The president of a Moore, Oklahoma, food distribution company is being hailed a hero for shooting and wounding a man who had attacked two plant employees, leaving one in critical condition and beheading another. Authorities believe the actions of executive Mark Vaughan prevented additional attacks on the employees and surely saved the life of the second victim.
Vaughan is not only an executive at Vaughan Foods, but he is also a a reserve sheriff’s officer. He enjoys hunting quail and acts as a Boy Scout leader. When he learned that an employee who had just been fired from the plant, Alton Nolen, was attacking workers, Vaughan grabbed his gun and opened fire on the attacker.
According to a statement released by John Whetsel, the Oklahoma County Sheriff, Vaughan became a reserve officer in June 2010. He currently works in the Patrol Division and as part of the Fast Action Support Team. Whetsel describes Vaughan as being a “highly trained member” of the sheriff’s Tactical Team.
The incident began after Nolen, 30, was fired from Vaughan Foods. According to police department spokesman Jeremy Lewis, Nolen had recently begun an effort to convert several co-workers to Islam. It is unclear if his recent efforts to convert employees played a part in his termination. After he was informed that he was fired, Nolen got into his vehicle and drove to the entrance of the plant, hitting another vehicle on the way. He entered the plant and proceeded to stab Colleen Hufford, 54, with a knife. After severing Hufford’s head, he began to attack Traci Johnson, 43. It appears as though Nolen chose his victims at random.
A 911 call was placed at 4:05 p.m. from inside Vaughan Foods. A recording of the call contains the calm voice of a man reporting an attack in the front office of the plant. He tells somebody with him to close and then lock a door before returning to the call, saying “We know he’s loose. He has stabbed someone.” At that moment, gunshots are heard on the tape. The gunshots are presumed to be those of Vaughan, shooting Nolen as he attacked Johnson.
After authorities arrived, Nolen was transported to Oklahoma University Medical Center, where he is expected to recover. Both Johnson and Nolen are in stable condition.
Nolen’s criminal history includes convictions in 2011 for assault and battery on a police officer, several drug charges and escape from detention. Before that, his record lists earlier arrests for assault and drug charges. He has not yet been charged in the attacks at Vaughan Foods.
Police in Moore are being assisted by the F.B.I. who, jointly with the Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning on Monday to police agencies across the U.S. to be on the lookout for individuals responding violently to the bombing by the U.S. of the Islamic State in Syria. The beheading of Hufford by Nolen has led some to believe that his actions were designed to parallel the recent beheadings of ISIS, but the F.B.I. has so far not found any connection between Nolen and ISIS. They are continuing to investigate the motive behind the attack.
Vaughan Foods Spokesperson Danielle Katcher said that the company is “shocked and deeply saddened” by Thursday’s attacks. The Oklahoma business plans to provide support and counseling for employees and has pledged full cooperation with authorities investigating the events.
By Jennifer Pfalz