FBI officials are reportedly investigating a beheading at an Oklahoma food distribution center after co-workers said the suspect tried to convert them to Islam after his recent conversion.
The alleged suspect, Alton Nolen, 30, was recently fired from Vaughan Foods in Moore prior to Thursday’s attack. Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis told KFOR that Nolen drove to the front of the business and struck a vehicle before walking inside. He then attacked Colleen Hufford, 54, stabbing her several times before severing her head. He also stabbed another woman at the plant, 43-year-old Traci Johnson.
Lewis said Mark Vaughan, the company’s chief operating officer and a reserve county deputy, shot Nolen as he was stabbing Johnson, who remains hospitalized in stable condition Friday.
“He’s a hero in this situation,” Lewis told the station. “It could have gotten a lot worse.”
Nolen was apparently attacking employees at random, authorities said. The motive for the attack is unclear, but FBI officials are now reportedly probing whether Nolen’s recent conversion to Islam is somehow linked to the crime.
Lewis said he does not yet know what charges will be filed against Nolen, adding that police are waiting until he’s conscious to arrest him. Authorities said he had no prior connection to either woman.
Moore Police Department officials have released 911 calls from the incident, OKCFox.com reports. During the recording, a caller tells an operator that a person is attacking someone in the building. Several gunshots can be heard in the background at the end of the call.
Saad Mohammad, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told NewsOK.com that leaders of the society’s mosque are taking security precautions to protect Muslims who gather there from any potential retaliatory violence.
Mohammad said anti-Muslim sentiments local residents may have could be heightened due to the beheadings and violence overseas by Islamic State militants.
“They have this ISIS thing on their minds and now this guy has brought it to America,” Mohammad told the website.
Nolen, according to state corrections records, was convicted in January 2011 of multiple felony drug offenses, assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention. He was released from prison in March 2013.
Calls seeking comment by FBI officials were not immediately returned.
A Vaughan spokeswoman said the company was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the attack.
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