If you were a manager, how would you respond to an employee who, soon after converting to Islam, posts on Facebook messages that are critical of American culture and offers dire warnings to those who do not follow Islam? What precautionary steps, if any, would you take if you terminated this employee knowing that he has a criminal record for multiple assaults?
A man beheaded a co-worker at a food processing company in Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon, and stabbed another employee before he was shot and wounded by a company executive, the police said Friday.
The suspect, identified as Alton Nolen, who has a criminal history, had just been fired from the company, Vaughan Foods, and “he recently started trying to convert some of his co-workers to the Muslim religion,” said Jeremy Lewis, a spokesman for the police department in Moore, Okla. It was not immediately clear if that proselytizing was a reason for his termination.
After being fired, “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, and began assaulting her with a knife,” Mr. Lewis said. “He did kill Colleen and did sever her head.”
After killing Ms. Hufford, 54, he attacked Traci Johnson, 43, with the same knife, the police said.
“Mark Vaughan, who is the chief operating officer of Vaughan Foods and is also an Oklahoma County reserve deputy, confronted Nolen, and at that time shot him and stopped the threat and the assault,” Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Nolen, 30, was convicted in 2011 of multiple drug charges, assault and battery on a police officer, and escape from detention, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He had earlier arrests on drug and assault charges.
Mr. Nolen was taken to Oklahoma University Medical Center and is expected to survive. He has not been charged. He and Ms. Johnson were both listed in stable condition.
The Moore police called in the F.B.I. to assist in the investigation. After the United States began its bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Syria on Monday, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security put out an alert to local law enforcement officials across the country to be on the watch for so-called lone wolves who might respond violently.
A law enforcement official said the F.B.I. had not found any connection between Mr. Nolen and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, or other groups. “It’s not a typical workplace response, and given the current environment it is very alarming and is something we are closely looking into,” one of the officials said. “So far, there is no nexus to terrorism we are aware of.”
Law enforcement officials said Mr. Nolen recently converted to Islam. On a Facebook page that appears to be his, references to Islam began in April 2013, and he called himself Jah’Keem Yisrael. The page is filled with criticism of American culture, and dire warnings for those who do not follow that religion.
“This is the last days,” he wrote in his most recent post, on Tuesday. In another, in July, he wrote: “AMERICA AND ISRAEL ARE WICKED. WAKE UP MUSLIMS!!!”
Mr. Nolen grew up in Idabel, Okla., and in elementary school he often had extended absences, bouncing from family member to family member, a former friend, Ryan Impson, recalled. At Idabel High School, where the main pursuits were fishing and playing sports for the Idabel Warriors, he said, Mr. Nolen seemed like a normal teenager who played defense on the football team and was a shot-putter on the track team.
“He wasn’t into getting into trouble,” said Mr. Impson, an engineer who said he lost track of Mr. Nolen years ago. “He just did his work. We always joked around. He wasn’t an outcast, he didn’t cause problems, he wasn’t a troublemaker or anything like that.”
The police learned of the attack while it was still underway, at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, from a 911 call from inside the plant. “We have someone attacking someone in the building,” a man, remaining remarkably clear and calm, told the 911 operator, a recording of the call showed. “They’re in the front office of the building. We can hear a lot of screaming.” Between telling someone else to close and lock a door, the man said: “We know that he’s loose. He has stabbed someone.” Then gunshots can be heard in the background.
Mr. Lewis, the police spokesman, said Mr. Vaughan “is obviously a hero in this situation” and saved Ms. Johnson’s life. “This guy definitely was not going to stop,” Mr. Lewis said. “He didn’t stop until he was shot. He was still assaulting Traci whenever he was shot.”
It appeared that Mr. Nolen had no relationship with either victim, he said.
“It did appear random,” Mr. Lewis said. “He wasn’t targeting anyone, wasn’t going specifically after them. It appears they were just in his way as he came in.”