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2 Die in Fired Worker's Rampage : O.C. violence: Former mail carrier remains at large after he fatally stabs his mother in Corona del Mar then shoots colleague to death at Dana Point post office, police say. Attacks wound 3 others.

May 07, 1993|FRANK MESSINA and ERIC LICHTBLAU | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

DANA POINT — A fired mail carrier with a history of psychiatric problems went on a rampage Thursday, fatally stabbing his mother and later killing a former co-worker at a post office here, authorities said. Three other people were wounded in a series of four attacks that police blamed on the same gunman.

The events unfolded just hours after a disgruntled mail employee in suburban Detroit opened fire in a Postal Service garage, killing one person and wounding two others before turning the gun on himself. U.S. Postmaster Gen. Marvin Runyon in Washington ordered an immediate investigation into the two attacks, saying that "in spite of our efforts to prevent violence, senseless tragedy has happened within the ranks of the Postal Service."

The suspect in the Orange County attacks, identified as 38-year-old Mark Richard Hilbun of Dana Point, was still at large late Thursday despite a massive manhunt by police.

Police suspect that Hilbun, who has been hospitalized at least twice in recent months for treatment of manic depression, stabbed to death his mother and her cocker spaniel at her Corona del Mar home Thursday morning.

Armed with a handgun, he then drove to the Dana Point post office, where he shot two employees, authorities said. Fleeing the scene in a pickup truck with a kayak strapped on top, he drove a few blocks and allegedly shot a Dana Point man in his garage and, about five hours later, shot and critically wounded a motorist in Newport Beach who apparently was following him, police said.

Postal workers said they feared Hilbun even before the attacks because of his "infatuation" with a co-worker. Hilbun was fired last December in part because he had been "stalking" mail carrier Kim Springer, 29. He allegedly followed her on her route on occasion and harassed her, authorities and co-workers said.

He continued to contact Springer even after his firing, sending her a note last week that threatened to "kill us both," said Springer's boyfriend, Steve Eberhardt, 30, of Long Beach.

On Tuesday, officials at the Dana Point post office called a staff meeting to warn employees to contact a supervisor if they saw Hilbun. They also advised workers to take extra security measures to guard against possible problems, several postal workers said.

"We were warned that he was on the loose, so to speak, and told this was a possibility," said one mail carrier, who fled the building Thursday after he heard shots at a nearby work station. He asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety.

"What can you do? You lock the building up--if someone wants to get in and get at someone, they're going to. This was a real shame," the man said.

Police and witnesses said that Hilbun entered the building through a loading dock sometime before 9:45 a.m., yelling, "Kim! Kim!" He screamed for workers to get down on the floor and opened fire, killing Charles T. Barbagallo, 42, of San Clemente and slightly injuring a second worker who rushed toward him. He also fired through a door at the office postmaster, who had locked himself inside and escaped harm, officials said. The shootings occurred in an employee area closed to the public.

An ex-postal employee who called Hilbun one of his best friends described him as "a hell of a good mailman" who loved his job.

"It really surprises me, especially the guy he shot. That's his best friend. And the other guy he wounded was like one of his best friends. And his mother, he liked his mother. She's the only one he talked good about," said the man, who said he did not want his name used while Hilbun remained at large.

"The way I look at it, he shot two of his best friends and his mother. . . . I don't want to be next on the list."

The Postal Service has been plagued by high-profile shootings in its branches, with 34 people killed and 12 wounded in a dozen attacks since 1983. But spokesman Larry Dozier said this was the first known shooting in an Orange County post office.

Authorities said that after the post office shootings, Hilbun drove off in a pickup truck with a kayak on top, then allegedly shot a man who was working in his garage a few blocks away.

"The fellow said, 'This is a holdup' and put a gun to me," victim John Kersey, 65, said in an interview at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, where he was in stable condition. "When I had my face on the floor he hit me over the head with the butt of a gun, I think. Then I got up and started scuffling with him."

The gunman fired at least one shot from a revolver, hitting Kersey in the arm.

About half an hour later, police went to the Corona del Mar home of Hilbun's mother, Frances Hilbun, 63, hoping to get information on her son. Believing the suspect might be inside, police waited to enter the home. But neighbors said they found it suspicious that they had not heard any barking from the woman's dog all morning, and police broke down the door to the home about 12:30 p.m., authorities said.

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