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Fired Worker Charged with Killing Three at Old Job

May 18, 1995

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Two days after he was fired for fighting with co-workers, James Floyd Davis went into a pawn shop and bought an M-1 carbine and 90 rounds of ammunition.

Then he drove to his old job, parked his white Toyota pickup at the side door, grabbed the carbine and a .38-caliber pistol and walked inside.

In the next two minutes, police say, Davis killed three people, including one of the bosses who fired him, and wounded a fourth. Dozens escaped by hiding under their desks.

``I heard gunfire, then someone yelled, `It’s James!′ and then everyone ran,″ said Larry Short, who fled outside as the gunman blasted at him. ``I heard the bullets hitting the ground around me and hitting the street.″

After the shooting stopped at the Union Butterfield Division plant, the gunman stood just inside the front doorway smoking a cigarette. When the police pulled up he talked to them for a few minutes, then threw out his guns, a clip and an ammunition belt.

``Then he dug into his pockets and took out some loose shells. He did that two or three times,″ said witness Lynn Yarbrough, vice president of Daniels Graphics, which shares the building with Union Butterfield.

The gunman’s only request: that he be allowed to keep his cigarettes.

Davis, 47, was charged with three counts of murder. The district attorney said he would seek the death penalty.

``A dangerous guy, and we knew it,″ Short said.

During a news conference today, Asheville Police Capt. Ross Robinson said officers found shotguns, knives and other weapons and documents relating to Davis’ employment at his home in Asheville.

He also said that officers tried unsuccessfully to find Davis the night before the shootings after getting a call from a relative who was worried about his welfare.

``We thought he might kill himself,″ said Davis’ sister, Violet Bailey. ``He had been fired and we didn’t know what might happen.″ She said it was her husband who called police.

The dead were identified as Anthony S. Balogh, 42, Union Butterfield vice president of finance; Gerald M. Allman, 52, purchasing manager; and Frank P. Knox, 62, a sales manager. Personnel manager Debbie Medford said she and Balogh fired Davis.

Davis had worked at Union Butterfield, a sales and distribution center for high-speed drills and precision cutting instruments, since 1991. Short said that a few years ago, he and Davis had an argument over which radio station to listen to and ended up in a fistfight. He described Davis as ``very, very much a classic loner.″

Howard Reece, one of the injured, said the gunman appeared calm.

``He went about it very methodically as far as I could see. He hollered `Don’t anybody move,′ he was pointing the gun toward us,″ he said. ``He didn’t seem to be highly agitated. He wasn’t waving the gun around or anything.″

Reece’s arm was injured by flying splinters. Three other people also were hurt: A worker from a nearby business, who was visiting Union Butterfield, was shot and hospitalized in fair condition, and two other people suffered minor injuries while trying to flee.

Davis, a large man with crewcut hair and wire-rimmed glassed, looked dazed in court Wednesday. He asked for a court-appointed lawyer. Judge Shirley Brown ordered him held without bond and scheduled a June 2 hearing.

Police said Davis bought a semi-automatic M-1 carbine from a pawn shop in nearby Enka, along with three 30-round clips and at least 90 rounds of ammunition. The .38-caliber semi-automatic pistol was purchased at a pawn shop last month.

Alan Fowler, vice president of sales, said that after Davis was fired Monday, ``there was some black humor about him coming back and doing something.″

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