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Crime & Courts

From 1987: Daily News worker killed in mailroom after former employee enters building, starts shooting

This story was originally published on May 7, 1987.

An Anchorage Daily News employee was killed Wednesday morning by a former coworker who stalked employees in the newspaper’s mailroom with a 12-gauge shotgun.

A second employee, cornered at gunpoint in a restroom, escaped when the gunman had to reload.

Police arrested Derrick Green, 30, outside the restroom.

Gerald Clarkson, 26, a mailroom machine operator, was struck in the head by a blast from the weapon. He died about five hours later at Humana Hospital-Alaska.

Prosecutors charged Green with one count of first-degree murder. He was being held at the Cook Inlet jail in lieu of a $500,000, cash-only bond.

Until last week, Green was also a machine operator for the Daily News, working alongside Clarkson. Green was laid off along with other employees as part of company-wide budget-cutting measures.

According to witnesses, the shooting occurred about 4:15 a.m. in the building's cavernous mailroom, where papers are folded, stacked and readied for the morning's delivery. Printing of the paper had been completed, and 30 or 40 employees were milling about.

Witnesses said Green walked in through the loading dock, the gun propped across his shoulder.

"I saw him come in with (the gun) and I thought he was going to show it to someone," said employee Brenda Dennis. Dennis and other workers were sitting on benches against one wall of the mailroom. She said Clarkson was sitting there, too, signing time cards for employees.

"Then he lowers it off his shoulder, takes aim and blume! That's when everyone hit the floor."

The first round of buckshot was aimed high and pierced a window behind a secondstory, visitor's observation catwalk beside the presses. Employees scattered. Some women rushed into the women's restroom, Dennis said.

Clarkson was running past paper inserting machines when he was hit by a second blast. The gunman fired a third time at another fleeing employee, who escaped uninjured through a loading bay door.

Witnesses said the gunman then left the mailroom and went to the secondfloor office of production manager Ken Carter. He fired a fourth blast through the locked office door before going back downstairs to the mailroom.

The gunman then confronted a female mailroom employee in the women's restroom, said Mel Jones, the mailroom supervisor.

"From what I understand, he walked in on her in there and said, "You belong to me. You're dead meat,' " Jones said. "He pointed the gun at her, but he was out of shells."

The woman fled past the gunman as he was reloading the weapon, witnesses said.

Police patrolmen were waiting inside the mailroom when Green stepped out. After talking to him for a few minutes, Sgt. Bill Kaas persuaded Green to place the gun on the floor. He reportedly struggled with officers briefly before they handcuffed him.

Besides the gun, Green allegedly was carrying a Buck knife, two hunting knives and what appeared to be a butter knife. More boxes of shotgun shells were found in the front seat of his compact car parked in the newspaper's lot.

Company supervisors could only speculate later Wednesday on reasons for the shooting. Jones, who was at home during the assault, said he and Carter seemed to be intended targets. He said workers told him Green looked in his office before the shooting started.

Jones said he, manager Carter and the company's personnel director had met with Green last week to tell him he would be let go. At the time, Jones said, Green seemed to handle his dismissal well.

"He said he expected it somewhat," Jones said. "After the termination I talked to him for a few minutes in the locker room. He said something then about getting a ticket home. He was from Alabama or somewhere like that.

"He told me that (earlier last week) he had gone outside and gotten down on his knees and prayed to the Lord to help him. He told me that. I told him to go home (back to Alabama). I told him to keep in touch."

Jones said Clarkson and the female employee may have been targeted because of past personality conflicts, although the problems had never disrupted mailroom operations.

Green came to work at the Daily News in 1985. He was a quiet person who usually kept to himself and got along fairly well with most of his fellow employees, Jones said.

Clarkson came to work in 1981 and was a lead machine operator on the night shift. His fellow workers knew him as a gregarious sort, Jones said.

"Everybody liked him," he said. "And he liked to make people laugh. He was one of those people who you'd think of as, like, the class clown. Never upset. And he was a good worker. Efficient, with a real good head on his shoulders."

Clarkson lived in Alaska 22 years and graduated from Service High School. Besides enjoying fishing and movies, he was an avid comicbook collector, and advertised his hobby with license plates that spelled "COMICS."

Green is to be arraigned this afternoon on the murder charge. Assistant District Attorney Stephen Branchflower said he will take the case to a grand jury May 13 and plans to seek additional charges, including attempted murder. Blood and urine samples were take from Green as part of the investigation.

A few hours after the shooting, Daily News executives installed armed, uniformed security guards to patrol the building. The company's health and safety committee will also be considering additional safety measures, said Managing Editor Howard Weaver. Counseling services will also be offered to employees directly involved in the assault, he said.

“We just want to do everything we can to let folks know we’re here for them,” Weaver said.

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