CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ The families of two men killed when a fired worker went on a shooting rampage have won $7.9 million from a jury that found the company was negligent in protecting them.

The jury awarded $3.9 million to the family of Gerald Allman, 52, and $4 million to the family of Frank Knox, 62. Both men were shot and killed on May 17, 1995, by James Floyd Davis at the Union Butterfield tool distribution plant in south Asheville.

The key issue at the civil trial was whether company officials properly protected employees from Davis, who was fired two days earlier because of a string of violent incidents.

``This verdict shows that companies cannot ignore a real, credible threat of workplace violence,'' said David Kirby, who represented the Allman family. ``This man was a ticking time bomb and the management knew it, yet they did nothing to protect their employees.''

Employees testified that plant managers were told that Davis had threatened that if he were fired he would come back and ``take management with me.'' Others cried from worry, and some planned escape routes, witnesses testified.

On Tuesday, the jury found that Union Butterfield Corp. and Dormer Tools Inc., which jointly operate the tool center, were negligent. Both firms shared space and workers at the plant and are wholly owned subsidiaries of Sanvick, a multinational corporation.

Attorneys for Union Butterfield did not return telephone calls. Fred Barbour, an attorney for Dormer Tools, said an appeal was likely. He said Davis was a Union Butterfield employee.

Three people were killed and two wounded in the shooting. Davis was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and is on death row.

The jury did not award any damages to two plaintiffs, a warehouse foreman who was wounded and a Union Butterfield vice president for finance who was killed. Attorneys on both sides said they believed jurors denied damages to the two managers because of their possible roles in failing to properly protect the plant from such an attack.