30 years later: Remembering the Edmond post office shooting
Thirty years ago this week, mail carrier Patrick Sherrill committed one of the largest mass murders in U.S. history in the downtown Edmond post office.
The massacre began at 7 a.m. on Aug. 20, 1986 when Sherrill entered the post office, locked the doors behind him, and opened fire on his fellow employees with two .45 caliber handguns, leaving 14 dead and six wounded. The carnage was over within 15 minutes, after Sherrill turned the gun on himself.
The day prior to the shooting, Sherrill was reprimanded by two of his supervisors, Richard C. Esser Jr. and Bill Bland. Esser was the first to be killed that next morning. At the time of the attack there were approximately 100 employees in the post office.
Bill Shockey was serving as the postmaster of the Edmond post office at the time of the attack. Shockey heard the news the morning of the attack shortly after arriving to his Oklahoma City office on his first day back from vacation.
“A SWAT team entered the building and found out the building was clear. We went in immediately after the triage and set about trying to identify the deceased,” Shockey said. “I went to the city hall where most of the employees and their families had gathered, and we set about trying to notify the families of the deceased.”
A room was set up in City Hall for people who were unable to contact their family members who worked at the post office. It was there that Shockey informed nearly all of the families of the deceased that their loved ones had been killed.
Shockey said that employees of the post office were invited back to work early the next morning, where they could work at whatever pace they felt comfortable or just to be together while they grieved for their co-workers.
“It was a very stressful time for the employees, but I’ll still preach it today, those were some of the finest employees I had the opportunity to work with in my 35 years with the postal service,” Shockey said.
In the days following the attack, yellow ribbons began to appear on mailboxes around the Edmond community in honor of those killed, and several businesses offered office space and warehouses for the postal workers to use if needed. Shockey said that the postal service was overwhelmed with the generosity of the Edmond community.
Four days after the attack, a memorial service was held in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium. Approximately 5,000 people were in attendance, including the serving U.S. postmaster, Robert Preston Tisch. Michael Bigler, who was shot in the shoulder during the attack, also spoke during the service.
Patrick Sherrill, an Oklahoma native, served as a Marine for three years, and was honorably discharged in 1966. He was also a member of the National Guard pistol team and was considered to be an expert marksman.
He’s been described as a quiet individual, and didn’t display any threatening or troublesome behavior prior to the incident. He was 44 at the time of the attack.
This shooting, as well as several other post office shootings that occurred in the years to follow is what inspired the phrase “going postal.”
“It’s hurtful when you hear that term used by stand-up comedians on TV, radio,” Shockey said. “It’s tossed around pretty lightly and most of us resent it and wish that people would refrain from using that term. That’s not a legacy that postal employees like to have.”
A memorial was erected outside of the post office in commemoration of those who lost their lives. On Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016 a memorial service will be held outside of the post office.