The postal facility in Orange Mound became a crime scene Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

A day after three U.S. Postal Service workers died of gunshot wounds at a carrier annex in Orange Mound, the weight of the tragedy still was being processed in multiple quarters by Memphis-area residents weary of gun violence.

U.S. Postal Service employees, James Wilson and Demetria Dortch, came in Tuesday, Oct. 12 for a typical day at work at the East Lamar Carrier Annex near the corner of Park Ave. and Pendleton St. It would be their last day.

Wilson and Dortch, a manager and a supervisor respectively, were gunned down before the shooter, a fellow employee, turned the gun on himself.

Shri Green, area vice president for the National Association of Postal Supervisors, told The Associated Press that a letter carrier shot a manager and a supervisor. Green said she did not know the motive, but “obviously, something was going on, in the carrier’s mind.”

The FBI and U.S. Postal Service didn’t immediately name those involved or disclose a motive for the shooting.

On Wednesday, postal workers returned to their jobs at the sorting facility. Red, white and blue mail trucks were seen streaming out of the driveway. 

The tragedy of the day before unfolded like an all-too-real television drama. Residents near the East Lamar Carrier Annex at 2801 Park Ave. in historic Orange Mound came out to watch the procession of police cars as news spread that there was an “active shooter” situation.

Terror-filled, screaming employees fled the facility onto the parking lot while others hid inside after gunshots suddenly rang out about 2 p.m.

“We are used to hearing sirens, but I came outside because there were so many,” said Hazell Glover Jones. “When I looked down Park Avenue, there were so many unmarked police cars turning onto Pendleton. That’s when I knew something bad was happening over there.”

The double murder-suicide unfolded in real time on the phone of former Memphis City Councilwoman TaJuan Stout Mitchell. 

“…Around 2 p.m., I got a text from a good friend: ‘Please help me. Someone is shooting, and two people are dead,’ Mitchell shared in a Facebook post Tuesday. “I was nervous, but found Sheriff Floyd Bonner’s number, but he was at a funeral…911 assured me that police were on the scene and en route.”

Mitchell continued engaging her friend by text. 

“She was safe but an emotional and broken human being. There is nothing you can say to make everything normal. I just tried saying things to help her adjust to the situation. Stay calm. Take deep breaths. Pray every time you want to fall apart.” 

Asked about some official update from Memphis Police Department, Lt. William Kaiser in the Public Information Office, simply replied in an email: “All info will come from the USPS.”

Lisa-Anne Culp, an FBI spokesperson, declined to release any details of the shootings on Tuesday, except to confirm that three postal employees were dead. She did confirm that the Memphis Police Department, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were conducting a joint investigation. The ATF reportedly is tracing the weapon to see if it turns up in any other shootings.

In her social media post, Mitchell asked for prayer for the grieving employees and their families and then wrote what others have voiced in varying ways since then:

“Soon, we need a community conversation on emotional and mental illness. How do we recognize signs to help people? What resources are available? What public policies need changing to assist us in getting better access to professionals? We have a problem y’all, and the stress of this pandemic didn’t help.”

Green said high work absences and the hiring of new employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic was creating a stressful working environment. Postal employees are typically working six or seven days each week, with extended daily work hours.

Post Office officials said counseling would be made available for those employees who need it.

The violence follows other high-profile shootings in the Memphis area in recent weeks. The franchise owner of a sushi counter inside a Kroger grocery store in Collierville fatally shot one person and wounded 14 others before killing himself on Sept. 23.

A week later, a teenage boy was shot and critically wounded inside Cummings K-8 Optional School. A hearing for the 13-year-old shooter was set for Oct. 12 but was reset this week for November 16.

(This story reflects a report by the Associated Press.)