A little before 7 a.m. Aug. 20, 1986, part-time letter carrier Patrick H. Sherrill, 44, entered the Edmond Post Office wearing his letter carrier’s uniform with three firearms in his mail bag. He open fired on his fellow workers as some hid, some fled and some caught unaware were gunned down where they stood. In less than a quarter of an hour, 14 fellow coworkers were dead and six others were wounded before Patrick H. Sherrill, 44, put a gun to his head and took his own life that day.
At that time Edmond had only one post office and when former Edmond Post Office postmaster Bill Shockey first heard the news he was on his way to work at the downtown Oklahoma City Post Office. He immediately headed to Edmond where he was put in charge of identifying the dead.
“Edmond’s postmaster was on vacation and other officials at the downtown post office in Oklahoma City were out of state at a seminar,” Shockey said. “I had transferred to the downtown Oklahoma City Post Office about eight months before, where my position was manager of safety and health.”
Shockey said identifying the dead was not easy in some cases.
“At that time there were no name tags with photographs identifying the workers,” Shockey said. For ones he was not sure of the names, he took his Big Chief tablet cross checked names with time cards.
Through a process of elimination and then a double check with those who knew the deceased they were able to name all of the victims.
He added that he wishes everyone would remember that those who were killed that day were part of a group of the hardest-working, most diligent and kindest postal employees he had ever known.
Each one of them had a story and each life mattered.
“The Edmond postal workers were among the finest bunch of people I have ever worked with,” Shockey said. “I knew most of them because I had hired them.”
They were not only coworkers but they were like a large family.
“I encouraged camaraderie among the workers when I was postmaster,” Shockey said. “We had picnics and dinners outside of work. We celebrated birthdays and retirements. I still meet with some of the workers for a hamburger at Johnnie’s.”
Shockey said the next day the people all over Edmond started tying yellow ribbons on their post boxes and some even tied ribbons around trees.
“It was amazing. Almost overnight the town started showing their support with yellow ribbons everywhere you looked,” Shockey said.
He added the citizens of Edmond stepped up to help any way they could.
“Many of the things happened behind the scenes with the people stepping up and offering to help any way they could.” Shockey said. Ed Livermore, The Edmond Sun publisher, was a big help.”
Livermore had offered to coordinate all of the media announcements and press conferences.
Mayor Carl Rehermasn and Deputy Mayor Randal Shadid were a huge help during the coming days, Shockey said.
Businessmen Gordon Wynn offered a building for the use of the post office, although it was not needed, and Pete Reeser provided office space to be used by postal employees.
“We had cleaning crews in the post office as soon as possible and replaced equipment that had been damaged, and the postal workers showed up and everyone started working,” Shockey said.
In 1989 the community of Edmond and the U.S. Postal Service placed a large memorial on the grounds of the Edmond Post Office. Sculptor Richard Muno depicted a standing man and woman holding a yellow ribbon; they are surrounded by 14 fountains, one for each victim.
The inscriptions around the base lists those who died: Patricia Ann Chambers, Judy Stephens Denney, Richard C. Esser, Jr., Patricia A. Gabbard, Jonna Gragert Hamilton, Patty Jean Husband, Betty Ann Jared, William F. Miller, Kenneth W. Morey, Leroy Orrin Phillips, Jerry Ralph Pyle, Paul Michael Rockne, Thomas Wade Shader Jr. and Patti Lou Welch.
When Sherrill walked into his post office and open fired early that morning his actions put the sleepy bedroom community of Edmond on the map with the distinction of being the town where the third-worst mass murder by a single gunman had taken place to date in U.S. history. To this day it still ranks in the top 12 worst mass murders in American history.
“I wish the killings had never been given the name ‘going postal,’” Shockey said. “It was workplace violence. That is not what postal people are about.
The phrase is a disservice to the men and women who are postal workers and go to their job each day and do what they are supposed to do. I would rather the work force be recognized for the job they did and the job they do. Of the 700,000 employees across the nation who are employed by the Postal Service, 98 percent of them do what they are supposed to do each day.”