal worker killed a former supervisor and her boyfriend in New Jersey at their home in Wayne _ 15 miles north of Montclair _ then went to the Ridgewood post office where he killed two mail handlers as they arrived for work. Joseph M. Harris surrendered after a 4 1/2-hour standoff with police.

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