Cops release details on New Mexico office murder-suicide
Robert Reza shot through the building as employees scrambled
By Jeff Proctor
ALBUQUERQUE, NM — In the space of just minutes, police dispatchers fielded thirty 911 calls from frantic employees Monday morning while Robert Reza rampaged through the Emcore Corp. building with a semiautomatic handgun, authorities said Tuesday.
"You could hear complete chaos," Police Chief Ray Schultz said in an interview as he described the calls. "People were running for their lives, whispering that they were hiding under desks and in other places in the building."
When Reza, 36, had finished shooting, two people were dead and four more were wounded, two of them severely. He then turned the gun on himself.
Michelle Turner, a 36-year-old research and development technician at Emcore, was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been a close friend of Reza's estranged girlfriend, Adrienne Basciano, who was believed to be Reza's intended target.
Sharon Cunningham, 47, an information technology manager, also was killed.
Basciano, 49, was listed in serious condition at University of New Mexico Hospital late Tuesday. Malissia Mai, 54, was treated for gunshot wounds at UNMH and released, as was 58-year-old Rodney Noble. Dixie Colvin, also 58, remained at the hospital in satisfactory condition late Tuesday.
Police Chief Ray Schultz did not speculate on what may have set Reza off, other than reiterating that Reza and Basciano were involved in some sort of battle over their 4-year-old twin boys.
The chief also said investigators have learned through interviewing Reza's former coworkers at Emcore that Reza may have been "struggling with mental health issues."
During a news conference Tuesday and in an interview afterward, Schultz described the horrific events that took place over the course of a few minutes at Emcore on Monday morning:
Cunningham was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when Reza arrived at Emcore.
She was bringing a load of supplies from one of Emcore's buildings to another when Reza confronted her at the top of a short flight of stairs near the company's outdoor break area.
Reza raised a Springfield .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun and fired several shots at Cunningham "without provocation or reason," Schultz said.
He hit her twice, and she was later pronounced dead at UNMH.
From there, Reza turned his attention to his apparent target: Basciano, the mother of his twin sons.
Reza, who knew Basciano took a smoke break around 9:15 a.m. nearly every workday, walked up to the table where she was sitting and opened fire.
He struck her multiple times, and Basciano hit the ground. She "played possum," the chief said, probably saving her life.
Turner, who was sitting at the table with Basciano, was not so fortunate.
After seeing her friend take gunfire, Turner got up from the table and ran west along the front of the Emcore building. Reza fired again. He struck Turner, and she fell to the ground. Schultz said Turner struggled to get up. Reza approached and shot Turner several more times "execution-style," the chief said in an interview. "He shot her when she was in a helpless position, lying down," he said.
Schultz said in the interview that investigators are looking into whether Turner had been one of the workplace confidantes Basciano had confided in about her fears that Reza would harm her.
In any case, Reza wasn't finished.
Police believe he was looking for someone else at Emcore, but they wouldn't identify that person.
Reza used the last of the 13 bullets in the Springfield's magazine to shoot out the window of an office, reloaded and climbed into the building through that window.
Once inside, Reza shot at and missed a number of employees who were trying to get out of his way.
Reza then went into a foyer in the building's northwest corner and saw a group that included Colvin, Noble and Mai hiding behind a desk on the other side of a glass partition. Reza walked around behind the terrified employees and fired several shots at them through the partition.
Colvin was struck in both legs; Noble in the back. It was unclear where Mai was hit.
Like Basciano, Colvin - and possibly the others - lay motionless, hoping Reza would leave them for dead. He did.
Reza continued back through the foyer. The chief said he "appeared to be looking for someone or something."
At some point, he arrived in a cafeteria where he encountered another group of employees who were scrambling, looking for a place to hide.
Reza looked around, left the cafeteria without firing a shot and headed back toward the office where he had entered the building.
"He may have seen officers responding, we're not sure," Schultz said. "In any case, he shot himself in the head in that office."
Reza had fired eight shots inside the building, bringing the total of rounds spent to 21. The gun was still loaded when police arrived.
Investigators were conducting ballistics testing on the weapon Tuesday, the chief said. Once those tests are finished, APD with help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will determine when and where Reza got the gun.
The chief would not elaborate on what police have learned about Reza's possible mental health issues.
Emcore Chief Operating Officer Chris Larocca said Tuesday that Reza was hired by the company in October 2006 and was an operator with the company's space photovoltaic business. He took a family medical leave of absence in March 2009, then came back to work about three months later before resigning in July 2009 for medical reasons, Larocca said.
Police had originally reported Monday that six people had been killed and four wounded. Schultz chalked the error up to the chaos of the scene and APD's "active shooter response."
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal