BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. — Deputies say an employee who was arrested after he allegedly opened fire at a North Carolina food plant early Thursday morning had a long-standing dispute with one of the victims.
The shooting happened just after midnight at the Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, right outside of Lumberton.
Deputies said the two victims, a man and a woman, were found shot in a stairwell. They were airlifted to the hospital, and they both have critical injuries.
During the investigation, deputies were able to identify the suspect. Officials said with the help of someone who is familiar with him, they were able to contact Jaquante Williams, and he surrendered.
Sheriff James McVicker said Williams had been working at the plant for about a year.
Officials said Williams had a long-standing dispute with the male victim and the woman was caught in the crossfire.
Williams' mother apologized on his behalf, but also blamed Smithfield for not stepping in sooner.
"I know he had no intention to hurt her," Williams' mother said.
She said the male victim beat her son at work days before the shooting and that managers knew about it and never did anything.
Williams, 20, was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is being held at the Bladen County Jail under no bond.
"We were just very fortunate to apprehend the suspect as soon as we did and that no other persons were injured," McVicker said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, and we wish them a speedy recovery."
Deputies said Williams stole the gun he used and managers at the plant aren't sure how he was able to get it past security, but they are working to increase security.
Authorities said the plant was evacuated after the shooting and during the investigation.
911 calls revealed the chaos inside the plant as deputies said Williams opened fire, sending everyone running for cover.
"Somebody's shooting inside," the 911 caller said.
"Okay, are you somewhere safe?" the dispatcher responded.
"Yes, I'm hiding. I don't know if the door is locked," the caller said. "Can you please hurry up? Oh my gosh, please. Oh my god."
After Williams was caught, employees were able to go back to work.
Smithfield Foods released the following statement:
"We are shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting that took place at our Tar Heel, North Carolina, processing facility overnight. Our thoughts and prayers are with our two Smithfield Family members who suffered serious injuries and were taken by life flight to hospitals, their families and loved ones," said Keira Lombardo, an executive vice president for Smithfield Foods. "The safety and security of our employees is our top priority, and the facility was immediately evacuated in accordance with our previously established protocol. We will provide support to all our team members directly and indirectly impacted by this incident. We are so thankful for the quick response of the Bladen County Sheriff's Department and our own brave team members who assisted in apprehending the suspect, who is an employee of a third-party vendor. We are working closely with law enforcement and will provide updates as appropriate."
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