Two men were killed and two more injured in a workplace shooting at Mueller Company in Albertville Tuesday morning.

During a Tuesday press conference, Albertville Police Chief Jamie Smith said Andreas Deon Horton, 34, of DeKalb County, opened fire at about 2:30 a.m. inside the Mueller plant on the shop floor.

The gunfire struck Michael Lee Dobbins, of Gaither Road, Boaz, and David Lee Horton, of Williams Street, Boaz, killing both men.

Injured were Casey Sampson, of Irvin Lane, Albertville, and Isaac Byrd, of Columbus Street, Albertville. Both were transported initially to Marshall Medical Center South and later taken to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, by medical choppers. Their conditions were unknown as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Smith said, to his knowledge, neither Andreas Horton nor David Lee Horton are related.

When Smith arrived on scene, he estimated 100 employees had been evacuated from the plant. The incident occurred during the plant’s regular third shift.

By 6 a.m., Smith said Andreas Horton’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was discovered by a Guntersville Police Officer on patrol on Carlisle Avenue near the Guntersville City Cemetery. Inside, Andreas Horton’s body was discovered with what appeared to be fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Smith said.

Several weapons were recovered from the vehicle, Smith said. Guntersville Police, the Marshall County District Attorney’s Office and a detective from the Albertville Police Department handled the scene in Guntersville.

“At this time, detectives are processing the scene,” Smith said. “Officers are also working toward a motive as to why the shooting occurred which will hopefully be discovered in the coming days.”

Smith said he expects the Mueller plant to remain shut down for “at least a few more days” as the investigation continues. He said interviews with witnesses, first responders and the injured victims will be priorities in the investigation.

Will Strunk, supervisor of the Gadsden office of the FBI, said the FBI is in town and will provide any assistance requested. 

Providing assistance

Boaz Police Chief Josh Gaskin said his department responded to the initial call, providing assistance in clearing the plant for additional victims and searching for the shooter.

“We sent officers to possible locations where (the shooter) may have fled,” Gaskin said. “The scene is within the Albertville city limits and the subsequent investigation will be handled by Albertville Police.”

Marshall County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Deputy Steve Guthrie said deputies on patrol were also dispatched to the scene to provide initial assistance.

“We’ll be here if they need us further,” Guthrie said of Albertville’s investigation.

According to the Marshall County Economic Development Council, Mueller employs more than 500 employees at the Albertville Plant.

Smith said the crime scene is large, covering a large portion of the plant. The victims were discovered in multiple locations, Smith said, making the investigation that much more complicated and complex.

Officers from Boaz, Guntersville, Douglas, Arab, Attalla and Sardis City assisted in the investigation thus far, along with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, MC District Attorney’s Office, MC Drug Task Force, MC Coroner’s Office, Etowah County and DeKalb County sheriff’s offices, ALEA and Secretary Hal Taylor, the FBI and the North Alabama Criminal Organized Crime Task Force.

Responding medical services included Albertville and Boaz fire departments and Marshall Health Systems ambulances, Smith said. 

 “Hearts are saddened”

Albertville Mayor Tracy Honea said Mueller has been an asset for the community for many years.

“Our hearts are broken for the families of the victims and the Mueller family,” Honea said early Tuesday.

“It is certainly a tragedy. You hear of this type of thing happening in other places, certainly not here in our community.

“We are thankful for our first responders and are glad there were no injuries to any of them.

“To Plant Manager Mike Lang and his team, our hearts and prayers are with them. If there is anything we can do as a community and a city, we will be there. We live in a resilient area where folks are eager to help each other. Several have already reached out to see what can be done.

“Our hearts are saddened. It’s a tough day for Albertville.”

Both Honea and Smith said city officials have received calls from across the country from people offering condolences and support to the city and the victims.

Yolanda Kokayi, media relations for Mueller, submitted a prepared statement, saying in part, “Mueller Water Products is shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that occurred early this morning at our Albertville facility. Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the Albertville community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time.

“Our entire focus is on the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, and we are committed to providing any and all support to them and their families.”

Smith said Tuesday’s shooting was not something the city sees often.

“We will get through this,” Smith said. “We are a strong community.”

Plant history

The Mueller plant in Albertville was built in 1975 with production starting the next year. On April 10, 1990, the facility produced its 1 millionth hydrant, which is coated in chrome and placed on display outside the city’s Chamber of Commerce offices.

In 1999, the plant hit the 2 million milestone, followed by the 3 millionth hydrant in 2007 and its 4 millionth hydrant in 2016.

Past shooting

Mueller Company is no stranger to workplace violence.

Mueller is vast corporation providing equipment for water works and fire protection, including hydrants, valves and pipe. The Albertville plant is the flagship plant constructing millions of hydrants distributed worldwide, making Albertville the “Fire Hydrant Capital of the World.”

Other Mueller plants include Pratt, Singer, U.S. Pipe, and Echologics.

In February 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Henry Pratt Company, a suburban Chicago manufacturing plant, killing five colleagues before he was killed by police.

A subsequent investigation by Illinois state officials found Pratt employee Gary Martin allegedly carried a firearm in his vehicle and routinely made “off the wall” statements, according to fellow employees. However, no one reported his behavior because they didn’t believe he would do anything violent.

Martin was taking part in a Feb. 15, 2019, disciplinary meeting called because of his refusal to wear safety glasses. He allegedly walked to his workstation to retrieve something, put on a hoodie and went to the bathroom immediately before the meeting.

According to a report compiled by the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, Martin was told by Clayton Parks, the company’s human resources manager, that he had been fired, Martin used profanity and then began firing. Parks was among those killed.

The report gives an account of the police response, beginning with officers being dispatched to the scene at 1:24 p.m., and ending with Martin being fatally shot by law enforcement.

Also killed in the incident were 37-year-old Plant Manager Josh Pinkard, a native of Holly Pond and a former Mueller Albertville employee for 12 years; Trevor Wehner, a human resources intern; Russell Beyer, mold operator; and Vincent Juarez, stock room attendant and forklift operator.

Five police officers sustained gunfire-related injuries and recovered.

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