Gunman threatens employees at Stanford business

August 11, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

STANFORD - A former employee of a Stanford trucking firm returned to the business Tuesday armed with a gun and repeatedly threatened several workers, witnesses say. He was later taken into custody without a shot being fired.

"A guy who's shaking and got a gun in his hand is dangerous," said Jerry McAninch, an employee at Freeway Express, who had a gun pointed at his head and later was prepared to shoot the intruder. "I'm just thankful it turned out the way it did and nobody got killed."

Cecil Harris, 40, of Taylorsville, Ill., was charged with two counts of kidnapping, first-degree robbery, six counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, assault on a police officer, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and several other misdemeanors. He is lodged in the Lincoln County Detention Center today under a $50,000 cash bond.

Kentucky State Police said Harris entered Freeway Express, on U.S. 27 near the Lincoln County Fairgrounds, about 3 p.m. Tuesday armed with a pistol. He held three employees and three children at gunpoint while demanding money he said he was owed for work as a truck driver. During the incident, Harris took a shotgun from 16-year-old Daniel Baker before leaving the scene, a police report said. Troopers later scuffled with Harris and arrested him at the home of his sister about two miles away on Ky. 1247, police said.


Harold Baker, owner of Freeway Express, said he hired Harris about a month ago but fired him less than a week later after he was involved in multiple accidents and caused about $10,000 in damage during his first run to Kansas. Harris called the business about a week ago in a threatening manner and demanded money he said he was owed for his three days on the job, Baker said today. He showed up on Tuesday afternoon.

"He had a gun wrapped in a garbage bag and walked straight back into the shop because he figured that's where I'd be," Baker said. "When I turned around and seen who it was, I knew it was trouble."

McAninch intervened and talked with Harris while Baker left by the back door and headed to a neighboring business to call police and try to get a gun. Harris threatened to kill Baker "if he doesn't settle up with me," McAninch said.

Harris then returned to the front of the business where Jan Hawn was in the office with three of Baker's children. Harris menaced them with a gun and demanded a paycheck, Hawn said.

"I told him I couldn't do that and to get out of the office because I had kids in there," Hawn said. "I don't think he wanted to hurt us."

McAninch had also come to the front of the business and was trying to call police when Harris spotted him.

"He pulled that gun out of the bag and put it to my head and said, "I'll blow your brains out if you don't put that phone down," McAninch said.

Harris then looked back toward the office, saw Hawn on the phone and pointed the pistol at her, McAninch said.

Daniel Baker, Harold Baker's son, came out of a back room with a shotgun, but Harris took it away from him, he said. Daniel said he then went to another room and got a pistol. Daniel said he was sneaking through the shop and was planning to shoot Harris when he ran into McAninch and gave the pistol to him.

"I thought I was going to have to come in there and shoot him, but thankfully I ran into Jerry," Daniel said.

Armed with the pistol, McAninch said he was headed to the front to confront Harris when he met him coming into the shop. McAninch said he hid his gun at his side and told Harris to leave before somebody got hurt. Harris then left the business, McAninch said.

After troopers had taken Harris into custody, they brought him back by Freeway Express for identification. "He was in the back of the cruiser and the window was down a little bit and he said, 'When I get out I'm going to come back down here and kill somebody,'" McAninch said.

Harold Baker said he takes the threat seriously. He brought two shotguns to the business today and had his 9 mm Beretta pistol holstered on his right hip.

"I'll be looking for him," Harris said. "If he comes back down here and I see he's armed, I would not hesitate at all to fix him up. This guy is a nutcase."

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