Police: Beheading suspect tried to convert coworkers to Islam
MOORE, OK (NBC News) - A fired Oklahoma food processing plant employee who proselytized for Islam beheaded one co-worker and seriously injured another before the owner of the plant shot him, police said Friday. Moments after Alton Nolen, 30, was let go from Vaughan Foods in Moore, he drove to another part of the facility and walked into a front office where he attacked 54-year-old Colleen Hufford, police said.
He used a “standard” knife — similar to the ones found at the facility — to allegedly behead Hufford. Then, he used the same knife to repeatedly stab Traci Johnson, 43, who suffered numerous wounds and remained in stable condition Friday, police said. “He obviously was trying to kill her, too,” Moore police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said at a news conference. He added that Nolen had no relationship with either victim, and they were simply in his way when he flew into a rage.
Mark Vaughan, the chief operating officer and a reserve deputy with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, shot Nolen as he attacked the second victim. Nolen was taken to the hospital, where he is expected to survive. Police say once he becomes coherent he will be interviewed and charged.
The circumstances of Nolen’s firing weren’t made public. Some co-workers told police that he had recently converted to Islam and had been trying to convert them. Law enforcement officials told NBC News that his conversion took place during his recent stint in prison, which ended in March 2013, records show. A search of his home and car didn’t immediately yield any connection to radical fundamentalism and there’s no indication he had been in contact with terrorists groups such as ISIS, sources said.
Local authorities are working with the FBI to do an extensive background investigation on Nolen, Lewis said. Law enforcement officials say they are looking into his online activities and whether a Facebook page that contains materials with terrorist and fundamentalist themes was maintained by Nolen under an alias. Nolen does have an extensive rap sheet, including assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention, according to NBC affiliate KFOR.
Moore, south of Oklahoma City, was the scene of a monster tornado last year that flattened parts of the town and killed two dozen people.