Former Postal Worker Charged With Killing Four in Holdup
MONTCLAIR, N.J. (AP) _ A former postal worker burdened with a ``mountain of debt″ was charged Wednesday with shooting to death four men in a holdup at a small neighborhood post office, including two employees he knew.
Christopher Green, 29, was arrested at his apartment in East Orange, four miles from this New York City suburb, less than 24 hours after the robbery.
Investigators had gotten a tip from someone who knew Green and saw news of the slayings on television, U.S. Attorney Faith Hochberg said.
Authorities also got a description of Green from the only person to survive the attack, a customer shot twice in the face. David Grossman, 45, who was in critical condition, was able to answer investigators’ questions Tuesday by wiggling his toes and fingers from a hospital bed, Hochberg said. Police Chief Thomas Russo said Grossman was able to write information down Wednesday.
In Green’s apartment, investigators found blood-splattered clothes worn during the holdup, a 9mm pistol believed to have been used in the crime and $2,000 cash, some of it under the refrigerator, Hochberg said. More than $5,000 apparently was taken in the robbery, she said.
Green told investigators that he entered the post office Tuesday afternoon, ordered the two workers and three customers inside to go to the back room and lie on the floor, then shot them, according to court papers.
Before dying, one of the workers called out Green’s name, Russo said.
Green said he committed the robbery ``because he had a mountain of debt,″ and used part of the money for back rent, Postal Inspector Kevin Manley said.
Green, who works in the Montclair Public Works Department, was a temporary postal employee in 1992-93 in Montclair, according to court papers.
It was not immediately clear whether he worked at branch where the slayings took place or at the main office. However, he knew both postal employees killed, authorities said.
Green took the car of one of the slain workers and left it in Newark, Essex County Prosecutor Clifford Minor said.
Green was charged with robbing a post office, killing two postal workers, carrying a firearm and using a firearm to kill four people inside a post office.
If convicted, he could face the federal death penalty.
At a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Stanley R. Chesler in Newark, the government said it would seek to have Green held without bail. He remains jailed pending a bail hearing Monday.
Green’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he fidgeted during the proceeding. He spoke only once, answering, ``Yes″ when Chesler asked if he wished to have a court-appointed lawyer.
The neighborhood post office is a satellite of the main Montclair station. Earlier this month, the main office installed bulletproof glass to protect its workers, but the substation had no protective glass or surveillance cameras.
Hank Rauer, president of the New Jersey Mid-State Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union, said the station ``averages a couple of thousand dollars a day″ in business.
U.S. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said that the small office was considered low-risk. ``We will study this facility and the rest of the facilities in this area in regard to security measures,″ he said.
On Feb. 27, two men held up a small post office in Sayreville, about 25 miles from Montclair. It was unclear how much money was stolen. The Postal Service offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the gunmen’s arrest.
It was not immediately known if the robberies were connected.
The attack shook the normally quiet, middle- to upper-middle-class community of about 38,000 people, 15 miles west of New York City.
Frank Grippaldi, owner of Sizz Haircutters, said he was shocked that the violence hit so close to home. ``I just was over there yesterday,″ he said. ``I mailed my income-tax return and I was talking to Scott Walensky. I knew his father. He was a mail carrier, too.″
But Nick Cannestro, a worker at the Montclair Water Bureau, said he wasn’t surprised.
``I’ve been here three years. I’ve seen a notable change in the past year. Car thefts, break-ins, there’s a lot of tension,″ he said. ``It shouldn’t be a shock. You’re only 10 minutes from New York, five minutes from Newark, a high-crime area. I guess these people have been lucky all these years.″