From the Introduction:
The most notable postal mass shooting shocked the country on Aug. 20, 1986 when postman Patrick Henry Sherrill shot 20 employees at a U.S. Post Office in Edmond, Oklahoma, killing 14 of them before committing suicide with a shot to the forehead. The American phrase “going postal” was born.
Six years prior to this mass murder, I began what would become a 33-year-career with the U.S. Postal Service. Three years into my employment with the agency I began to learn firsthand what actions can lead to going postal.
The purpose of this book is to recognize the cries of people whose lives have been forever changed. I have witnessed the frustration and disappointment on the faces of many employees angry with pain and suffering, and the animosity that developed into feelings of depression and emotional stress because of inhumane treatment by management at the postal service. I experienced it too. Fear, intimidation, apprehension, anxiety attacks, along with pain and suffering, can make for a lethal combination, especially when you find no safe place to go.
I am convinced that current and former employees of the agency can relate to the constant pressures and undue stress in the postal environment fueled by management’s undermining tactics. Their abuse of authority and their persistent lies, threats and deception have created adverse conditions and a hostile workplace. Going postal is not a myth. Those who have killed others and even themselves in a postal facility do not always have “their own issues” and “mental instability” as management and authorities would like the public to believe.
Behind the front counters of the U.S. Postal Service, employees were constantly under attack and tested by managers and supervisors. Rules and regulations that governed the agency were compromised. Those who employed this destructive behavior have become party to legal prosecution.
Though innocent bystanders have been killed, others have been wrongly described as “martyrs” in mass shootings, when in fact they merely became victim to the monster mentality they themselves created – going postal.
Mass shootings involving postal workers include, but are not limited to:
- Oct. 10, 1991, Wayne, New Jersey: Fired postal worker Joseph M. Harris kills his ex-supervisor and her boyfriend at their home, then kills two former colleagues as they arrive at the Ridgewood, New Jersey post office where they all previously worked together.
- Nov. 14, 1991, Royal Oak, Michigan: Fired postal worker Thomas McIlvane kills four, wounds five, and then kills self.
- Jan. 30, 2006, Goleta, California: Former mail processor Jennifer San Marco, 44, kills six employees. She then commits suicide at the sorting facility.
Details of these killings, along with more than 20 other postal service incidents from 1983 to 2006, were compiled in a 2009 book, “Beyond Going Postal” by Stephen Musacco, Ph.D. He worked with the USPS for more than 30 years as an Employee Assistance Program representative and as a workplace improvement analyst. Details of the killings pop up regularly in news reports whenever a workplace shooting happens.
In the midst of news reports, after such massacres, the public hears that the employee was recently fired or disciplined and had a history of problems throughout their career. The focus exploits negatives and puts great emphasis on the crime itself. Opinions are formed, judgment passed and rumors are spread.
I, at one point, had guns pointed directly at my head by a half dozen police officers when at the end of my rope trying to endure the wrath of management. I am a survivor of the torture in the U.S. Postal Service, and I’m here to tell my story. I believe that I am telling and sharing a part of their stories as well. So, to the reader, the material in this book is true. I wrote this book about incidents that took place in my 33 years of working for the postal service. The contents are supported by more than 12,000 pages, including legal documents that I have kept in my defense as I was repeatedly accused of “unbecoming behavior.”
I defended myself through personnel grievances, arbitration, equal employment opportunity hearings and legal cases played out in a court of law. I was required to name names, locations and describe unlawful situations in detail. No gag orders were ever issued. In fact, Denver’s two daily newspapers, The Denver Post and the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, as well as the weekly Westword newspaper, covered some of the atrocities happening at the postal service.
My life at the postal service stood as an open book long before I started writing my own. I quickly learned that when you stand for the truth, confidentiality goes out the window. I have not written this exclusive first-hand account of experiences to point the finger at any one individual, but to shine the spotlight on the system, which allowed each individual to make decisions without accountability.
I am a disabled Vietnam War veteran. I served my country from 1974 to 1979 in the United States Navy and received two honorable discharges. I am very proud to have been a member of the armed forces. As a combat veteran, I can tell you that war is hell. Never in my wildest imagination could I have conjured up the kind of war I would face upon my return home just to make a decent life for my family and to maintain the dignity any U.S. citizen deserves.
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From Chapter 2: Highest in the Class:
Still unemployed, times were getting hard and boredom began to creep in.
One warm spring day with the sun shining bright, I was sitting on the front porch at my mom’s house as free as a bird with nothing to do when I saw the mailman making his deliveries. Once he got closer to me I asked him if the post office was hiring. I informed him that I was recently released from active duty and was in desperate need of employment. He didn’t know if they were hiring at the time but he said that the postal service allowed veterans recently released from active duty to apply within a certain time of their release and test for employment. He then directed me to where I could go to apply. I applied that same day.
One week later I received a letter from the agency informing me of the time, date and location of the testing. On the day of the test I was very nervous knowing that this was a great opportunity for me to earn my independence in a job which I believed held a future for me. My test score was the highest in the class, giving me the number one spot on the seniority list for that group.
I was hired on May 3, 1980 with the U.S. Postal Service and assigned to the Terminal Annex building located in lower downtown Denver at 16th and Wynkoop. I was scheduled to work the first shift of the day which was graveyard and known as Tour One. My operation was in 030. I sat on a stool like a barstool for eight hours of the night, most times10 hours with mandatory overtime. My duties included casing letters to the prospective slot by their zip code. The holding cases were four by four feet. They were box-shaped structures lined in rows of 20, sometimes 30 depending on the size of the operation. The aisles were narrow so everyone worked near one another. There were four, maybe five supervisors in charge of a single operation. Throughout the evening they walked up and down the aisles barking out commands such as, “face your case,” “turn on the overhead light above you,” “both feet on the floor,” “throw more mail” and “do less talking.”
You even needed permission from a supervisor to be excused from your case to take a restroom break, and you would be timed on how long you were away from your seat. It was a large facility with a boot camp atmosphere which had me questioning my decision to work for the U.S. Postal Service.
In late 1980 I was given a detail assignment and was transferred to the AMF (Air Mail Facility) at Stapleton International Airport in Denver Colorado. I worked foreign mail and parcel post packaging. I began setting goals for myself by exploring my options and looking into different jobs for advancement opportunities. I met a gentleman at this facility and we became good friends. We talked a lot about going into management, cliché as it may be, we both had much of the same ideals that we could make a difference in the way management treated employees. Together we went to the station manager and inquired about the supervisor position. Some time had passed before we were both given the opportunity to act in a supervisor’s capacity on the workroom floor. It was short-lived for me. I did not care to be a part of management’s expectations and their criteria for being a well-balanced and productive supervisor.
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From Chapter 6: Character Assassination
Between March and July 1988, I was forced to file seven different grievances against management after being written up and disciplined for alleged infractions. In each of the grievances I prevailed. The true perpetrators were management themselves and those co-workers who aided them, better known to managers and supervisors as “team players.” Exercising my rights and standing up for myself caused me an enormous amount of pain and grief. It became obvious to me that I was being set up and was now a target in this agency. Management now had my undivided attention.
The tension was so high that I did not want to go to work. People in the unit were very much aware of what was going on but were afraid of getting involved and speaking the truth about management’s aggression towards me. They feared retaliation and being treated the same. Then there were those who took advantage of management’s dislike for me. They were the ones always in the office talking with a supervisor and keeping their distance from me, showing their loyalty to management. The unit was being divided and had developed into a cliquish atmosphere.
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From Chapter 9: Under a Microscope
I consumed an overwhelming amount of alcohol daily while contemplating revenge in hopes of being inebriated to the point that I could find the courage to carry out my thoughts of causing bodily harm, preferably killing him. The more I drank, the more I wanted to act out my frustrations. Getting my hands on a gun would be no problem. Flashes of me pulling the trigger poked at me constantly. The target could have been him. It could have been me. It didn’t matter.
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From Chapter 11: Bigger Than Me
My use of alcohol reached a point of intolerance. The negative affect it had on me and my obsession to get revenge on the people that had caused me an enormous amount of pain and grief wasn’t going away. I was an angry person with an extremely unhealthy attitude. The impurities of the alcohol that streamed toxin throughout my body had control of me physically and mentally, and became a significant factor not only at work but in my private life. October 1990, my wife and I separated.
I was on an emotional roller coaster and I didn’t care. After the separation, I had no one there for me. During this time, I developed a routine each day that consisted of a strenuous workout for hours while consuming alcohol. Dangerous, but true. I would then go to work and after work I would go straight home and self-medicate with alcohol and marijuana. Together, the two drugs enhanced my appetite where I would consume an excessive amount of protein and carbohydrates that would increase my performance in the gym. But then I would reach a point of fatigue that induced a sleep-like coma allowing me to fall asleep and stay asleep until the next day.
I very much liked that because in that state I had no problems. I would repeat this cycle each day. This transformed my body into hard rock muscles with five percent body fat which was also dangerous. My weight increased from 225 to 255 pounds, every ounce of it full of anger. Before I began self-medicating, I suffered from insomnia. This was a big part of the anxiety attacks that plagued me daily as a result of a stressful work life.
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©2017 Garland D. Lewis, Sr. All rights reserved.