I’m a bit upset today. I’m mad hippy today instead of sad. Irate hippy, even. I woke up this morning to a text about how a man killed his ex-wife, his sister-in-law, and then committed suicide leaving behind a daughter. And you know why I’m mad? There were people who knew of this possibility and could have done something about it but chose to do nothing.
A very dear friend of mine used to work for a large beverage company in Tampa. I used to love everyone who worked there. The CEO used to come down to get coffee at the café I worked at, and he was kind, brilliant, and easy to talk to. The presidents and vice presidents didn’t act like “suits” (a name we gave people in suits who were too good for anyone who didn’t use dry cleaning for their clothes) when they came down and spoke to me; they were regular people. And I really respected that they didn’t let their pay grade go to their head. I was a wee little café girl, but to them, I was someone who could have intellectual conversations with. I loved that.
I watched people get hired there for their first days, and walk out with boxes on their last. When I left to start my career as a writer, I had no idea I would be missing some of the biggest drama that would change many lives forever.
A man was harassing my dear friend. She would comment on how he was unstable. He would wait around for her to get off work to be in the elevator with her, she started taking the back stairs or walking with her male friend co-worker. He would say how mad he would be if his ex-wife brought a man around his daughter. She told me, “The look on his face when he imagined it, it was like he wasn’t there anymore. Then he would yell and then be like nothing happened.”
And while working at that café, I saw it. His posture, the way he spoke. He would spit out fragments of sentences, was extremely loud, and couldn’t stand still. Being someone who has suffered from mental illness, I have been exposed to many types of sick people. And it was obvious to me that this guy needed something to help him.
It got to the point to where he was provoking her to react. He would do so in front of cameras so it would look like she was the one who was hostile. She finally decided to report him to HR because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
During the investigation, they go through their messages that they sent to each other from their work communication program. Something that mustn’t have taken much time because she avoided talking to him as much as possible. On one occasion, he asked her how the training was going, and she was annoyed that the woman she was teaching was on her phone scrolling through Facebook the whole time. He says “It looks like you want to fight her, but I know she can take you.” So she jokingly replies, “No I would beat that woman’s ass!” You know, because when someone you are threatened by makes a joke, you just go with it.
Then they called my friend into the Human Resource office, she explains how snotty the HR woman was. Which I don’t doubt, I’ve sold her a salad or two, and her personality is as fake as they come. I don’t know why people think they can just get away with a fake personality; it’s so obvious. But in customer service, you go with it.
My friend had explained that this man would say that he wanted to kill his ex-wife, how he had a gun in his car, and all of the things he would say or do that made her uncomfortable. The HR woman explains how my friend came forward feeling threatened, but she was in fact actually threatening employees. You know, the joke message? The one he provoked? And you know what happens? She gets fired.
My friend is devastated, but she keeps telling herself it was her fault. She shouldn’t have made that joke; it was unprofessional. Even though we all know, you get fired when you go to HR for anything. The fact that everyone knows that should be a red flag.
She goes for months without a job because this market is garbage no matter what anyone tells you. She had money in savings that held her over because she’s a smart and level-headed woman, a freezer full of meat to grill every weekend because luckily she was a bargain shopper, she was making it work, but she was suffering like anyone would without a job. The feeling that she wasn’t doing enough for her family, even though every week she was putting out resumes and going to interviews. Luckily, she works for a fantastic company now who treats her well, and she is making enough money to help support her family, more so than she was at this corporate beverage place, so my friend got a happy ending.
If any of you have ever been caught in the act of suicide or taken to the hospital because of it, you know how easy it is to be thrown into a mental institution for being a threat to yourself or others. That is what they say. I have personally had that happen three times. The first time, it was just having a butcher knife in my dresser. That was all it took. Kind of like having a gun in your car at work and talking about killing people, one would think.
What I don’t understand is why this man was just fired and thrown out into the world. Did they report him to the police? Bringing a gun to a gun free property? I don’t know, but what I do know is he went to his ex-wife and killed her. Then killed his sister-in-law, and then killed himself. I can’t imagine that would happen had the proper steps been taken to help this man who was obviously suffering inside his own head.
Imagine if we had a world where HUMAN RESOURCES cared more about actual HUMANS than how their company looks. Where they aren’t so busy with their job, they don’t forget to protect and care for the HUMANS who are in the workplace. It could have been my friend. She was worried for weeks that he would come to her house and kill her. She reported it, and NOTHING HAPPENED except she lost her job. And now three people are dead, and a little girl has no parents but a tragic story to live with for the rest of her life.
We have to change something. We have to DO something. Why are threats not taken seriously? ESPECIALLY with all that is going on? I firmly believe this company could have done more to save the lives of these three people, and in my eyes, they are the murderer.