Background check missed shooter's criminal past
Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
An Ohio State custodial worker who shot and killed one of his bosses and wounded another spent time in prison and had a violent work record, but none of that turned up in a background check performed for the university.
OSU President E. Gordon Gee said at a press briefing Wednesday that the university would review its background check process.
University officials confirmed that Nathaniel A. Brown, 50, spent five years in prison beginning in the late ‘70s for receiving stolen property. However, a company that performs background checks for OSU reported in September 2009 that Brown had no criminal record.
"Sometimes old criminal information is hard to come by, even for us," said OSU Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman, who says there are several reasons why background checks can overlook past crimes.
Brown entered the Maintenance Building at 2000 Tuttle Park Place at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, halfway through his late-night shift, armed with Glock 45-caliber and Ruger 9mm handguns. He asked for his supervisor,
Larry Wallington, 48, before chasing him around the room and shooting him to death, said a witness who asked not to be identified.
Brown also shot Wallington's boss, 60-year-old Henry Butler, before killing himself.
Brown learned March 2 from his supervisors that he would be fired from his job, which consisted mostly of cleaning floors. He worked at the university for five months.
OSU officials said Butler was released from the hospital Wednesday after having surgery Tuesday afternoon to remove the bullet from his shoulder.
It is uncertain whether Butler was a target or if he was caught in the crossfire in the cluttered office, police said.
University spokesman Jim Lynch said he was unsure whether employees at OSU's Human Resources department called Brown's previous employers. Addressing reports that one of Brown's former bosses had a restraining order against him, Lynch said that kind of information doesn't always turn up in background checks.
Even after Brown was hired at OSU, though, his colleagues reported that he could quickly become angry, and he appeared to have a learning disability.
Handwritten notes from one of Brown's trainers say he tried to intimidate her, asking what kind of car she drove.
The notes also appear to describe an earlier confrontation between Brown and Wallington. On another occasion, Butler was called in to calm Brown down after he became hostile with another supervisor.
Police performed a search of Brown's North Linden home Wednesday morning and will release what they discovered when they submit it to the court today. They have also sent all evidence from the crime scene to the state crime lab, and both bodies from the scene were sent to the county coroner's office to undergo autopsy.
Police are still trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened early Tuesday morning. They have interviewed all the witnesses, but couldn't tell Wednesday how many shots were fired or where Wallington and Brown were shot.
"There was half a dozen people there," Morman said, "we're probably fortunate we didn't have more of a tragic incident than what we had."
Morman also said police were trying to confirm that Brown's motive was related to his recent firing.
"It sounds like there were probably other things going on in his life," he said.
Neighbors reported to The Lantern that Brown had ended a relationship with a woman who was living with him, and he was struggling with finances.
A group of about 20 students held a vigil outside the Maintenance Building late Tuesday night, and the Undergraduate Student Government will hold a vigil today at 5:15 p.m. at the south side of Ohio Stadium.
"This was a loss," Gee said of Wallington's death. "We can't replace him, but we can certainly learn from what happened here."
Richard Oviatt contributed as a reporter to this story.