Winston-Salem, NC – The city employee who gunned down two workmates and a police officer on Friday morning had an altercation on Thursday with one of his victims.
Winston-Salem Police Chief Catarina Thompson said the preliminary investigation had led police to label the shootings “an act of workplace violence.”
Chief Thompson told reporters at a press conference on Friday afternoon that the incident began just after 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 20 when police received multiple 911 calls about shots fired at Joycelyn V. Johnson Municipal Services Center on Lowery Street.
The building where the shooting occurred houses the city’s sanitation department, engineering field offices, employee medical staff, and training, she said.
The chief said officers were dispatched at 6:37 a.m. and arrived the scene just four minutes later, at 6:41 a.m.
She said officers could hear gunfire as soon as they arrived at the complex and they “moved directly towards the threat.”
Chief Thompson said officers encountered an armed man – later identified as 61-year-old Steven Dewayne Haislip – outside the building and “a short gunfight ensued.”
“During the gunfight with police, Mr. Haislip was killed, stopping him from hurting any other city employee,” the chief told reporters.
She said Winston-Salem Police Sergeant Cameron Stewart Sloan was struck twice by gunfire during the brief firefight.
Police refused to say where Sgt. Sloan was shot but the chief said another officer at the scene applied a tourniquet before he was transported by medics to Wakeforest University Baptist Medical Center.
The sergeant, 22-year veteran of the police department, was immediately taken into surgery upon arrival at the hospital.
He was out of surgery but the chief didn’t provide any details about his condition other than to say she had spoken with him and his family.
Chief Thompson said that after the gunfight, other officers continued inside the building to clear it and found 48-year-old Terry Lee Cobb Jr. fatally shot.
Winston-Salem Police Captain Steven Tollie told reporters that Cobb and the gunman were long-time co-workers with a “long standing dislike for each other.”
“Based on what we know at the time, it appears that Mr. Cobb was the specific target of Mr. Haislip,” Capt. Tollie said. “Although there were other employees in harm’s way, nobody else was appeared to be specifically targeted.”
He said investigators were aware of an incident that had occurred between Cobb and Haislip the day before the shooting that was not reported to their employer.
Capt. Tollie said preliminary investigation indicated that altercation appeared to have been the catalyst for Haislip’s actions on Dec. 20.
Another victim with gunshot wounds was found alive inside the building and transported to the hospital in serious but not-life-threatening condition, he said.
Police have not released the person’s name.
The captain said that victim appeared to be “collateral damage” based on the evidence gathered so far.
He said witnesses told police that the gunman made statements before he shot Cobb that led investigators to believe he was Haislip’s only actual target.
Witnesses told police that Haislip arrived at the municipal building with multiple firearms.
Capt. Tollie said officers had recovered two handguns at the scene but had no information as to their make or caliber.
A city sanitation worker who was there when the incident began told WGHP that he heard gunfire as he was arriving to work.
Herbert Martinez said he hid in a ditch with other employees and called his family.
“They said, ‘Just start calling the police,’ and then next thing I hear is gunshots, so I went down to the ditch that was there, staying away from the gunshots,” Martinez told WGHP.
Chief Thompson said the city has brought in counselors to help city employees who have been affected by the tragic incident.