An out-of-work pool man unhappy with the way his workers' compensation claim was going stormed a law office in West Palm Beach on Thursday, taking 16 people hostage before killing a lawyer and then taking his own life.
Attorney Kenny Edwards, 38, died trying to protect his co-workers at the law firm of Danielson Clarke Pumpian and Ford, witnesses said.
Another man, attorney Arthur Pumpian, was shot in the arm at the beginning of the siege. He was in serious but stable condition late Thursday at St. Mary's Hospital.
Law firm employees identified the gunman as Terry Hogan, 37, of Lake Worth. Hogan had battled the firm _ which specializes in defending insurance companies against claims by injured workers _ for two years.
Hogan was injured by an electrical shock in 1994 while working on a pool at the Sloan's Curve condominium in Palm Beach. He was irate that his benefits had been cut, and had threatened attorneys. Workers at the office had Hogan's picture on the wall, warning them to call police if he showed up.
"He said these attorneys were making his life a living hell," friend John Rogers said. "They blocked his workman's comp every step of the way."
Thursday's ordeal began when Hogan carjacked a taxi about 11 a.m.
"He stuck a gun in my ribs and said "I don't want you. I want your cab. Get out and walk away,' " Yellow Cab driver Bill Watts said. "I didn't walk; I ran."
Watts had picked up Hogan at an apartment complex in Lake Worth. He said he wanted to go to the post office on Dixie Highway in the southern end of West Palm Beach. When it came time to pay the $10.75 fare, he pulled out an automatic handgun.
"He was calm about it," Watts said. "Too calm."
After Watts jumped out of his cab, Hogan moved to the front seat, gunned the engine and drove it four blocks south to the law office. There he found about a half-dozen workers outside, taking a cigarette break.
"He put a gun in the side of one girl, and another girl tried to burn him with a cigarette," said Barbara Sherry, who works next door to the law office. "But he got one of them to get him into the building."
Bruce Linnartz was detailing a car in the parking lot. He saw Hogan get out of the cab.
"He looked normal, maybe dressed a little shabby," Linnartz said. "He went in, and then people started running out, screaming to call police."
Police tried to talk Hogan out of shooting anybody else soon after he took the hostages. He first wounded Pumpian, who managed to escape. But negotiations with Hogan broke down almost immediately.
"We had an open phone line to him, but it was a very irrational conversation," said Assistant West Palm Beach Police Chief Rick Bradshaw.
The police SWAT team rescued nine hostages from the first floor of the building, but the others remained with Hogan on the second floor for two more hours, until Hogan shot himself.