One woman was beheaded and another injured after a 30-year-old man began attacking people at a Moore, Oklahoma food processing plant Thursday afternoon.
Alton Nolen decapitated Colleen Hufford, 54, and began stabbing Traci Johnson, 43, after being fired from the Vaughan Foods plant, police say. Company owner Mark Vaughan, an Oklahoma County reserve deputy, shot Nolen, stopping his attack and injuring him. Both Nolen and Johnson are in stable condition.
Nolen used what police called a "standard type knife used in the business in their duties" at the food processing plant. There were as many as 300 workers inside at the time of the attack.
Danielle Katcher, a Vaughan Foods spokeswoman, said in a statement Thursday night, "On behalf of everyone at Vaughan Foods, we are shocked and deeply saddened by the events of today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the team member we lost and all those affected."
In recent weeks, several Westerners have been beheaded by terrorists aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has called for Muslims to carry out similar attacks around the world.
Moore police said there is no evidence that the attack was inspired by any similar events in the Middle East or by religious fundamentalism. However, the FBI is looking into Nolen's background, including statements by some of his co-workers who said Nolen had tried to convert them to Islam.
According to law enforcement officials, Nolen appears to have converted to Islam recently while in prison. Officials from the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma are currently working to verify those claims. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections confirmed Friday that Nolen had been an inmate, serving time for drug possession, assaulting a police officer and an attempt to escape detention.
"[The attack] did appear random," Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said at a press conference Friday. "He wasn't targeting anyone, wasn't going specifically after them. It appears they were just in his way as he came in." Law enforcement sources say Nolen did not speak or shout anything during the attack; the leading motive currently being pursued by police is that Nolen was reacting to being terminated from his job.
"It should be noted this off-duty deputy definitely saved Traci's life," Sgt. Lewis told reporters. "This was not going to stop if he didn't stop it. So I mean we are looking at him. He is obviously a hero in this situation. It's very tragic that someone did lose their life but this could have gotten a lot worse. This guy was definitely not going to stop, he didn't stop until he was shot."