A 49-year-old man is dead following a fight at General Motors' Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, the Oakland County Sheriff's Office confirmed Thursday in a news release.
Sheriff's Communications Officer Steve Huber identified the victim as Gregory Lanier Robertson of Pontiac. Robertson had worked at the plant for about seven months. A 48-year-old male coworker was in custody at Oakland County Jail.
Later Thursday afternoon, the Oakland County Medical Examiner's office completed the autopsy report. It lists Robertson's death as homicide with the cause as "multiple blunt force injuries," Cas Miarka, an administrator at the medical examiner's office, told the Free Press.
The sheriff's office confirmed both men in the fight worked for a cleaning service hired by GM, but Huber told the Free Press his office is not releasing the name of that cleaning company. GM hires vendors to do cleaning as well as some maintenance and parts distribution for the assembly line.
The plant was shut down Thursday for the investigation, but regular production will resume Friday morning and employees should report at their regular time unless notified otherwise by their leaders, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.
"We will start the shift with a discussion about the recent incident at the plant and the support services available to employees," Flores said in a statement.
Dead at the scene
Huber said earlier Thursday that "there was an altercation and we have detectives on the scene. It happened at 1:37 in the morning and there was no risk to the public."
Huber later described what happened in a news release:
Deputies arrived to find Robertson "unconscious and bleeding." CPR was performed but deputies could not revive him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The suspect was found in a dock area not far from Robertson's body. "The item used in the slaying was recovered," Huber said in the release. "The incident and possible motive remain under investigation."
In a statement released later Thursday, Flores said GM was working with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office to investigate "an altercation between two employees of a third-party service provider at Orion Assembly early Thursday morning. The incident resulted in the death of one of the individuals. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family."
Huber said detectives will present the case to prosecutors Friday for possible homicide charges.
Other fatal factory fights
GM has security at all of its factories, including Orion Assembly where about 1,200 people work. During the non-production shifts, there is typically only a handful of employees there such as the security personnel and cleaning crew. Flores was not sure if there were metal detectors at the plant's entrances or not.
There have been deadly incidents at auto factories before in Michigan.
In 2017 at Ford Motor Co's. Woodhaven Stamping Plant, Jacoby Hennings, a temporary, part-time employee, was involved in a dispute before shooting himself, leading to the plant's evacuation and shutdown. Hennings, then 21, was of Harper Woods.
In 1996, the media reported that Gerald Michael Atkins, then 29, was arrested after dressing "like Rambo″ and using an AK-47 to shoot his way into a Ford plant in Wixom. A manager was killed and three others were wounded.
GM's Flores said he does not recall a fatal killing at a GM factory until now. According to GM's 2021 Sustainability report, the automaker had two work-related deaths at its facilities, up from one death in 2020.
Orion's production future
GM builds the Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV, an SUV styling of the all-electric car, at Orion on one dayside shift that starts at around 6 a.m. and runs to 2:30 p.m., Flores said.
GM had just restarted production of the Bolt and Bolt EUV in April after months of shutdown. GM idled the factory late last year so GM could focus on fixing defective batteries as part of a global recall of 2017-22 model year Bolts. About 140,000 vehicles are affected in the recall because they could catch fire. There were more than a dozen fires, but no one was injured.
When GM restarted the plant in April, Chevrolet leaders said once production ramped up, the EVs would achieve record sales this year, topping 24,000 Bolts. Through June, GM has sold 7,303 Bolts. In the same period last year, GM had sold 20,288 through June.
In January, GM announced it would invest $7 billion in Michigan factories, included in that is $4 billion to upgrade Orion to start building the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV. pickup.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Worker dead of blunt force injuries after fight at GM's Orion Assembly