Municipal Building GunshotsCity workers and police stand outside the Joycelyn V. Johnson Municipal Services Center after reports of gunshots in Winston-Salem, N.C. early Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. Winston- Salem Police are confirming there was a shooting but are not saying at this time if there are any injuries or deaths. (Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal via AP)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — A deadly shooting at a city building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was an act of “workplace violence" by one city employee who targeted a co-worker he'd disliked for a long time, police said Friday.
Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson told news reporters the gunman at a city building was killed during a gunfight with police officers who responded to the scene. One officer was wounded. She said 61-year-old Steven Dewayne Haizlip shot and killed another employee, Terry Lee Cobb Jr., whom he had targeted.
Another city employee and a police officer were also wounded but are expected to survive.
Police Capt. Steven Tollie said the slain employee and the gunman had a "longstanding dislike for each other," but he couldn't elaborate on the source of their disagreements. Cobb, 48, had worked for the city for 20 years. Haizlip had worked there for 12.
Tollie said the two men had been involved in a physical altercation Thursday that wasn't reported at the time to their superiors. Another city employee who was wounded wasn't targeted and was "collateral damage," Tollie said. Tollie said the gunman brought multiple firearms to the shooting Friday.
The shooting drew numerous police cars at the municipal complex east of downtown that houses sanitation and engineering departments for the city of about 245,000 in the central part of the state.
City workers described a frantic scene as many people scattered and sought cover outside.
Sanitation worker Dwight Black, 66, was running five minutes late when he parked his car at the facility. He said he was about to swipe his card to enter the building when people ran past him.
"They're shooting. Run!' Black said of the people leaving the building. “Fight or flight. I just followed suit.”
Black ran back to his car and said others did the same and drove off. He said he just stood back and watched until police arrived.
Black said he was “kind of numb” after the shooting. “Everybody was devastated," he said. “Tough day."
The police chief said that officers arrived around 6:41 a.m., four minutes after they began receiving multiple 911 calls from city employees about the shooting. Officers heard gunshots as they arrived and moved toward the threat, she said. They encountered Haizlip outside the building and killed him in a short gunfight, she said.
Police Sgt. Cameron Stewart Sloane was hit twice by gunfire and taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery, she said. He's expected to survive.
She declined to name the wounded employee but said that person's injuries weren't life-threatening.
She also decried what she said is the challenge for her department and others around the country — gun violence.
“As you have heard me state, our greatest challenge for law enforcement in the Piedmont Triad, across this state and across our nation is gun violence. We are all experiencing unacceptable levels of gun violence. This morning, it again became prevalent in our city,” she said.
Black, the sanitation worker, said the department has many longtime employees who were shaken by the incident.
"Some of those guys been knowing each other for years. They took it pretty hard," Black said. "Everybody was affected.
A woman who identified herself as Haizlip's daughter declined to comment when reached by phone.
At Cobb's home on the north side of Winston-Salem, his mother-in-law, Kathy Forte, said the timing of the shooting before Christmas and just after a family birthday party made it especially devastating.
"His son's birthday was yesterday. That's why it's so devastating today because ... they all went out and had their last dinner," Forte said.
Forte said Cobb also worked for UPS part-time in the afternoons. He was a father to children ages 20, 16 and 12. It was the youngest who just celebrated a birthday.
"It's so sad that it's Christmas and the kids have no dad and the wife has no husband," Forte said. “It's just so sad.”
Forte said there had been “a dislike” between Cobb and Haizlip for some time.
"I don't know why they didn't really foresee that they needed to be separated," she said, adding that the two worked on the same side of town. She added that she understood that Haizlip was the type of person "who kind of pushed you to the edge. But I don't think Terry saw that coming."
"His wife said he didn't seem to be worried about anything or afraid of anything to go to work today," she said. Forte said her daughter, who declined to be interviewed, had asked her husband to take Friday off and go Christmas shopping with her.
"She's so hurt because she asked him to stay home today and celebrate the baby's birthday and go do Christmas shopping together," Forte said. “And he said he would do it like next Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Regina Garcia Cano in Baltimore; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; and AP researcher Randy Herschaft in New York.