Beheading suspect was recently fired, Oklahoma police say
(CNN) — A man suspected of beheading a woman and stabbing another worker at an Oklahoma food plant was fired right before the attack, police said Friday.
Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, was terminated from his job at Vaughan Foods processing plant just before the rampage Thursday afternoon in Moore, Oklahoma, just outside Oklahoma City, said Sgt. Jeremy Lewis of the Moore Police Department.
After “he was terminated, he drove to the front of the business, running into a vehicle, exited his vehicle, entered the business, where he encountered the first victim, Colleen Hufford, 54, and began assaulting her with a knife. He did kill Colleen and he did sever her head.”
Nolen recently had been trying to convert co-workers to Islam, Lewis added during a Friday press conference. “After conducting interviews with co-workers of Nolen’s, information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert some of his coworkers to the Muslim religion.”
Moore police have asked the FBI to help investigate the man’s background.
“Due to the manner of death and the statement of co-workers and other initial information that investigators have gathered, we requested the assistance of the FBI in conducting a background investigation into Nolen.”
Earlier Friday, U.S. law enforcement officials said there were no indication the attack was linked to terrorism.
And Lewis agreed.
“Just based on statements made by co-workers, that’s what brought us to go ahead and contact the FBI, just to get assistance on a background investigation.
A second woman, identified as Traci Johnson, survived the attack, thanks to the intervention of another co-worker, the company’s chief operating officer Mark Vaughan, who is also an Oklahoma County reserve deputy.
She’s hospitalized in stable condition with “numerous knife wounds,” according to police.
“This off-duty deputy definitely saved Traci’s life,” Lewis said. “This was not going to stop if he didn’t stop it. He’s obviously a hero in this situation. It’s very tragic that someone did lose their life, but it could have gotten a lot worse. This guy was definitely not going to stop. He didn’t stop until he was shot.”
Vaughan Foods issued a statement Thursday after the attack. “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the events, said spokeswoman Danielle Katcher. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the team member we lost and all those affected, ” Katcher added.
Nolen was shot twice, police said, and is also hospitalized in stable condition.
The attack appeared to be random. Lewis said the two victims were simply in Nolen’s way when he entered the building. “He wasn’t targeting anyone, wasn’t going specifically after them. It appears they were just in his way as he came in.”
Authorities were still interviewing witnesses Friday. Police said they did not have any information on Nolen’s background, yet. They also have not yet said what charges Nolen might be facing.
“There’s two separate incidents that we’re looking at. We do have a homicide that our investigators are looking at and we have requested the assistance of the FBI in looking into the background of the suspect,” Lewis said.
By Evan Perez, Pamela Brown and Shelby Lin Erdman